September 25, 2023

Overview: The updated and expanded DfE’s Reading Framework – Secondary

The Department for Education’s Reading Framework has been updated and expanded.

By the end of Year 6, pupils’ reading and writing should be sufficiently fluent and effortless to manage the curriculum’s general demands in year seven across all subjects and not just in English.

Loss of learning over the summer holidays might account for some pupils’ initial struggle in secondary school, but any dips rebound quickly. Pupils’ success depends on their learning academic vocabulary – which depends on their ability to decode and understand this new vocabulary readily.

The most important task, especially at transition, is to identify the pupils whose reading is poor and who, as a result, have negative attitudes towards school.

The guidance states the importance of secondary teachers understanding how reading is taught from the beginning and how it develops before pupils enter year 7. It outlines some of the different challenges of teaching reading in the secondary school curriculum. It supports secondary schools in teaching pupils who still need to meet the KS2 expectations in reading.

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 sections in bold are relevant to supporting reading in Key Stage 3.

The most important sections for Secondary Schools

Every Key Stage 3 teacher must know which pupils have poor decoding skills and take action to support their reading. (See sections 5 and 9).

Secondary schools must know how reading is taught in primary schools (see sections 1 – 4).

Sections 7 and 8 address how to develop pupils’ engagement in reading.

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.

KS3 expectations

At secondary level, Ofsted expects that “all pupils, particularly disadvantaged pupils and those with special educational needs, can read to an age-appropriate level and fluency.”

KS3 expectations
Keeping up and catching up

Many KS3 classrooms have pupils with differing levels of poor word decoding or reading fluency. Standardised reading tests can be a useful first step in identifying these pupils. Pupils with a reading age of 8 or below will likely need the support of an SSP programme. Pupils with a reading age of 8 and 9 will likely need help developing their speed and fluency. It is then important to assess all pupils with a reading age of 9 and below using a diagnostic assessment for word reading.

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. For pupils with significant gaps in their knowledge of GPCs, they will need to learn the later GPCs in the school’s SSP programme; to decode texts that only contain the GPCs they have been taught.

Keeping up and catching up
Organising and teaching catch-up

Interventions must be time-focused and effective. Schools must make difficult choices about what activities pupils must miss. Teaching should take place at the same time every day.

Organising and teaching catch-up
SSP

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. Older pupils in primary and secondary schools who struggle with decoding must also be taught through a systematic synthetic phonics programme. Pages 150 and 151 provide detailed advice for schools. Section 3 (pages 42 – 62 identifies. the principles underpinning the teaching of decoding)

SSP
Phonics and SEND

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. Teachers should continue teaching phonics for as long as pupils need it. The guidance recommends that teachers use familiar instructional routines and that the materials limit distraction. Teaching should provide multiple opportunities for overlearning. The guidance refers to the use of alternative communication strategies and the use of low or high-tech gaze strategies.

Phonics and SEND
Fluency

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. The Standards and Testing Agency say that around 90 words a minute indicate when pupils start to read with sufficient fluency to focus on their comprehension.

Once pupils have practised decoding the same word several times, they can read it at a glance. Pupils who still need to read fluently in KS3 require timely and targeted fluency practice. Some pupils benefit from small group work to support their fluency.

Fluency
Stages and schemes

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.

Stages and schemes
Selecting and sorting books

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) The curriculum should include books to support the content in each history, geography and science lesson.

Selecting and sorting books
Reading for pleasure

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.

Reading for pleasure
Book club and story time

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) Listening to a text read aloud without interruption allows pupils to enjoy a story or a fascinating non-fiction piece. This is important whether pupils are 7 or 14.

Book club and story time
Reading comprehension

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.

Reading comprehension
Teaching reading across the curriculum

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. The knowledge being taught, however, should always be the core purpose of the lesson. The texts should build on pupils’ prior knowledge and vocabulary from previous reading. Leaders should check that texts have been sequenced carefully and that they equip pupils with the ability to understand increasingly complex texts they may meet in later key stages. Appendix 11 provides specific guidance supporting text choices in KS3.

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.

Reading in secondary schools is subject-specific as well as general. Headteachers are responsible for ensuring that subject specialists consider the specific approaches reading requires; these approaches will likely differ from subject to subject.

Teaching reading across the curriculum
Leading reading

Headteachers are ultimately responsible for building a reading culture within their school. Primary and Secondary School headteachers should appoint a Reading Leader or English Leader to manage the teaching of Reading should be a priority in all schools. Leaders need to ensure that everyone in their school can teach reading effectively.

In primary and secondary schools, the literacy lead should:

Understand the principles underpinning a systematic synthetic phonics programme.

Know how to assess pupils to identify the appropriate support for their decoding, fluency or both.

The secondary lead should understand systematic synthetic phonics, how to choose a phonics programme for pupils with reading decoding difficulties, how to teach it and the plan for developing pupils’ fluency. They also need to understand how to assess pupils with reading difficulties. The expectations for secondary reading leaders are explained in detail on p130.

Leading reading
Effective professional development

In secondary schools, English Teachers, special educational needs coordinators and all staff responsible for teaching the phonics programme should take part in training related to the phonics programme that has been selected for teaching pupils with poor reading skills. In addition, secondary schools may consider providing a short professional development session for all teaching staff to explain how phonics is taught (see pages 42 – 62) and how to support pupils with word reading and spelling across the curriculum.

Effective professional development

Emma Adcock – VNET Principal Teaching and Learning Consultant, July 2023

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