England's schools have stalled in the teaching of English (Reuters / Eddie Keogh)

England is no longer a leading country in teaching child literacy, the head of Ofsted has claimed.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, said that England has been overtaken by other nations and that standards in English in schools in England should be higher.

His comments on BBC Newsnight accompanied the release of an Ofsted report titled Moving English Forward, which collected evidence of inspections in 268 schools and concluded that one in five children do not reach the expected literacy levels by the end of primary school.

As many as one in three children can fail to make the grade if they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Standards went up over a 10-year period between 1995 and 2005, but since then standards have stalled and we are seeing that other nations are doing much better than us," he said.

He said that England had tumbled down international league tables for literacy from seventh place in the world to 23rd and stressed the need for good teaching of phonics - the ability to hear, identify and manipulate English.

"We've got to make sure that the training providers train teachers in the use of phonics and that schools and leaders of schools carry on that professional development," he continued.

Wilshaw will make a speech to teachers and literacy experts at Thomas Jones School in west London, where he will call for the raising of targets for 11-year-olds.

In 2011, 45 percent of 11-year-olds who achieved the lower end of Level 4 did not go on to gain a grade C in GCSE English.

"There can be no more important subject than English. It is at the heart of our culture and literacy skills are crucial to pupils' learning for all subjects," he was expected to say.

"Yet too many pupils fall behiond in their literacy early on. In most cases, if they can't read securely at seven they struggle to catch up as they progress through their school careers."

The Ofsted paper highlights a series of concerns that are causing the literacy levels in the English school system to "stall". They include:

  • Too few English subject specialists teaching in schools.
  • Too few pupils read widely enough for pleasure.
  • National exams having too much impact on the range of the English curriculum.
  • Inflexible lesson plans that often leave pupils unclear on what they should do.
  • Too many pupils who do not consider English as a subject that affects their daily lives.

Ofsted inspectors classed the English curriculum as "good" or "outstanding" in 78 percent of primary schools and 71 percent of secondary schools visited.