Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, part of the Inspiration Trust, has become notorious for its strict behaviour policy especially the rule, now retracted, that pupils claiming to sick should be handed a bucket to spew into.
But there is one feature of the academy discipline code which escaped notice. It is this:
‘When you read you always follow the text with your ruler, with both hands on the ruler. This helps you concentrate, so you remember more and understand more.’
It’s unclear why this is a disciplinary matter. And it doesn’t seem to be an educational one. I could find no evidence which supports using a ruler in this way. I tried the technique and found it an impediment.
But I’m a fluent reader. Is there evidence that using a ruler to follow text, with one hand or two, helps concentration, recall and understanding when learning to read? There is some evidence that using coloured rulers helps pupils struggling with dyslexia but these are used as overlays not for following the text.
I could find nothing – no anecdote or academic evidence - which endorsed following the text with a ruler.
A ruler used in the way laid down in GY Charter’s disciplinary code would be no help in developing the important reading skills of skimming and scanning. It’s not always necessary to read every word to get the gist of a piece of writing. There are times when close attention is needed – when following a difficult argument or when analysing a literary text, for example. But there are other times when readers just need to spot the main idea.
We are constantly told that schools should use ‘evidence-based’ strategies. But GY Charter Academy doesn’t just mandate a technique which doesn’t appear to have an evidence base but makes it a disciplinary matter if pupils don’t use it.
ADDENDUM The chair of Inspiration Trust, Sir Theodore Agnew, has just been confirmed as successor to schools minister Lord Nash. He, like Lord Nash before him, will be fast-tracked to the peerage to allow him to take his place in the Lords. He has said he will give up chairmanship of Inspiration when he becomes minister.