“Schools should be free to choose their own resources to suit the literacy needs of their pupils,” MPs say. Will the Secretary of State listen?

Janet Downs's picture
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Schools are being pushed into buying phonics products available from only one supplier, says an independent cross-party group . The MPs recognised that schools should be able to match resources with the needs of their pupils.

The cross-party group also warned that teaching reading by blending sounds could cause pupils to “switch-off” from reading.

However, the Education White Paper makes it clear that synthetic phonics is the government approved method of teaching reading and will require Ofsted to make judgements which will “recognise particular features of systematic synthetic phonics teachings”.

These clauses should be removed from the Education White Paper. It is not for the Secretary of State for Education, or any future Secretary of State, to make decisions about how teachers should teach. It is a matter of professional judgement based on which resources match particular children, as the MPs make clear.

The question is, will Mr Gove listen?

And then, of course, there is the question of unfair competition if the DfE is offering financial incentives for schools to purchase resources from only one supplier.
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Geraldine Carter's picture
Fri, 28/09/2012 - 14:32

Thank you Janet for clarifying the fact that you were not the author of the TES material Andrew Old referred to. I hadn't been aware that this was clarified earlier when AO again raised the issue.

"Anyone who expresses concern about the excessive emphasis on synthetic phonics..."

Janet, It is not the concern about excessive emphasis on synthetic phonics that is the issue here - this is quitea legitimate area of discussion and could be fruitful . As a former children's book editor, occasional contributor to Books for Your Children, collector of children's books etc.I have no difficulty with that argument: I would like decoding to automaticity done and dusted as soon as possible. When this is done virtually all children can be reading delightful books such as Mouse and Frog books by Arnold Lobel well before the end of Year 1. When synthetic phonics is mixed with other methods in the early stages the characteristics of our alphabetic code are not understood by a large minority of children. We have sat back and watched their failure for years - blaiming the children/parents/society instead of looking carefully at instruction.

There is an argument to be made for extending synthetic phonics instruction as its effects on spelling accuracy are remarkable - well documented in the long-term Sounds~Write study. That could be a positive, rather than, destructive argument - benefits: drawbacks :pitfalls.
Instead of costly 'catch-up' programmes we should be devoting the money to better library provision, poets, writers' visits to schools, schools drama, music provision, better support for parents of children with severe handicaps.
In place of teaching children to read early by clear-cut, logical, focused alphabetic code instruction we are wasting billions on trying to mop up the pieces.

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