A way forward for English teaching

English teaching support

In March 2024, Ofsted published a highly anticipated report evaluating the state of English teaching across schools in England. While commending notable improvements in reading through systematic synthetic phonics programmes, the report sheds light on several areas that demand our attention as educators.

It is our responsibility to analyse these findings and explore innovative solutions to strengthen approaches to English teaching, ensuring every student receives a comprehensive and effective education.

Ofsted’s English insights

One of the main concerns highlighted in the report is the struggle many pupils encounter with reading fluency and comprehension beyond the initial stages of accurately decoding words. This important transition from learning to read, to reading to learn, presents a significant hurdle for some students, hindering their academic progress.

The report also highlighted the comparatively ineffective teaching of writing and spoken language skills in relation to reading instruction. Ofsted claimed schools were found to rush pupils into complex writing tasks before solidifying foundational skills like spelling and handwriting. Additionally, spoken language development was often neglected as a clear component within the English curriculum.

Furthermore, the report revealed a concerning tendency among some schools to view English merely as a support subject for other disciplines, rather than valuing it as a subject in its own right. This approach can lead to less effective English teaching.

The report also noted that external assessments, such as national tests, can unhelpfully shape the curriculum, with excessive emphasis on exam-style tasks rather than building foundational knowledge first, as well as the underutilisation of formative assessment – a valuable tool for monitoring student progress and tailoring teaching accordingly.

Finally, the report emphasised the need for comprehensive professional development opportunities for English teachers, focused on building deeper subject knowledge beyond a narrow emphasis on exams and moderation. Enhancing teacher expertise, particularly in the areas of writing and spoken language teaching, is crucial for delivering high-quality English education.

A role for online tutoring?

In our experience, English teachers are passionate about the subject and do an amazing job, often with very little resource. They light fires within their pupils’ imaginations that can lead to a lifetime of literary exploration.

However, Ofsted’s report does highlight several areas where online tutoring, can help address some of the problems identified, giving classroom based teachers some much needed support.  These areas include:

  • Supporting struggling readers/writers through targeted, personalised interventions delivered by qualified online tutors. These 1-on-1 or small group sessions can identify and address specific gaps in reading fluency, comprehension, and writing skills.
  • Building foundational transcription skills like spelling and handwriting through regular practice and feedback provided by online tutors. This approach ensures students master these fundamentals before advancing to more complex writing tasks.
  • Developing spoken language proficiency by incorporating deliberate practice and modelling of effective communication skills across various contexts within online tutoring sessions.
  • Supplementing classroom teaching on neglected areas of the English curriculum, such as grammar, writing conventions, and literature analysis. Online tutors can provide comprehensive lessons, ensuring students receive a well-rounded English education.
  • Using smart assessment tools within online tutoring platforms. These tools enable tutors to continuously monitor student progress, identify areas of struggle, and adjust their teaching strategies accordingly, addressing misconceptions quickly.

Partnering for student success

Used in the right way, tutoring delivered by fully qualified online teachers, acutely familiar with the exam boards and current national curriculum, can play a pivotal role in addressing many of the challenges, identified by Ofsted, facing English education.

At TLC LIVE, our team of experienced, teachers, coupled with our innovative approach to instruction and assessment, positions us as a powerful ally for schools seeking to enhance their English teaching practices.

Contact us today to explore how our online tutoring for schools services can support your English department and empower your students to achieve their full potential.

By Ryan Lockett, director of studies at TLC LIVE.