Thursday 7 January 2016

Ofsted: "We can't see the learning going on in silent reading time"


"I am a high school English teacher and have been teaching for eight years. Firstly I want to thank you for all the work and awareness you are raising about the way reading for pleasure is being forced out of schools.

I am really terrified about what this means for the students and future generations of students.

Seven years ago, OFSTED came to our school and saw silent reading in form time. In their feed back they said that this wasn't a good use of time as they couldn't "see the learning". As a result leadership decided that silent reading wasn't a good use of time and it was outlawed. Instead we were told to do activities in the library, like discussing books or doing a review of a book that had already been read. Someone made a box of activities on bits of paper. I was very angry and argued with leadership but they just keep coming back the the fact that they can't "see" progress or "see" learning when children read (I pointed out that learning and progress are abstract nouns but this didn't change their minds")

I still let my classes read in silence in the library but I am aware that if I am discovered I am doing something I am not supposed to be doing: reading in a library. I still find it ridiculous. I encourage reading for pleasure in every way I can, as do my colleagues and all KS3 students have to read at home for at least an hour every week. I just think that reading in a library with others is a really special experience.

I am also concerned about the way novels are being taught in high schools, recently in an English teacher meeting someone said: "There's no point teaching whole novels anymore, the exams are all unseen extracts, we only need to teach extracts from year 7 upwards". There is one Shakespeare text and one 19th Century novel on the syllabus, every other exam is unseen extracts. Of course I challenged the reading of extracts, but I am concerned that this is something that could be happening in schools everywhere.

So we are left with this situation: children are forced to read two difficult books that are not accessible for many of them, everything else they read is just fragmented extracts they have to analyse and they never get to read anything they want to read for pleasure. The result will be a generation of people who hate reading and have never had any pleasure from it. It is terribly sad.

I felt compelled to write to you, I'm not sure what you can do. Often I feel like I'm not doing enough; the government changes are really stifling teachers."


"I'm a Primary School teacher and our 2-form entry school has a lovely, well-stocked, colourful library with shed loads of cushions, brightly-coloured bean bags, cosy corners, the lot. Sadly, it's never used though because, according to the head, "There's just not enough time in the teaching timetable." The children never visit it, never spend time in it (unless they have a broken thumb so can't go outside at playtime and so have to choose a friend with whom they can play chess or noughts and crosses), never browse books, choose books, borrow books, return books. Nope, it's literally there to just look pretty. "


"At my last school we were a 'read write inc' school. This took an hour every day, then we had to teach handwriting, spelling and guided reading daily on top of that, as well as hear every child read once a week. We had such a restricted timetable that anything ‘extra’ was squeezed out. We were then told that if we taught 'read write inc' properly, it would cover story time sessions. Have you ever looked at those books? I think not."