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Reading for fun vital to excellence in English, finds Ofsted

Schools need to encourage pupils to read for fun to achieve outstanding standards in English, the education watchdog said today.

Ofsted analysed how 12 schools accomplished "excellence" in the subject and found that all had a curriculum that "gave a high profile to reading for pleasure".

It noted that international surveys such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) found that although most pupils in England were competent readers by secondary age, their "interest and commitment" to reading was declining "substantially".

"Schools that take the business of reading for pleasure seriously, where teachers read, talk with enthusiasm and recommend books, and where provision for reading is planned carefully, are more likely to succeed with their pupils' reading," Ofsted's report says.

The recommendation comes a week after The TES revealed that the Government's national curriculum review is considering an approved list of authors for primary schools.

Education secretary Michael Gove recently said "our children should be reading 50 books a year".

Ofsted found that one of its case study schools, Clifton Green Primary in York, felt that "investment in the enjoyment of reading turns average readers into keen ones".

Pupils' home-school reading journals were checked by staff at the school and all classes collectively read two or three substantial works of fiction a year.

All pupils, from foundation stage upwards, borrowed from the school's library of more than 14,000 books. As a result, independent reading was popular with boys and girls. Clifton Green also holds authors' visits; Ofsted identified such activities as another important element in schools' success.

Last month, writers including Michael Rosen, Ian McMillan and Jackie Kay joined English teachers in criticising the Arts Council for cutting its grant to the National Association of Writers in Education, which trains writers to work in schools.

The National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) said it was sad, angry and frustrated at the "short-sighted decision".

The Ofsted report, Excellence in English, also recommends good-quality oral work to engage pupils "who might otherwise take little interest" in English.

"Talk happens in all English lessons but it is not always well structured or taught explicitly," it says.

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