MORE than half of UK primary school teachers do not have enough time to talk about books in the classroom, according to a new survey.

Oxford University Press today announced the findings of recent research into reading for pleasure in the nation's primary schools.

The survey of 349 teachers found 56 per cent of teachers did not have enough time to discuss stories with pupils, and 36 per cent believed that having more time for books would make the biggest difference to promoting a love of reading in their school.

Former Children's Laureate and author of War Horse Michael Morpurgo, who visited pupils at Wood Farm Primary School in Oxford in November, said: "For many children it is their teacher who will be the first to try to engage children with stories.

"The best of them – and there are many - tell the stories they love, tell them with a passion.

"We need to give them the time they need to enjoy stories, poetry and literature, particularly in the early years."

Reading attainment for pupils across Oxfordshire has improved massively in the past five years thanks to a series of high-profile literacy projects and Anna Phillips, literacy co-ordinator at the school in Titup Hall Drive, said encouraging pupils to read was a priority.

She added: "Michael Morpurgo's visit really inspired our pupils to be readers and writers – they loved it.

"We have regular book fairs and keep our library up to date, with a mix of new stories and the classics."

The survey also found 93 per cent of teachers agreed having access to "classic" stories was vital to developing a love of reading – including Pinocchio, Peter and the Wolf, and Great Expectations.

Mr Morpurgo added: "It is vital all of us have access to the powerful classic stories, retellings and fairy tales that have inspired generations."

Jane Harley, strategy director of UK Education at OUP, said: "It is vital teachers are able to dedicate the time to helping their pupils engage with stories in the classroom."

Children in Oxfordshire achieved their best reading, writing and maths results in five years it was revealed in October.

More than 90 per cent in key stage one – reception, Year 1 and Year 2 – gained Level 2+ in reading and maths, putting them above the national average.

In Oxford 89 per cent of children achieved reading targets, 83 per cent in writing and 91 per cent in maths.

This came five years after Oxford was the worst performing part of England in all three subjects, with almost a quarter of children failing to achieve reading aims.

The results led to the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, which was backed by the Oxford Mail, run by the National Literacy Trust and funded by Oxfordshire County Council.

Between 2012 and 2014 almost 1,200 pupils took part in the Get Oxfordshire Reading campaign at 63 schools and on average their reading age improved by 13 months.

Last year a new scheme was launched called Every Child Writes, which aims to improve writing skills in seven to nine-year-olds.