Pupils Taught to Speak on Social Justice

Ofsted has been criticised for telling its inspectors that teaching children to speak standard English is a matter of social justice. The instruction is contained in Ofsted training materials circulating on social media. Despite calls for the watchdog to share these materials with all schools, amid fears that schools that have seen them online will have an unfair advantage in their inspections, it has declined.

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The content of one of its documents – designed to support inspectors carrying out deep dives into English teaching in primary schools – has been criticised for its apparent focus on how well pupils speak the Queen’s English rather than whether they can understand and communicate effectively.

In a section titled ‘What does good look like?’, the document says: “In schools where pupils speak standard English, they are more likely to make better progress.

“This is not only because they can be understood more easily by teachers and other pupils, but also because they are more likely to be able to understand the language of their lessons.”

It goes on to tell that teaching child to speak standard English is a “matter of social justice”, as those who do not learn it is disadvantaged in life.

The document has been shared widely on social media, with many people expressing concern that it could narrow the curriculum and pressure teachers to focus on teaching pupils how to speak in a particular way rather than supporting them to develop their voices.

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In a statement, Ofsted said: “Our training materials make it clear that inspectors should not make any assumptions about pupils’ language skills and that all inspectors are required to have had recent experience working in primary schools.”

However, the watchdog declined to share the full document with schools, saying it was “part of a range of resources” that were only shared with inspectors.

Some have criticised this policy as potentially giving an unfair advantage to those schools that have been able to obtain the materials online.

What do you think? Should Ofsted share its training materials with all schools? Or is it right to keep them under wraps? Let us know in the comments below.

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