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Greater emphasis needed on digital media in primary literacy provision

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Primary school literacy provision should take greater account of digital media, according to a new research survey.

The survey - The Digital Age and its Implications for Learning and Teaching in the Primary School - was carried out by Sheffield Hallam University and commissioned by the Cambridge Primary Review Trust (CPRT).

Led by Professor Cathy Burnett, of Sheffield Hallam's Sheffield Institute of Education, the report provides a substantial survey of research related to children’s lives in the digital age within and beyond school.

The research reviewed evidence from 150 published sources relating to five identified traditions that reflect different perspectives on the digital revolution and different priorities arising from these:

-       Computing (as in the national curriculum);

-       Technology across the curriculum;

-       21st century skills;

-       Participation, learning and digital media;

-       New literacies.

The review supports arguments for ensuring that all children can draw on the potential of digital technologies in ways that are personally fulfilling and economically, socially and politically empowering. This involves supporting diverse, creative and critical uses.

It also emphasises a need to review how digital technology use relates to values underpinning schools’ wider vision for children’s learning, and in so doing to consider not just curriculum and pedagogy but broader aspects of school life and infrastructure, for example the use of digitised data. 

The final report includes implications and recommendations for policymakers, educational leaders and teachers. These include a focus on literacy provision. 

Professor Burnett said: "In many European countries schools are required to include digital media within their language arts or literacy curriculum, as indeed are schools in states within Canada, Australia, the US and other countries within the UK.

"Yet in England, despite a reference to digital literacy in the computing programmes of study, digital literacies and multimodality are not addressed explicitly within the curriculum for English. 

"More than ever, we are negotiating our lives online and engaging with diverse forms of digital media for multiple purposes. This does not just involve making safe or judicious decisions about sources or resources, but exploring aesthetic, rhetorical and communicative dimensions of using digital media, aspects which would seem best addressed through the subject of English."

Click here to read the full report or here to read the briefing.

For press information: Please contact Martin Webb in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 2621 or email

Editors Notes
The Cambridge Primary Review Trust is a not-for-profit company led by Professor Robin Alexander and dedicated to building on the work of the Cambridge Primary Review, the most comprehensive enquiry into English primary education since the 1960s. This is one of a number of new research reviews on current educational issues that the Trust has commissioned. Further information: