Press release

Too many Stoke primary school children falling behind in reading

Ofsted publish findings which show too many primary school children in Stoke-on-Trent are falling behind in their reading.


It finds the teaching of reading in seven of the city’s schools visited falls below the national standard and, as a result, pupils are not being adequately prepared for secondary school.

The report, Ready to Read?, coincides with today’s (26 June) Primary Reading Conference being held in the city. The conference has been organised to improve literacy standards for pupils in the area. Tristram Hunt, Shadow Education Secretary and Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, will deliver a keynote speech at the event.

Between January and March 2014 Ofsted inspectors, in collaboration with the local authority, undertook a study of 12 primary schools in Stoke-on-Trent to see how well reading is taught. The study also assessed whether the schools were aware of and understood the new requirements of the National Curriculum for reading which will be introduced in September 2014.

The key judgments of the report found that:

  • the teaching of reading required improvement or was inadequate in seven of the twelve schools visited
  • almost all of the schools failed to link effectively the teaching of early reading and early writing
  • too little thought was given to ensuring pupils read a broad range of books on a regular basis
  • low expectations of pupils’ reading skills in four of the schools was limiting their progress

The report outlines a number of recommendations to schools in Stoke-on-Trent to help improve the reading and writing of pupils in the city. This includes:

  • ensuring leaders and staff are familiar with, and prepared for, the 2014 National Curriculum programme for reading
  • making sure phonics is used as the primary strategy for teaching early reading
  • improving the assessment of pupils’ attainment and holding teachers to account for their progress
  • communicating better with parents about how their children are being taught to read and the progress they are making

Regional Director for the West Midlands, Lorna Fitzjohn, commented on the findings of the report:

Our findings today show that vital work needs to be done if we are to improve pupils’ reading in Stoke-on-Trent.

Of the 23,300 children attending primary school in the city, over 7,000 go to a school that is either judged to be inadequate or requires improvement. Whilst there are schools in the area that should be commended for the work they are doing to prepare children for their next steps in life, too many schools have low expectations for their pupils. These schools need to do more to ensure children are getting an education of a similar quality to other parts of the country.

I therefore urge teachers and school leaders to look at the findings we are presenting today and consider where improvements could be made to ensure that we put an end to primary school children in Stoke-on-Trent falling behind in their reading skills.

Notes to editors

  1. The report, Ready to Read? How primary schools in Stoke-on-Trent teach pupils to read, is available on GOV.UK.
  2. The schools visited as part of the report were: Ash Green Primary School; Alexandra Primary School; Burnwood Primary School; Greenways Primary School; Hillside Primary School; Milton Primary School; Oakhill Primary School; Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School; Sandon Primary School; Stoke Minster Primary School; St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School; and St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School.
  3. There were 23,300 children attending primary school in Stoke-on-Trent according to figures from the Department for Education. In all, 7,000 children go to a school that is either judged to be inadequate or which requires improvement, according to Ofsted Dataview as of 31 March 2014.
  4. The National Curriculum 2014 Framework is available on the Department for Education website,
  5. 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 assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

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Published 26 June 2014