Reading in the National Curriculum: A Breakdown For Parents - Fonetti

How is reading measured in the National Curriculum?

Our passion for technology and education over here at the Bookshop is no secret. We love gadgets, handheld devices, apps, online programmes, virtual classrooms and just about anything that encourages educational progress!

But we do understand that these methods are not representative of a complete education.

Learning is a wonderful thing but it can be tough, particularly when it comes to reading.

The National Curriculum

Many parents would like more information and insight into how well their child is getting on at school and what they are learning. Many would simply like to know what is expected of them by the curriculum- which can seem fairly daunting!

When the National Curriculum was set up in 1988, it was in a bid to standardise content taught across schools. This meant that all children experienced the same educational approaches, topics and teaching methods across the nation- a standard is still present today.


The discipline of English is a core subject with a wider reach than you may first expect. English teaches a pupil to communicate, listen and express their emotions through words, and reading is a key element here.

As is explained in the curriculum:

‘Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually.’

But this is no easy feat!

A child’s ability is constantly measured throughout their time at school. The following ‘markers’ are just some of the targets set for children to reach at the end of their primary school education in English:

• A child should be able to read easily, fluently and with good understanding

• They should develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information

• They should acquire a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions for reading, writing and spoken language

• They should be able to write clearly, accurately and coherently, adapting their language and style in and for a range of contexts, purposes and audiences

(More info can be found at

So there’s quite a lot to learn right?

When it comes directly to reading, a child’s ability is assessed in two ways:

1• Phonic/word recognition

2• Comprehension

Both of these aspects can present different challenges for the student, and different methods of teaching are often used.

Word reading

When a young child is first taught to read they need to be able to ‘work out’ the words in front of the page to give them meaning. This is primarily taught through a process of ‘sounding out’ the phonics that the word consists of, and ‘bonding’ these together to build the entire word.

To achieve this many teachers use ‘phonic systems’ that incorporate rhyme, action and pictures to help encourage letter recognition. The letter ‘A’ for example, is taught as the sound ‘Aaa’ and is often paired up with the wiggling hand motion of an ‘Aaant’ (ant), or another item that begins with ‘A’. A child will learn to say ‘aaa’ when they see ‘A’,  and will subsequently build upon this with further phonics until they have formed the whole word.

Competently learning phonics will entrust a child with the ability to ‘decode’ a word that is unfamiliar to them


As well as developing the ability to recognise the words on a page, the child’s understanding of the text is also assessed. This requires knowledge of the world around them and how this can be presented in linguistic form. This may include, for example, understanding why a character might be acting in a particular way, or how they might be feeling about a particular situation.

Comprehension is often developed though discussion with their teacher, as well as reading a wide range of texts, including poetry and non-fiction and will involve other key aspects such as grammar. 

Comprehension will subsequently develop into higher level skills, such as critical thinking and analysis (both key factors for higher level education!)

Remember, these are just the building blocks for successful reading but they are crucial-

One cannot build a city if the foundations are not secure!

We would love to hear your thoughts on how children are taught to read in schools so please let us know!