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EMC Response to Ofsted Curriculum research review: English

Ofsted recently published a curriculum research review for English. It is so out of keeping with the rigour and traditions required of the subject that we've felt compelled to write a highly critical response, calling for the document to be withdrawn. We'd urge all English teachers to read what Andrew McCallum and Barbara Bleiman have to say as well as casting their critical eye over the review itself.
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The 2019 Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) (Ofsted, 2019a) was accompanied by a document outlining the research evidence underpinning its principles (Ofsted, 2019b). Much of the evidence presented focused on cognitive science and how this justified various recommended approaches: direct instruction, interleaving, retrieval practice, elaboration, dual coding, cognitive load theory, and so on. Not one piece of evidence was based on research into cognitive science related specifically to subject English at secondary level.

A subsequent Education Endowment Fund (EEF) (2021) report confirmed why this was the case: the evidence simply does not exist. This huge meta-study of applied cognitive science approaches in the classroom found only limited evidence for the positive impact of a range of strategies across all subject areas. English barely warranted a mention, beyond studies into teaching vocabulary and spelling. EEF researchers found that nearly all of the grand (and demonstrably over-stated) claims made for cognitive science approaches were based on research in laboratory rather than classroom conditions. In other words, it wasn’t carried out with young people in everyday school environments. The foundations of our entire ‘evidence-based’ education system, as currently formulated by policymakers, is predicated, it seems, on a lot of unsubstantiated theory and lab trials. Of the limited classroom research available, hardly any of it focuses on subject English. 

The authors of Ofsted’s recently published Curriculum research review: English (2022), then, faced a nigh-on impossible task. They were ‘to consider what published research evidence tells us about a high-quality education in [English]’ (Ofsted, 2021), drawing on research underpinning the EIF. Research that does not exist so far as English is concerned.

Unsurprisingly, as a result, the review is unconvincing to say the least. Because it is based on the EIF, the parameters are set narrowly along lines that are themselves flawed and partial, ignoring a wealth of important research that does exist specifically about subject English and its pedagogies. So, its conclusions are unhelpfully skewed, distorting or entirely ignoring important issues in teaching the subject.

While it does find space to recognise the validity of some aspects of the subject that are all but absent from more general Ofsted documentation – the importance of dialogic talk most obviously – and references some significant research unrelated to cognitive science, in general it lacks a coherent vision for the subject and has numerous ‘gaps’, to use a favourite Ofsted term. 

Worryingly, the report barely touches on some key areas of the subject, and does not even dip a toe into the research that is available on pedagogy and practices relating to them. So, there is nothing at all on research on the teaching of poetry, nothing on drama (aside from one reference to Shakespeare), nor on non-fiction texts. There is nothing on the teaching of creative writing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is also nothing at all about the teaching of media within English, or even the notion of media literacy. In a review of English teaching, these absences are nothing short of scandalous. Even the briefest of conversations with a handful of people in the wider English community might have revealed these absences and generated ideas for the kind of useful research that could have been included. Worryingly, given the status of such a document, it is also very poorly written, contradicts itself in several places, contains verifiable errors and uses evidence in questionable ways. Hard-pressed teachers are likely to trust that an Ofsted research review has used sound methods and has been scrupulously careful and even-handed in its treatment of research. The fact that this is not the case is of major concern and we would argue for it to be withdrawn to allow for a more thorough and rigorous research review to be written, drawing on the expertise of the subject community more widely, with greater transparency about who has been consulted and who has been involved in the writing of the report, as has been the case in the major subject reports of the past (Bullock, Cox, Kingman, LINC and Ofsted’s own subject reports, such as 2012's Moving English Forward.)

Having said what isn’t in the review, we think it’s worth spelling out in more detail some of our key concerns about what is in it. Here are some of the main issues and concerns that we’ve identified from our own reading.

1. The false separation of pedagogy and curriculum

From the very start, the document ties itself in knots by trying to make a clear division between pedagogy and curriculum in English (with curriculum itself formulated as 'foundational knowledge' in this instance):

There is a risk that planning for English teaching ends up focusing on using modalities (pedagogy) at the expense of identifying the foundational knowledge of language that pupils need for comprehension or communication in whatever modality they are using. When this happens, means and ends have become confused. 

Of course, plenty of subject time needs to be given over to the explicit teaching of each of these forms of verbal communication and knowledge about them. But it’s important to recognise that ‘knowing how to’ and ‘knowing about’ are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. If a student completes a writing task set by their teacher, they may well draw on an explicit feature of writing discussed, but they will also draw on much more besides. In doing so, particularly if the writing has a focused audience and purpose, they will be reinforcing their understanding of how to write by doing. Additional reflection about their language choices, particularly in conversation with their teacher and other students, will help this process further but it is never an exact science, as made clear by Marshall and Wiliam (2006): 

… the complexity of any given piece of writing means it is hard to itemise or predict in advance the features that might make it good except in the most general terms. Any attempt at being more precise runs the risk of missing an essential ingredient.

A worryingly simplistic view of the relationship between 'knowing how to' and 'knowing about' emerges in other aspects of the subject too, for instance in the description of learning to write and compose as a linear sequence – first knowing how to write, then and only then, being able to focus on composition. In reading, it is similar – comprehension can only happen after decoding, not alongside. 

2. Damagingly uncritical presentations of language gap ideologies and associated discussions of the role of standard English

As others, such as linguist Ian Cushing, have already pointed out elsewhere, the report makes extensive use of research on the so-called ‘language or word gap’, much of which has been heavily critiqued and refuted by multiple linguists and educationalists, both in the UK and the USA. These form the basis of large sections of the report, on vocabulary in particular, that lead to judgements about what to do in classrooms that could lead to serious linguistic and cultural injustices. The report quotes as ‘research’ an OU report where the findings are based entirely on asking teachers in a questionnaire whether they think vocabulary is a problem issue for their students. Hearing their view is, of course, interesting and it is rather unsurprising that teachers will identify vocabulary as an issue but this is not research ‘proving’ anything about a vocabulary ‘gap’. Ofsted might have liked to include the recent work of Ian Cushing (2020), April Baker-Bell (2020) and Nelson Flores (2020), and others who have critiqued the idea of language deficits and gaps ('language gap' research has been clearly shown to be implicated in racist language policies in education). At the very least, the report writers should have acknowledged that this is a highly contested area of research, and pointed out the concerns about it.

3. A continuing obsession with vocabulary

Following on from this, and arising out of the wholesale acceptance of the idea of the ‘word gap', it is disturbing to see how vocabulary is still being described as a ‘proxy’ for learning in the subject, giving vocabulary a preeminent importance that squeezes out other things. There’s a rigidity and fixity that pushes to the background research on other vital aspects of language, such as syntactic or structural aspects of texts, which can pose significant problems for students in reading challenging texts. And in terms of what to do about vocabulary teaching, though there’s a welcome, if limited, acceptance in the report that it’s complicated and that vocabulary develops in different ways, some of the conclusions remain quite crude and simplistic. 

4. Reading and reading comprehension – a narrow focus

As with many of the sections of the report, what constitutes important research about reading and reading comprehension has been narrowed to prove a pre-existing set of preferences, rather than as a genuine discussion of research in the field that would allow teachers to make valid judgements about the implications for their practice. Significant omissions lead to a very partial and partisan approach to what is entailed in the process of becoming a better reader. 

Teaching reading is a complex and messy process. To recognise this, at secondary level Ofsted could have included the work of Judith Langer (2011) on reader-response in classrooms, or the empirical classroom research of Applebee, Langer, Nystrand (2003) and others on what improves reading comprehension in English classrooms. They could also have mentioned the research of Marcello Giovanelli and Jessica Mason (2021) on reader response in the classroom and Gabrielle Cliff-Hodges’ (2015) research on readers’ experiences.

The review cites the work of Smith et al (2021) as evidence of the importance of background knowledge to comprehension. However, it fails to recognise the major qualifications in the work itself around the significance of background knowledge in reading narrative texts as opposed to expository texts. Given that English as a subject focuses so heavily on narrative texts, this is important for teachers to know.

5. Unsubstantiated claims for the role of grammar

Providing students with an understanding of grammar and its role in language use is a reasonable educational aim for an English curriculum in and of itself. This report, however, makes substantial claims for the role of grammar in developing writing that aren’t backed up by available evidence, including evidence contained in meta-studies that are cited elsewhere in the Ofsted report in a different context. For example, they cite Graham and Perin (2007) who carried out a meta-study of various interventions into writing for secondary age students. The explicit teaching of grammar was the only intervention in this meta-study with a negative effect size. Why is this not mentioned in the review? A meta-study by Myhill and Watson (2014) found no firm conclusions about the benefits of explicit decontextualized grammar teaching in relation to writing. Yet further work by Myhill (or, at least, an editorial, bizarrely positioned as research) is cited as evidence of the importance of grammar as foundational knowledge in the teaching of writing:

Pupils need secure knowledge of English grammar for composition. This enables them to express themselves clearly and creatively through writing. The grammatical structures of a text carry much of the writer’s intended meaning. Exploring these choices in texts allows the writer to understand the writer’s thoughts better. [footnote 200]

The footnote references ‘D. Myhill and R. Fisher, ‘Editorial: writing development: cognitive, sociocultural, linguistic perspectives’, in ‘Journal of Research in Reading’, Volume 33, 2010, pages 1 to 3.’ The writers of this editorial, might well claim, in light of their substantial research, that exploring text choices aids understanding. However, they would in all likelihood refute that ‘pupils need secure knowledge of English grammar for composition’, or at least critically interrogate such a statement further. Citing this editorial in relation to a single sentence that concludes a paragraph making very different claims as a whole is careless and misleading at best. As a one-off instance in a lengthy document, it could perhaps be overlooked. However, it is part of a consistent pattern across the document (see references, for example, to various work by: Mercer; Alexander; Applebee; Atherton, Green and Snapper) that would make this report inadmissible for publication in any serious peer-reviewed journal. 

6. A dated and racially insensitive approach to the discussion of literary text selection

Over the past 2-3 years the English teaching community seems to have reached a broad consensus about the importance of a diverse and balanced curriculum, certainly in terms of texts studied. We have observed this in all our networks and our contacts with English teachers. The Ofsted report simultaneously acknowledges and rejects this in a way that, at best, can be excused as ignorant of what constitutes contemporary literary study.  To many readers, it is likely to come across as racially insensitive. The section in question is worth quoting in full in order to exemplify some of its non-sequiturs and its racial insensitivity.

A range of perspectives

Teachers and critics advocate a greater range of perspectives in the choices of literature that pupils study. It is beneficial for pupils to see people similar to them represented as the heroes and protagonists in the books they read.

However, ideas about writers’ intentions can be over-simplified if they are viewed solely through the prism of our current political landscape or contemporary issues. This can also lead to reductionist interpretations: readings that fail to do justice to the many layers within the text and their meanings. It can also lead to significant, influential texts being removed from the curriculum or texts being included only because they address contemporary issues rather than due to literary merit.

Within the aims of the national curriculum, any rationale for choosing texts should be based on the knowledge, practices and traditions of the subject itself. Other purposes, for example learning about a particular contemporary social issue, such as ‘homelessness’ or ‘social media shaming’, should take a back seat to literary merit.

It may be useful for teachers and leaders to develop a set of criteria for choosing texts. Didau suggests questions to consider when choosing a text that include notions such as: 

- an entitlement to read certain texts
- whether texts have been read already
- the extent to which texts introduce pupils to new knowledge
- whether the text offers a genuine variety of voices and perspectives (including older, less popular voices)
- whether the text has ‘conversations’ backwards and forwards with other texts

The section studiously avoids the language of race, but it is clearly there in the reference to students seeing people similar to themselves in their reading. Such representations are then immediately equated with ‘over-simplification’ and a focus on ‘contemporary issues’ rather than literary merit. There is, indeed, limited space on the curriculum. But that need not and should not preclude texts that promote a curriculum for diversity and inclusion. It’s curious that the views of bloggers have been cited in this section as evidence, rather than more substantial work with a sophisticated understanding of the traditions of the subject and of the importance of range and diversity in text selection.  Perhaps Arthur N. Applebee (2008) on culture, traditions and textual conversations – properly presented, rather than misrepresented as it is in the report – would have been worth quoting, along with Rudine Sims Bishop (2003) writing about the importance of students recognising themselves in their reading.

7. Limited understanding of progression and sequencing in English

Obviously, we want students to be able to read and understand more challenging texts as they get older. And obviously a curriculum will build in more complex and thematically mature texts as students work their way through the school years. But the Ofsted report has a fixation with ever-increasing textual complexity that  treats progression in an entirely linear way, rather than as a sophisticated, complicated set of references forward and back –  a set of conversations that circle back on themselves, through a mix of texts that offer many different kinds of experience and multiple different kinds of complexity.  Presumably the fixation comes from an overly simplistic interpretation of the EIF’s requirement for a carefully sequenced curriculum: make each text slightly harder than the previous one and the requirement is taken care of. Some texts are hard because of their language, some because of the worlds they take students into, some because they are conceptually challenging, some because they are spare and require students to fill the gaps with inference and interpretation, some because they are in unfamiliar genres, or because they challenge expected patterns or conventions. The report suggests a crude understanding of textual challenge.  Students themselves, though, also need to progress in terms of their ability to interpret texts. In part this can be achieved by guiding students in how to come up with sophisticated readings of relatively straightforward texts. This makes sense both on a practical level (in Ofsted’s terms, the less cognitive load taken up trying to understand a text, the more is available to offer a sophisticated interpretation) and a disciplinary one (it moves students on from the simplistic notion that complex and difficult automatically equates to good).

At times the report is so fixed on offering an interpretation of subject English that equates to the narrow requirements of the EIF that it ties itself in knots trying to justify its assertions. This is particularly the case when it is talking about text complexity. This example is one of many that show the muddled (and unhelpful) thinking emerging from this kind of approach.

Text complexity and progression in reading comprehension

Considerations of the knowledge necessary for comprehension need to take account of the texts that pupils might be required to comprehend. In this review, we consider what knowledge pupils need to learn to comprehend increasingly complex texts. This knowledge provides a progression model for reading comprehension. It needs to be identified in a curriculum and taught to pupils. The national curriculum requires that reading instruction, through each key stage, should prepare pupils ultimately to read more complex texts, for example ‘to read and appreciate the depth and power of the English literary heritage’. Variation in text complexity affects pupils’ reading comprehension. Therefore, pupils of all ages need to be taught a curriculum that will allow them to comprehend increasingly complex texts.

8. Foundational knowledge

Linked to the advice to structure texts almost solely in terms of increasing complexity, are numerous references to foundational knowledge. This is knowledge needed in order for further learning to take place. The absence of research related specifically to English, as opposed to more generic research on learning, means that this is presented in a highly simplistic way, assuming that language learning, reading comprehension, writing and learning about texts take place in a linear, logical fashion.  Foundational knowledge in English is different from a subject like Chemistry or Maths, where understanding something may be a requirement for the next stage of learning. In English, knowledge is more recursive, can build up in different sequences and does not fall flat if a specific bit of knowledge hasn’t yet been taught. For example, the erroneous assertion that explicit grammar knowledge is a pre-requisite of effective writing, is bound up with other misleading claims about sequencing other forms of knowledge about language, as exemplified here:

Knowledge of language, which includes linguistic knowledge like vocabulary and grammar, as well as knowledge of the world for comprehension, underpins progression in spoken language, reading and writing. This insight repeatedly emerges from the evidence outlined in this review. The review will explore the important implications of this insight for curriculum design. It argues that, when planning a curriculum, teachers and leaders should prioritise progression in knowledge of language and of its forms, usage, grammar and vocabulary. This knowledge, of the structures of language, can then be used by pupils across their spoken language, reading and writing.

The report consistently presents the subject as one inaccessible to students without copious amounts of pre-teaching: knowledge to get knowledge, so to speak. In many cases, the text is the knowledge! Sometimes it might be useful to provide additional information in advance of an activity, at other times it might be helpful to withhold information and instead allow students to develop their own understandings, as well as strategies and resilience in handling challenging texts, before providing them with additional information as needed. This, along with many similar things in the report, is something best left to teacher judgement rather than official diktat.

In writing about context as foundational knowledge, the report, as when talking about 'knowledge of language', again comes across as muddled, trying to explain how students need to be taught knowledge in order to access the knowledge that is their entitlement from an English curriculum:

A narrower discussion of knowledge, limited to context, may lead to confusion when discussing the knowledge needed for comprehension. This is because it is difficult to disentangle the types of knowledge used in comprehension. For example, it can be unhelpful to consider vocabulary separately from contextual knowledge. For comprehension pupils will need knowledge of vocabulary as well as knowledge of the text’s context, and these are closely intertwined. To understand the text’s vocabulary requires a grasp of the context in which those specific words have been used. This is because the words that readers know represent concepts and information. Therefore, these concepts have to be understood to appreciate the meaning of the words that are read.

It has to be said, comprehending this passage about comprehension requires expert comprehension skills, even by the most expert of adult readers – teachers of English. One wonders how many will find this a lucid and helpful account of what’s at stake in thinking about reading comprehension, vocabulary and prior knowledge.

9. A limited view of assessment

The section about assessment is very limited in scope, particularly in relation to formative assessment. The examples used all relate to small-scale technical aspects of the subject and suggest a genuinely limited understanding of what, educationally, English is for. Examples include:

Pupils also benefit from modelling and feedback that is specific rather than general, such as ‘Can you add the key terms “anaphora” and “hyperbole” to your response?’ instead of ‘You need to use more sophisticated vocabulary’.

For example, when pupils are learning how to embed examples in text through practice activities, teachers should give them instant verbal feedback that focuses on accuracy.

teachers could discuss the features of a persuasive letter, before using those features as success criteria for pupils’ own writing.

There are no suggestions for formative assessment as it relates to the overall quality of a piece of writing, to the content and quality of a response to reading, to an interpretation of a text, to the originality of thinking, to knowledge generated in discussion, and so on.

10. Factual and disciplinary errors

As has already been indicated throughout our response, if the report is to have any credibility with English teachers, then at the very least it needs to get right its own terms of reference, use credible examples and instil confidence that the writers themselves have a sound knowledge of their subject. In several places the report reads as though written without any substantial knowledge of the broader disciplinary field at all. For example, right at the start it talks about reading literature for ‘meaning and ambiguity’ – a curious conjunctive formulation, given that meaning encompasses ambiguity and much more besides – associations, connotations, allusions, personal responses and so on. 

References to texts are rare but when they are offered by way of exemplification, the examples are often extremely unconvincing. For instance, in talking about Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time as a good stepping-stone to reading ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ (a rather odd progression in our view) it cites the reason as being that they both have ‘unreliable narrators’. This is debatable, particularly in the case of the Haddon novel. (John Mullan discusses the inadequacy of this term for the narrator of Curious Incident in an interview for emagazine.) In any event, the vast differences between the two texts makes this an odd example to choose to suggest ‘preparing’ for a challenging text with a simpler one.  

The report also gives this curious example from Hamlet to demonstrate what’s meant by developing students’ ‘aesthetic knowledge’:

The fields above [four possible categories of literary knowledge] also draw on aesthetic knowledge. This knowledge enables appreciation and thus enjoyment of a literary work. For example, knowing that, in Shakespeare’s time, a nunnery was also slang for a brothel means that Hamlet’s command to Ophelia, ‘Get thee to a nunnery’, is even more heart-breaking and emotionally charged. 

It seems unusual to cite the use of a single word to exemplify aesthetic knowledge. Aside from that, a cursory look at the footnotes in different editions of Hamlet suggests that the double-meaning referred to may not have been intended by Shakespeare nor interpreted as such by his audience. Hamlet is calling for Ophelia to be placed in a convent so that she can resist her sexual impulses. Sometimes a nunnery might just be a nunnery. Perhaps it was intended as the Ofsted writers suggest, though plenty of commentators seem sceptical. But presenting such information as fact, as is done here, and then suggesting that it adds to aesthetic ‘knowledge’ is exactly what, as teachers, we must not do if we are to encourage either rigorous critical thinking and evaluative judgements in students, or indeed aesthetic pleasure and understanding


It’s uncomfortable criticising a document written by English specialists. We would have preferred to have read it and felt impressed by its rigour and quality. Regardless of the individual author or authors, though, ultimate responsibility for its publication rests with Ofsted as an organisation and that is why we have spent time pointing out its damaging flaws. Presumably significant documents like this require those in charge of Ofsted, or indeed the chief inspector herself, to sign off on them. Amanda Spielman surely has a  good enough grasp of what passes for high quality writing and high quality research, to have raised some doubts about this report before publication? 

Thankfully, the majority of English teachers are experts in their work and trained to critically interrogate textual inconsistencies and falsehoods. They will be able to make their own judgements about the quality of what they see. They are aware of lots of the debates and many of them engage with them robustly and with great passion on social media, in blogs, in their own staffrooms and elsewhere. However, Ofsted’s hold over schools is so powerful that’s there’s a real risk that many English teams will be compelled by management to act on many of the recommendations that the review contains.  Reports like this matter. Rightly or wrongly, they shape the direction that schools and teachers follow. That is why we are calling on Ofsted to withdraw this review. We call on them to convene a new group to re-examine the research and re-write it and to make it clear who the members and writers of the new report are so that those who read it can see who is responsible for the thinking behind it.

Whether this happens or not – and we hope that it will – it is important to recognise that there is a huge amount of fantastic research available on English as a subject that is both fascinating and helpful to classroom teachers. Much of this research would fall outside of the parameters set for themselves by Ofsted in carrying out their review. But that does not make the research any less important; rather it shines a light on the profoundly unethical and misleading way that this report has been put together.

At the English and Media Centre we will continue to try to make this research available to teachers in accessible ways, through our CPD programme, our blogs and publications. We remain committed to working with teachers to find better ways of doing things: ways that are genuinely for the benefit of all students, that still meet the demands of the National Curriculum, no matter how narrow they might be, and that recognise the vibrancy, diversity, integrity and intellectual rigour that must lie at the heart of any serious engagement with English.


Applebee, A.N., 2008. Curriculum as conversation. In Curriculum as Conversation. University of Chicago Press

Applebee, A.N., Langer, J.A., Nystrand, M. and Gamoran, A., 2003. Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English. American Educational research journal, 40(3), pp.685-730. Accessed on June 6 2022 at

Baker-Bell, A., 2020. Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. Routledge.

Bishop, R.S., 2003. Reframing the debate about cultural authenticity. Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature, pp.25-37. Accessed on June 6 2022 at

Bullock, A., 1975. The Bullock Report: A language for life. London: HMSO.

Cliff Hodges, G., 2015. Researching and teaching reading: developing pedagogy through critical enquiry. Routledge.

Cushing, I., 2020. The policy and policing of language in schools. Language in Society, 49(3), pp.425-450. Accessed on June 6 2022 at

DES (1988) Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of English Language. (The Kingman Report.) London: HMSO.

DES (1989) English for Ages 5 to 16. (The Cox Report.) London: DES and Welsh Office.

Education Endowment Fund (EEF). 2021. Cognitive science approaches in the classroom: a review of the evidence (summary). Published July, 2021 at

Flores, N., 2020. From academic language to language architecture: Challenging raciolinguistic ideologies in research and practice. Theory Into Practice, 59(1), pp.22-31. Accessed on June 6 2022 at

Graham, S. and Perin, D., 2007. A meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescent students. Journal of educational psychology, 99(3), p.445. Accessed on May 28 2022 at

Langer, J. 2011. Envisioning Literature: Literary Understanding and Literature Instruction. Teachers' College Press.

Marshall, B. and Wiliam, D., 2006. English Inside the Black Box: Assessment for Learning in the English Classroom. Granada Learning.

Mason, J. and Giovanelli, M., 2021. Studying Fiction: A Guide for Teachers and Researchers. Routledge.

Myhill, D. and Watson, A., 2014. The role of grammar in the writing curriculum: A review of the literature. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 30(1), pp.41-62. Accessed on May 28 2022 at

Osted. 2012. Moving English Forward: Action to Raise Standards in English. Accessed on June 6 2022 at

Ofsted. 2019a. Education inspection framework. Updated July 23, 2021 at

Ofsted. 2019b. Education inspection framework: Overview of the research. Published January 16, 2019 at

Ofsted. 2021. Principles behind Ofsted’s research reviews and curriculum reports. Published March 30, 2021 at

Ofsted. 2022. Curriculum research review: English. Published May 23, 2022 at

Smith, R., Snow, P., Serry, T., and Hammond, L. ‘The role of background knowledge in reading comprehension: a critical review’, in ‘Reading Psychology’, Volume 42, 2021, pages 214 to 240. Accessed on June 6 2022 at


Given how the EMC has gone downhill since 2015 - when my department gave up on attending courses or buying resources - I'm inclined to trust Ofsted. The EMC is equally contentious and ideology-driven in its dogwhistle statement about "racial insensitivity". By Rhys on 07th Jun 2022
Thanks for taking the time to make a comment. So far it’s one of very few negative ones in among a vast number expressing appreciation and sharing our concerns. We don’t claim to speak for all English teachers; however, our views are very much in line with a wide range of English subject bodies. We’re sorry that your team no longer value our work and hope that we can persuade you otherwise in the future! By Andrew McCallum on 08th Jun 2022
This is such an impressive response: considered and forensic. I absolutely agree with your suggestion about the need for an expert group to be established to inform and lead the direction of English teaching. The void created by the government seems to have been filled by a small group of self-appointed gurus. By Ruth Robertson on 09th Jun 2022
A very impressive and well-researched response to this shoddy review. I really hope that your document is circulated widely and that your call for a rewrite is heeded. The report is testament to the government's desire to tame an otherwise unruly subject and, unfortunately is likely to lead to more rigid, ignorant and harmful teaching. It is also likely to cause more stress to already overworked and beleaguered teachers and heads of department. Keep up the good work! By Peter Ellison on 11th Jun 2022
Thank you. I thought there were a small number of helpful takeaways from the review, but I am concerned about it being used as any kind of basis for curriculum design, especially in primary schools, where my experience suggests there is sometimes rather a vacuum instead of a coherent rationale and philosophy of English. In the worst examples, the subject of English doesn't really exist in primary at all and is instead a collection of basic skills serving the rest of the curriculum, with even text choices dictated by topics. On another note, the suggestion that dictation be used in key stage 1 as a tool for teaching transcription was a bit alarming. Do you have any thoughts on this? By Jane Branson on 15th Jun 2022
Excellent piece . I hope that Ofsted have the professional integrity and humility to admit they've got this wrong, withdraw the report and try again in the way you suggest.
But having seen the way the organisation works from without and within over a career in education spanning 33 years, I very much doubt that will happen.
I'm afraid that until the ideological direction of travel in Whitehall changes, hopefully in a couple of years, we are stuck with this almost quasi-religious, Hirschian extremism.
By Karl Sweeney on 16th Jun 2022

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