Posted: Thu 4th May 2023

Disadvantaged pupils reading skills hit hard by Pandemic, Estyn report finds

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, May 4th, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the reading skills of children, particularly those eligible for free school meals or from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a report published today by Estyn, the Welsh education inspectorate.

The report reveals that wide variations in reading skills among 10 to 14-year-olds persist both within and across primary, secondary, and all-age schools.

Titled “Developing pupils’ English reading skills from 10 to 14 years of age,” the report emphasises that the best schools employ strategies that help students understand the material they read and develop speaking and listening skills.

However, only a minority of secondary schools consistently implement these strategies in English lessons and across the curriculum.

Similarly, only a minority of leaders in both primary and secondary schools monitor and evaluate the impact of these strategies effectively.

Estyn’s Chief Inspector, Owen Evans, said,

“Improving pupils’ reading skills is a national priority. Although the pandemic had a negative impact, especially on those disadvantaged by poverty, we’re seeing that standards of reading are improving again. Schools that have identified specific skills deficits and are focused on filling these gaps are making the best progress.”

“Our findings shows that the best teachers weave listening, speaking, reading and writing together skilfully so that each benefits the others.”

“We recommend that school leaders, supported by their clusters and improvement partners, provide opportunities for staff to learn about evidence-based teaching strategies to develop pupils’ reading skills across the curriculum.”

The inspectorate recommends that schools provide high-quality professional learning for teachers on the strategies that most effectively help pupils to develop reading skills.

It also calls for school leaders to be supported by their clusters and improvement partners in offering opportunities for staff to learn about evidence-based teaching strategies to develop pupils’ reading skills across the curriculum.

The report highlights challenges faced, particularly in secondary schools, where the more complex and numerous lesson arrangements make it harder than in primary schools to develop reading skills coherently.

However, the report also showcases successful case studies, such as Cyfarthfa Park Primary School in Merthyr Tydfil, which has effectively prepared its students to be lifelong learners by developing confident speakers and proficient readers.

By introducing strategies in reading sessions that nurtured pupils’ listening and speaking roles, the school has fostered a love of reading in and out of the classroom.

Estyn’s report offers a series of recommendations for school leaders, classroom staff, school improvement partners, and the Welsh Government.

These include closely monitoring and evaluating the impact of reading strategies in schools, planning between primary and secondary schools for the transition of pupils, and the Welsh Government’s continued promotion and development of its whole-school approach to the national oracy and reading toolkit.

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