Discover the key points from the Department for Education (DfE) Reading Framework 2023 to ensure your primary or secondary school is prepared for the upcoming academic year.
In July 2023, the DfE Reading Framework was expanded from its original 115 pages to 176 pages.
In this blog, we identify some of the key changes and additions made and explore the implications of these, in both primary and secondary school settings.
A Closer Look at the 2023 Reading Framework Key Points
Older Pupils and Phonics
Throughout both the original and the updated Reading Framework, there is an emphasis on the urgency to ensure that all children gain the ability to decode with fluency before they leave KS1.
However, in the 2023 update, sections have been included to support schools with pupils who still struggle with decoding in KS2 & KS3. The emphasis is upon ensuring that phonics is continued for those pupils who have a reading age of less than 8, whatever their age.
As leaders in education, we must consider:
- Are all staff trained in phonics?
- Have struggling readers in KS2 & KS3 been assessed in phonics?
- Has a daily timetable been developed to accommodate the necessary support?
- Has reading been prioritised for these children?
- Are staff systematically working through the programme, using the resources provided, ensuring consistency in approach and fidelity to the scheme?
- Are pupils working at a phonics level which is a direct response to appropriate, relevant and regular assessment?
Of course, not all struggling readers will have decoding as their issue. Many pupils, especially those who are EAL, may be able to decode sufficiently well but are still unable to comprehend what they have read. This theme is addressed in the 2023 Reading Framework update, with an emphasis on fluency as bridging the gap between decoding and comprehension:
“Adults need to give these pupils a considerable and continuing investment of time…They would benefit from extra time in a small group every day to develop their fluency.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 70
So how do we achieve this? There are several approaches to developing and teaching fluency, but the most consistently proven approach is re-reading.
“This is also true for older pupils who need support…Re-reading a text, therefore, gradually increases the number of words in it that they can read ‘at a glance’.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 61
With this in mind, leaders need to consider:
- Do staff understand that fluency is more than just ‘reading at speed’?
- Is reading with fluency, expression and intonation modelled to the pupils?
- Are pupils asked to re-read texts/extracts during lessons? Is this monitored to ensure understanding and fluency?
- Are staff trained in ways in which to support pupils who need to focus on their fluency?
- Are interventions put in place to directly address fluency needs?
- Are these timetabled as daily support?
Quality Texts and Book Clubs
Throughout the DfE Reading Framework, it is noted that the texts chosen at every stage when learning to read are critical. Whilst still in the early stages of reading and decoding is the priority, pupils must be reading books that are decodable for them, exposing them to the GPCs already taught.
Once pupils have successfully completed the phonics programme, then the choice of books to read that pupils are given is equally critical. These need to be:
- Engaging and age-appropriate
- Relevant to their interests and learning
- Across a range of genres
Colour banding and levelling of books are not advised:
“Teachers should also be wary of restricting pupils to reading books from within one coloured level or band and labelling pupils as being on a specific colour.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 97
Book clubs are mentioned throughout the 2023 Reading Framework as a method of introducing books to pupils, increasing reading enjoyment and developing a culture of talk about books and reading:
“Book club is a space on the timetable – not time squashed in as an afterthought – for teachers to promote books and for pupils to make recommendations to each other. In primary schools… at least once a week for 20 minutes. Secondary schools…book club (or library time) should happen at least fortnightly.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 93
Leaders need to consider:
- Is there a clear scheme of decodable books, progressing learning systematically?
- Are post-phonics books suggested by adults, and are they linked to the interests of the child and/or their current learning?
- Are book supplies refreshed and updated regularly?
- Is ‘Book Club’ timetabled?
- Are children encouraged to talk about their books and reading?
- Do staff mode l an enjoyment of reading?
- Are pupils exposed to a range of genres (including historical literature, poetry and non-fiction)?
- Do pupils have access to ‘page turners’ or ‘Hi-Lo’ books (high interest at a low challenge) to increase enjoyment and develop the habit of reading?
Disadvantaged Pupils (Including SEND)
Many of the pupils (but not all) which the 2023 Reading Framework focuses upon will be disadvantaged pupils (including SEND). It is therefore critical that we identify the specific needs of these pupils and compensate appropriately.
Reading should be prioritised above all else for those pupils who fall behind their peers and gaining an accurate understanding of the reasons for this must be a priority.
These possible reasons can include:
- Attendance – Has additional reading support and time been factored in for these pupils?
- Home support – Are the pupils listened to when reading at home? If not, additional reading practice time needs to be identified.
- EAL – Has the pupil’s level of English been assessed? Is additional support provided regarding the acquisition and understanding of vocabulary?
- SEND needs – Have these been thoroughly assessed so that the specific need is identified, and suitable interventions are put in place? Are they being taught to read using phonics?
With regards to SEND pupils, the Reading Framework is very clear that phonics is a critical way in which we enable those pupils to read.
“Schools are expected to enable access to appropriate phonics instruction for pupils who have complex needs.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 77
The emphasis is very much on a change in pedagogical approaches for these pupils rather than allowing the body of knowledge to change. In other words, if pupils are still unable to decode fluently in KS2 or KS3, then we must still teach them phonics, but we need to find alternative ways of teaching to enable this.
The Reading Framework quotes Stahl and McKenna, who say that:
“…generally, labels serve to excuse our failures to teach [reading] by blaming the students for their failure. Rather, we should accept that some children are harder to teach, and we need to work harder to reach those children.”
The Reading Framework, July 2023, P. 125
Final Thoughts on the Reading Framework
Hopefully, this blog has given you a snapshot of the 2023 Reading Framework. Ultimately, you must:
- Have a high-quality systematic synthetic phonics programme in place.
- Ensure all staff who deliver phonics (or may deliver this) are trained in it.
- Make sure the teaching of phonics is of a high-quality.
- Match pupils’ decodable books to the GPCs taught.
- Encourage everyone to prioritise and promote reading.
- Make sure that any pupils who fall behind should be assessed, and appropriate interventions should be timetabled and completed.
- See Book Club time as ‘sacrosanct’.
- Teach the phonics programme to pupils who struggle with decoding, regardless of age.
- Recognise that fluency is key to comprehension and ensure staff are trained in how to teach this.
- Understand that reading aloud to pupils is critical.
- Regularly review the books to read.
- Ensure pupils are reading across the curriculum.
- Treat the acquisition of vocabulary as a high priority.
We recommend you take some time to familiarise yourself with the complete Reading Framework. You can access it here.
For further guidance, our multi-award-winning organisation is here. At Services For Education, we provide a range of courses and consultation services that can support the development and understanding of your reading provision:
- Online Primary Reading Conference – This event is an amazing opportunity to hear a range of experts in teaching reading present key findings and deliver presentations on how to best improve reading and reading attainment in your school.
- New to Primary Reading, Writing or English Leadership – This vital introductory course supports those reading leaders who are new to the role.
- Early Reading: How to teach language comprehension in EYFS and KS1 – This half-day online course is designed to develop the teaching of language comprehension of early years and KS1 practitioners.
For any further guidance and support, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
About the Author
Emma Mudge - Adviser, Services For Education
Emma Mudge has over 20 years of experience working in primary education. Throughout this time, she has become a leader in a wide variety of areas throughout the school including Assessment, Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Management and Lead DSL, to name but a few. As Deputy Head Teacher and Acting Head Teacher, she has been at the forefront of school leadership and improvement.
During her role as English leader, she successfully introduced new approaches which significantly raised attainment. This led her to be approached to support other English coordinators across Birmingham, make presentations to school leaders and become a member of a small group of specialist teachers and leaders, tasked with improving the reading attainment in a number of schools across the city.
Emma now works as the Educational Adviser for English at Services for Education, sharing her experience and knowledge of working in primary schools to continually promote and improve the standard of teaching and learning in English, and in school improvement.
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