‘The 2014 Key Stage 2 results show that our reforms are already having an effect; a record proportion of children (89%) reached the expected standard of reading,’ said School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb, in a written Parliamentary answer
Gibb seems unaware that pupils who took Sats in 2014 would have started school seven years ago in 2007/8. It is misleading, therefore, for him to claim the high proportion of children reaching Level 4 in the Reading test was entirely due to Government reforms.
However, it would be equally misleading to say this raised performance was entirely down to Labour policies such as Literacy Hours and the previous Government's endorsement of synthetic phonics. If the rise in performance genuinely means a rise in reading competence among 11 year-olds (and isn’t the result of teaching to the test) it’s because of the efforts of teachers. The majority of these teachers have, according to Department for Education (DfE) research, taught phonics alongside other methods.
Gibb seems to have missed this research. He still claims the teaching of synthetic phonics is the ‘most effective way of teaching all children to read’. But most of the evidence he uses to support this statement showed the systematic teaching of any method of phonics
, not just synthetic phonics, was effective.
Unfortunately, Gibb seems unaware of this. Whether this is due to misinformation or a dogged refusal to change his mind is unclear. But the Education Select Committee was sufficiently concerned about how the DfE used evidence to support phonics teaching that it asked for comments in an on-line consultation (now closed).
The consultation received 90 comments. Some supported the sole use of synthetic phonics. Others pointed out the misreading of the evidence cited by the Government, as I have done. Some noted the DfE used the terms ‘phonics’, ‘synthetic phonics’ and ‘systematic phonics’ interchangeably as if it were unaware of any difference, as I have done. And, as I said in my response to the consultation, such ignorance on the part of policy makers and the DfE is unforgiveable.
NOTE: You can read my responses to the Education Select Committee consultation here