Teaching primary school pupils to write and spell quickly as well as accurately is the basis for good writing, according to a new seven-step plan to help boost reading and writing skills for seven to 11 year olds.
Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two, published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), reviews the best available research to offer schools and teachers practical recommendations on what makes great literacy teaching.
It follows the introduction of tougher tests last year which saw just over half (53 per cent) of all pupils – and just over a third (35 per cent) of those from poorer homes – reach the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by the end of primary school.
Headteachers reacted with shock and anger to the tests, while some pupils were left in tears.
According to the evidence summarised in today's report, primary school pupils’ writing skills – including spelling, handwriting and typing – need to become "automatic" so that they can concentrate on the content of their writing.
But while the key to becoming a fluent writer is regular and extensive practice, teachers must make sure that children remain engaged and motivated in improving their writing.
This forms one of seven evidence-based recommendations in the report, designed to support schools develop an effective literacy strategy for teaching seven- to 11-year-olds.
A second recommendation finds schools can develop pupils’ language skills by encouraging them to read books aloud and have conversations with friends about the texts. It also suggests they should ensure the children are engaging with a wide variety of media, texts and topics.
The report will be sent to every primary school in England in the next week, along with Improving Literacy in Key Stage One, a guidance report currently online and containing eight tips for boosting literacy in the first three years of primary school.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the EEF, said: “Good literacy skills provide the building blocks not just for academic success, but for fulfilling careers and rewarding lives. Yet despite our best efforts too many children, particularly those from poorer homes, are leaving primary school without reaching the levels in reading and writing they need to achieve.”
The recommendations from both reports are central to the EEF’s North East Primary Literacy Campaign, a five-year project and a £10m investment in the region, co-funded with Northern Rock Foundation that will see 880 primary schools in the North East given the opportunity to work with local partners to use the guidance to improve their literacy teaching.
Schools with large numbers of disadvantaged pupils will also receive direct funding to implement the most promising evidence-based literacy programmes.
Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said teachers were inundated with information about different programmes to help boost reading and writing skills but the advice in the EEF’s latest guidance report would help them “navigate the wealth of information out there”.
He said: “Children need to master the basic skills of writing fast and accurately if they are to write well. That’s a common sense message which is backed up by robust research.
“Teachers are inundated with information about different programmes and training courses to help boost the reading and writing skills of their pupils. There are thousands of studies too, most of which are presented in academic papers and journals. It can be difficult to know where to start.