The DfE’s new reading framework makes some valid points about developing reading skills. However, it fails to recognise that literacy develops beyond reception and year 1. At DYT we see the development of reading skills as a continuous process which should be scaffolded and reinforced throughout the key stages.
Before analysing where the reading framework could have gone further, let’s consider what it has got right.
- Children need to experience a high level of success before they can enjoy a book. Whatever the text is, if the child struggles with decoding, vocabularly or comprehension, they won’t be able to access it.
- Language development is of utmost importance. The framework recognises that language development – including phonological awareness – should be the focus BEFORE reading.
- Learners should experience a wide range of reading material. The framework argues that texts should be reviewed each year.
- Schools should have a literacy lead. This will help ensure reading and literacy skills are taught and scaffolded consistently across the school – more on this later!
- The simple view of reading: this can be used to support classroom assessment and intervention planning.
Is the framework's scope too limited?
Reading is so much more than fluency and has to be combined with comprehension, which is not given the same attention as decoding in this framework. A parent hearing their child decode words quickly may be under the false impression that their child’s a good reader. Comprehension skills are an integral element of good reading skills. Perhaps the DfE guidance should have featured Scarborough’s reading rope to illustrate a complete picture of reading. We spotlight both Scarborough’s reading rope and Sedita’s writing rope in our ‘Creating Champions for Literacy Difficulties’ course because of their holistic approach to reading and writing skills.
Phonics is part of phonological awareness. This should be encouraged alongside the systematic teaching of phonics to ensure that the skill of being able to blend, segment and identify syllables continues as a reading and spelling strategy beyond key stage 1. If we take a microscopic view of phonological awareness by focusing too closely on phonics, we may limit its potential to support those learners with literacy difficulties.
And what about SEND?
The framework offers limited advice for SEND beyond consistent SSP delivery – something most schools will already be on top of. I would have liked to see examples of how literacy difficulties can impact reading skills and how to address them. Similarly, the framework refers to intervention but limits its advice to general guidelines. Our literacy course takes a systemic view of intervention examining the best practice, but also from the student’s point of view and explores a) how a class teacher can identify gaps in literacy ability, and b) what interventions there are to address these gaps.
I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation that all schools should have a literacy lead. However, this person should be supported in their role with evidence–based CPD and a network of peers in similar roles. As a community, they can advocate and champion those we really want to see succeed; the learners with literacy difficulties. Before this recommendation was made, we were busy developing a course which creates a system for literacy, both as a subject but also considers the social and emotional impact of literacy difficulties. Alongside this comprehensive, challenging course is a community designed to connect educators.
Reading is vital to progress in education and beyond. The framework is easy to digest and the message is clear; ‘good reading skills enable learning’. However, a telescopic view is needed to ensure there is capacity to build this solid foundation for all learners.
DYT is committed to improving the outcomes for learners with literacy difficulties and we take the long view of this considering how literacy skills develop from early years to preparing for adulthood. We advocate for teachers to explicitly address the literacy of their subject regardless of phase or subject.
Consultant Teacher, DYT
Inspired by working at a special school, Kelly completed a specialist qualification in teaching learners with literacy difficulties. Since then, she has worked in Primary and Secondary mainstream as a teaching assistant, Further Education as a manager, and Higher Education as a specialist one-to-one teacher. She has been a SENDCo in two preparatory schools.