Children lose half a day of class time every week because of weak reading skills, teachers say


  • A third of children in every class can’t keep up with lessons because of reading ability
  • Teachers believe 2.5 hours of curriculum time each week is lost helping students to read
  • 9 in 10 teachers (87%) feel personally responsible that they should help weak readers improve
  • 84% of teachers have felt at a loss at times about how to help a struggling reader
  • Teachers say 8 in 10 parents struggle to get children to read at home.

Half a day of curriculum time is lost every week, on average, to help children who struggle with reading, according to a survey of primary and secondary school teachers from across the UK commissioned by GL Assessment and Renaissance.

Teachers estimate that a third of children (33%) are weak readers and need additional help to keep up with the lessons they teach, that on average a quarter (26%) are taken out of class for 30 minutes or more each week to receive additional reading support, and that 2.5 hours of curriculum time weekly – which equates to approximately 16 days of the academic year – is consequently lost. 

The survey of over 600 teachers, conducted for GL Assessment and Renaissance, and the basis for their report Turning the page, found there was little difference in attitude between primary and secondary or between English and non-English subject teachers. 

The recent focus on the importance of reading by the Department for Education and Ofsted seems to resonate with teachers. Almost 9 in 10 (87%) say they feel personally responsible for helping weak readers improve, although a similar proportion (84%) also admit that they have felt at a loss at times to know how to do so. 9 in 10 (90%) also say it would be useful to know which students in their class have been identified as struggling readers. 

Well over half of teachers (58%) feel sufficient time is given to the development of reading skills across the curriculum and an even bigger proportion of secondary school teachers (66%) think it’s their school’s responsibility to teach phonics. 

However, not all reading initiatives meet with universal approval. While three-fifths of teachers (60%) say their school encourages them to share the books they read in private publicly with students, almost half (47%) are reluctant to share their reading choices some or all of the time – and only 42% are always happy to share. When the former were asked why, the reasons given were – it’s part of my private life (48%), my choices are a bit low-brow (43%), my choices are controversial (31%).

Jonathan Douglas, Chief Executive at the National Literacy Trust, said: “This research makes a valuable and much-needed contribution to the evidence base around the many ways we can better support the next generation to flourish as motivated, independent readers. Helping teachers access the resources they need to be able to confidently teach reading and make reading a part of everyday school life will equip more children and young people with the reading and literacy skills they need for life.”

Crispin Chatterton, Director of Education at GL Assessment and Renaissance, said: “It’s encouraging to see that so many teachers think they have a personal responsibility to help weak readers improve. But non-specialists, in particular those at secondary school, need to know how to identify which students need support and how to help them.” 

Kay Tinsley, Director of Teaching and Learning at TKAT multi-academy trust, said: “In all of our schools, teachers are expected to read to students. There’s a lot more reading out loud, there’s a lot more listening to texts, and there’s a lot more focus on reading longer texts in lessons, asking comprehension questions, or encouraging children to be more strategic readers within subject areas. Teachers will use platforms like myON to focus on non-fiction texts, to explore concepts within the curriculum in a way that they didn’t do before, when they would have perhaps relied on bulleted information rather than encouraging them to read lengthier texts.”

The survey also asked teachers about their own reading habits. Almost all teachers read for pleasure – 57% all the time, and 40% some of the time – and two-thirds (65%) spend more time doing so now than they did five years ago.

As a highly literate profession, those high numbers are perhaps unsurprising. However, the way they choose to read has certainly changed over the years: almost half of their reading (47.5%) is in traditional print format, just under a third (30%) is on devices or ebooks, and a fifth (22%) is listened to (audio or podcasts). Teachers think students ‘read’ similarly – 45% via print, 37% ebooks/device, 18% audio/podcasts.

Teachers are a very well-read group – 57% have read the first Harry Potter book cover to cover, 44% have read A Christmas Carol, 41% To Kill a Mockingbird, 40% Of Mice and Men, 38% Animal Farm, 35% Pride and Prejudice, and 33% Lord of the Flies. 

When asked if the time they would have spent reading a book is now spent listening to audio/podcasts, teachers are evenly divided – 50% agree, 47% disagree. And most teachers admit (61%) that they too are often distracted by digital devices when reading.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, teachers have a great deal of sympathy for parents who are trying to get their children to read. Four-fifths (82.5%) think parents find it difficult to encourage children to read at home. Asked why they think it is so difficult, two-thirds of teachers (65%) blame digital distractions, a similar proportion (62%) because parents don’t read themselves, half (53%) say parents are too busy, and two-fifths (43%) say that parents want to avoid an argument, or that they don’t see the benefits of reading (42%).

Teachers are not conservative, however, when it comes to the way students should access text. Three-quarters (76%) felt it was acceptable for students to use audio or ebooks to read – less than a fifth (18%) didn’t.

The full report will be accessible from 24 April at


Notes for editors

Perspectus Global conducted a survey of 310 primary school teachers and 301 secondary school teachers online between 14-21 February 2024.

About GL Assessment

GL Assessment, part of Renaissance, is a leading provider of formative assessments to schools and school groups in the UK and in over 100 countries worldwide. It provides assessments that help to reveal students’ potential, track their progress, and identify any barriers to learning they might have.

About Renaissance

As a global leader in education technology, Renaissance is committed to providing schools and school groups with insights and resources to accelerate learning and help all students build a strong foundation for success. Its assessments (which now include GL Assessment) offer the ideal starting point to help schools understand their students’ strengths, pinpoint areas of need, and put targeted measures in place. Meanwhile, its teaching and learning programmes and personalised practice solutions provide effective next steps to drive better student outcomes.

Further information

For further information and to arrange media interviews, contact: [email protected], 0203 763 2703