Press release

Improving literacy: effective characteristics of secondary schools

Ofsted publishes its best practice report Improving Standards in Literacy: A shared responsibility.

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This survey report draws on visits to secondary schools that have been effective in delivering cross-curricular improvement in literacy.

On the same day Ofsted is also hosting the first of three conferences on Mathematics and English for teachers, heads and governors to support improvement in schools and academies, and to help accelerate pupil progress and raise attainment. During the conference, inspectors will share evidence of what works well, giving opportunities to share strategies for improvement.

Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s Director of Schools Policy said:

Improving standards of literacy must be a priority for all our schools, as it is instrumental in helping children in every subject. Many pupils are still emerging from school without the confidence and secure literacy skills they need to thrive as adults, the case to improve standards of literacy across the whole curriculum is urgent.

This survey of best practice found there is no ‘quick-fix’ for raising standards in literacy. The best schools made literacy an integral element of the whole school curriculum. In these secondary schools, there was no attempt to address literacy through one-off training days for staff. Literacy in the best schools was an integral part of longer term school improvement plans and informed the content of action plans for each subject.

As well as the report, today Ofsted is hosting the first of a new series of conferences on improving English and mathematics that will help drive improvement. At Ofsted we’re committed to supporting schools to deliver a high quality education to all their pupils. We know the rich base of evidence and knowledge that only we hold places us in a unique position. We’re using that to help all schools we inspect to improve.

Last year, Ofsted published its Moving English Forward report, which culminated in a Literacy Roundtable that discussed Ofsted’s 10-point-plan on literacy. Today’s report follows a commitment by Ofsted to publish a survey report highlighting best practice by detailing what works best in secondary schools across the curriculum.

Since changing the framework for inspection of schools in September last year, aspects of literacy are now built into each of the key judgements made in a school inspection. An outstanding school is likely to have outstanding policies and practice in promoting literacy across the curriculum. All groups of pupils must be seen to make good or better progress, including those with English as an additional language, those with special educational needs and those known to be eligible for government funding through pupil premium.

Among some of the findings from the survey report, highlights were:

  • where schools developed a more engaging approach to developing pupils’ literacy skills, there was a marked fall in rates of persistent absence by previously hard-to-reach pupils or those at risk of dropping out of education
  • there was no one way of ‘getting it right.’ Approaches varied from school to school and depended on the needs of pupils and the skills, knowledge and experience of staff
  • successful schools made good use of specialists from English and other subjects to support the development of effective strategies

Notes to editors

  1. The ‘Moving English forward’ report is available on GOV.UK.

  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children’s social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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Published 23 April 2013