Since 1995, standards in literacy have stalled, says Michael Wilshaw. He claims that one in five children in primary schools have such low standards of literacy that they can’t access the secondary curriculum when they make the transition.
So, what’s going wrong? Michael Wilshaw is in no doubt. The training that many teachers have been receiving is inadequate. He says that teachers are telling him that they need better professional development for teaching phonics, which, he concedes, ‘is not an easy thing to do’.
From what he says in the interview, it is quite clear that he believes that it isn’t just the training institutions that must improve the quality of their teaching in this area; schools also need to invest in ‘a lot more professional development’ for their teaching staff.
This is music to the ears of Sounds-Write. We have long argued that standards in the teaching of literacy are falling far short of what we ought to be achieving and that the bar needs to be raised. At last we have someone who seems to be prepared to push through the kinds of changes necessary to make this happen.
Wilshaw, who is going to be in post for the next five years, also told Emily Maitlis of Newsnight that he expects ‘better results from primary children at seven, a vital age, and eleven as well’.
What is also very interesting is that he is looking at how well getting a Level 4 in the SATs at age eleven predicts success at GCSE. Again, for a very long time, we have been drawing attention to the mismatch between the number of children getting a Level 4 and the screening tests being conducted at the beginning of Year 7 when children transfer to secondary school. Certainly, the government could very easily ask secondary schools to report these results.
Nevertheless, it needs repeating that the government match funding venture, while full of good intention, should never have been made available for both resources and training. Training should have been the first priority. This is because many people in education with their fingers on the purse strings still have no idea about what is involved in training teachers to teach phonics well.