The Department for Education’s Reading Framework has been updated and expanded.
The updated and expanded framework comes after KS2 SATS results revealed a drop in reading attainment levels from 75% of children meeting the expected standard in 2022 to 73% in 2023.
Updates have been made to assist schools in supporting children beyond key stage 1 and the EYFS. What has been changed, and how do these changes affect schools?
The reading framework: What is it?
The reading framework guides primary and secondary schools to help them meet ‘existing expectations for teaching reading’.
The document is lengthy, spanning 176 pages and covering 13 sections:
The guidance has a few key aims, including:
The reading framework: Who is it for?
Writing in his foreword for guidance, Schools Minister Nick Gibb states that a significant number of schools (92%) report having read the original framework, published in July 2021 and 66% report going on to make changes to how they teach reading as a result of the guidance.
The framework is non-statutory, but primary and secondary schools are encouraged to use the guidance from Reception to KS3.
The reading framework: What has changed?
Many updates have been included, with the guidance growing from 115 to 176 pages.
Advice for key stages 2 and 3
When the reading framework guidance was first published by the DfE in 2021, it contained guidance and advice for those working in Reception and key stage 1.
This expanded guidance now covers key stages 2 and 3 as well.
This includes specific examples of children in key stages 2 and 3 who would require additional reading support and what that support would look like.
Section 13 of this framework focuses on supporting pupils in KS3 with reading, including identifying those who need support when moving from primary to secondary school.
Schools don’t need to use a programme from the DfE’s list. For Catch-up for older pupils, schools may choose a programme that has not been developed specifically for younger pupils. Schools that choose to build their own SSP programme or select a non-validated one must ensure their programme meets the guidance on good SSP teaching. Pages 150 and 151 provide detailed advice for schools.
Teachers should aim for all pupils to keep up from the start of phonics. Some pupils will likely need support from the beginning of their phonics instruction. Schools must keep individual progress records for pupils who are making slower progress. Assessing gaps in grapheme-phoneme-correspondences, words read per minute, and reading ages can help to build a picture of what a pupil needs to do to improve.
The evidence suggests that SSP programmes are the most effective way of teaching children with SEND to read. Children with SEND may take longer to acquire the GPC knowledge required to be fluent readers, and the pace of teaching should reflect this. The guidance recommends that teachers use familiar instructional routines and that the materials limit distraction. Teaching should provide multiple opportunities for over learning. The guidance refers to the use of alternative communication strategies and the use of low or high-tech gaze strategies.
The journey to fluency takes considerable practice; it is useful to see fluency as a progressive model, where pupils are fluent for their age and stage. Once pupils have practised decoding the same word several times, they can read it at a glance.
The types of books that pupils need to read depend on their stage of reading development. Schools must refrain from schemes that do not align with the teaching and sequence of their SSP phonics programme. However, limiting pupils to unfamiliar books within a level or colour band may hinder their reading motivation. Once pupils read the last ‘decodable’ books from their SSP programme, the guidance encourages schools to direct pupils towards sets of short, easy-read page-turners before pupils start reading more challenging books independently.
The guidance highlights how schools and teachers should choose the books they share with children, recommending that schools ask the following questions: Does it feature a ‘big idea at its heart’? Does it reflect a diverse range of voices and characters? Does it feature ‘rich, lyrical language’? Could the book develop pupils’ wider knowledge? Does it allow pupils to encounter a different genre or format?
The guidance also recommends that English subject leads identify a high-quality ‘core set of literature for each year group’. This core set of books can then be read aloud in story times or English lessons. The guidance recommends that schools view their classroom book areas like mini bookshops. Books should be outward-facing so pupils are more easily enticed by the cover, name and author. (See page 92 for further information)
Developing a reading-for-pleasure culture is still high on the priority list for the DfE. This seemingly becomes harder as children progress through their schooling, and the guidance features ideas such as giving children choices, rewards for reading, class reading time, reading together, book clubs and teachers and peers being book ‘influencers’ as ways of doing this. The guidance states that whilst dressing up and theme days have their place, core strategies should include adult modelling, discussion, sharing books, library time and providing time for pupils to read. The framework recommends that if schools reward pupils for reading, they should ensure these are related to reading, such as book vouchers or books.
Teachers can influence their pupils’ reading by including a Book Club in their weekly timetable. Twenty minutes per week should be spent sharing books and recommending texts to the class. Pupils must get time to recommend books to their peers. Storytime should be prioritised. Secondary schools have additional timetabling challenges, but Book Club should happen at least fortnightly with an adult. (See page 97 for further information)
Comprehension is not a skill that can be taught. Whilst some skills, such as summarising, benefit from targeted instruction, approaches that mirror the KS2 assessment framework is not recommended, especially those that focus on answering questions about unrelated extracts.
The focus of reading lessons should help pupils to develop a mental model of what they have read. Therefore, reading lessons should not focus on limited objectives such as, “We are learning to predict.” The DfE recognises that pupils need to be taught some of the KS2 content domains, the domains as a whole should not be used as a framework for teaching reading. Organising teaching around these domains, or sharing these skills as a mnemonic, will reduce pupils’ access to the wider national curriculum. The best way to prepare pupils for a reading assessment is to: ensure that they can decode fluently, and develop their vocabulary and background knowledge, building these up through wide and regular reading.
Sections nine and ten of the framework highlight how reading ‘across the curriculum supports the knowledge and vocabulary to be learnt in each subject’. This means that opportunities to teach reading are available in all curriculum subjects, not just English lessons. Talk and discussion should continue to form an important part of all lessons in KS2 and KS3. The guidance recommends explaining new vocabulary; teachers should demonstrate how to decode each word, drawing on a word’s morphology, in pupil-friendly language rather than from a dictionary; call and response should be used to practise reading the words.
Headteachers are ultimately responsible for building a reading culture within their school. Usually, this will be supported by a dedicated Reading Leader or English Leader. Reading should be a priority in all schools. Leaders need to ensure that everyone in their school can teach reading effectively.
Emma Adcock – VNET Principal Teaching and Learning Consultant, July 2023