The first year of school is a ‘false start’ for too many children because basic reading and maths are not taught well enough, inspectors warn.
Some four and five-year-olds face years of catching up because they have not been pushed to learn, according to Ofsted.
The watchdog says schools must have ‘high expectations’ of their Reception pupils to avoid creating ‘missed opportunities’.
Ofsted has warned that children are being underserved by schools in their first year, making it harder for them to progress in later years. The watchdog said that a third of children lack the knowledge they need by the time they move into Year One
Research by inspectors found that a third of children do not have the essential knowledge they need by the time they move into Year One. Among disadvantaged children, nearly half are falling behind.
In a report out today, inspectors said that in the last academic year the quality of Reception education in 84 schools was inadequate, while it required improvement in 331.
They said many of these schools were failing to provide a ‘sufficiently challenging curriculum’ or have ‘sufficient ambition and high expectations’ for children. They also said some teachers did not move children on quickly enough from their starting points, ‘particularly in reading, writing and maths’.
The report said: ‘For too many children, Reception is far from successful. It is a false start and may predispose them to years of catching up rather than forging ahead.
‘Put simply, by the end of Reception, the ability to read, write and use numbers is fundamental.
‘They are the building blocks for all new learning. Without firm foundations in these areas, a child’s life chances can be severely restricted. The basics need to be taught – and learned – well, from the start.’
Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman has said that reading should be at the ‘heart of the Reception year’ in order to build the foundations for learning in later years
The report said that there was no ‘clear curriculum’ for Reception year. However schools are expected to follow a framework set by the Government, which says children should be taught to read and write simple sentences, count to 20 and add and subtract low numbers.
There are also requirements such as art, dance and song – as well as teaching children to be aware of the world around them.
Ofsted said the report highlights the ‘missed opportunities’ in some schools and the ‘painful consequences’ of falling behind.
It recommends that headteachers put reading at the centre of lessons for four and five-year-olds, as well as focusing on the development of children’s spoken language and making sure they sit at tables when they learn to write.
Amanda Spielman, chief inspector of Ofsted, said: ‘Reading should be at the heart of the Reception year. It is important that in the classroom young children hear new vocabulary and have the opportunity to practise new words.
‘The best schools know how to design their curriculum so that children’s learning and development sets them up well for the rest of their schooling.
‘Reception should not just be a repeat of what children learned in their nursery school, or with their childminder. They deserve better than facing years of catching up.’
In addition, the report said headteachers warned that assessment in Reception was an ‘unnecessary burden’ – forcing them to create activities just to ‘tick boxes’.