Guardian: latest on Dunbartonshire

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Susan Godsland
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Guardian: latest on Dunbartonshire

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:16 am

Sounds incredible

Once upon a time, in a deprived part of Scotland, a plan was put into place to wipe out pupil illiteracy within a decade. Ten years on, it's worked. Kirsty Scott reports
When the project was launched, West Dunbartonshire had one of the poorest literacy rates in the UK, with 28% of children leaving primary school at 12 functionally illiterate - that is, with a reading age of less than nine years and six months. Last year, that figure had dropped to 6% and, by the end of this year, it is expected to be 0%. In all, 60,000 children have been assessed, and evaluations show that children now entering primary 3 have an average reading age almost six months higher than previous groups. In 1997, 5% of primary school children had "very high" scores on word reading; today the figure is 45%. Across the UK, it is estimated that 100,000 pupils a year leave school functionally illiterate.

Synthetic phonics, where children learn to sound out the single and combined sounds of letters, has been at the core of the scheme but it has not been the only factor. A 10-strand intervention was set up, featuring a team of specially trained teachers, focused assessment, extra time for reading in the curriculum, home support for parents and carers, and the fostering of a "literacy environment" in the community. "The results we have now are phenomenal," says MacKay.
http://education.guardian.co.uk/primary ... 27,00.html

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Post by JAC » Tue Jul 10, 2007 10:46 am

Fabulous :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin:

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Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:34 pm

Nick Swarbrick, course leader for the Early Years Foundation degree course at Oxford Brookes, has commented on this story too:

http://nicktomjoe.brookesblogs.net/

And look at his posting, 'New’ Phonics: What will need to change?'

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Post by kenm » Tue Jul 10, 2007 4:03 pm

Susan Godsland wrote:Nick Swarbrick, course leader for the Early Years Foundation degree course at Oxford Brookes, has commented on this story too:

http://nicktomjoe.brookesblogs.net/[...]
I hope you all understand that sequence better than I do.

New abbreviations from that page:

SST (Shared Sustained Thinking)
EYFS (undefined)

Do we need either?
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Jul 10, 2007 7:22 pm

ken, EYFS =Early Years Foundation Stage, I think.

There's more comment about the Dunbarton story on the blogs (USA and UK):

http://mrread.blogspot.com/2007/07/magi ... rtant.html :roll:

http://kitchentablemath.blogspot.com/20 ... -work.html I loved her comment and link: 'Naturally, educators are offering their complete support for such an effective program' http://education.guardian.co.uk/primary ... 83,00.html :lol:

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Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Jul 18, 2007 6:41 pm

Letters

Tuesday July 17, 2007
The Guardian

Jolly good idea

Synthetic phonics, which are part of the "remarkable experiment" in West Dunbartonshire (Sounds incredible, July 10), have been around for a long time. In the mid-1990s in our own local authority, the Jolly Phonics scheme was being promoted for all primary and infant schools. This was going well, and more and more schools in the authority were adopting Jolly Phonics, until the national literacy strategy came along in 1998 and trained teachers in a different approach. Staff were confused and most schools switched to the system required by the literacy strategy, which was draconian in its early days. Fortunately, some schools stuck to Jolly Phonics. Now, of course, the literacy strategy has decided synthetic phonics are the best thing. Some of us had already decided that 12 years ago.
Lesley Aers
Durham

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Jul 18, 2007 9:10 pm

The government with support from Ofsted and local authorities thoroughly institutionalised mixed methods of teaching reading which worked against the Jolly Phonics programme and synthetic phonics teaching as Lesley from Durham notes.

We are now seeing the same thing happening as the government and local authorities institutionalise mixed methods intervention which will undermine the synthetic phonics guidance now provided for foundation stage children and key stage 1 (4 to 7 year olds).

If children are not up and running by age 6 - for whatever reason - schools may bring in the much-heralded 'early intervention' which may well consist of the mixed methods the Rose Report rejects.

This notion of 'early intervention' is a false concept. The type of teaching should still be synthetic phonics -but taught better and more rigorously to catch the stragglers (for whatever reason they are lagging behind).

This should not be labelled 'intervention' as if it is 'something different'. The solution is 'more of the same' - 'but do it better'.

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Post by bwking » Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:09 pm

Debbie,

This is surely the danger of the 'time limitation' for instilling Synthetic Phonics included in the Rose Report. To have those children who are not reading etc. by the age of 6 then receiving 'early intervention' courses involving damaging mixed methods or even worse is a recipe for sabataging the hoped-for improvement.

In these early years the teachers and the programmes may not yet be of the highest standard, and I believe a great deal more flexibility will be required until the standard is achieved throughout especially the infants' schools.

Brian

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Thu Jul 19, 2007 9:35 am

Learning to read is a complex process and for some children it may well be the most difficult task that they will have to achieve . Synthetic phonics is not an easy option or a cure all but it is the best way we have at present to teach children how our Alphabetic code works and how they can use it to read words on a page. It is the first essential step on the road to reading but is not enough on its own. In order to read to learn children must be able to understand what they read and to do this they need strong vocabulary skills and good general knowledge and teaching these skills are proving more difficult.

Even in good synthetic phonics classrooms some children will still have a significant problem. Experienced teachers can pick these children out very quickly and with the appropriate resources provide these children with the small group help or in some cases the individual help they need. As Debbie has said these children don’t need something different, extensive research by the NICHD shows that they need more intensive help and for as long as it takes. There must be a zero tolerance policy to illiteracy in all our schools but to make this possible teachers need the appropriate training and necessary resources.

Prevention is the key. Later intervention is a huge task and requires four times the input that would be required in reception or year one to get the same result.

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Post by chew8 » Thu Jul 19, 2007 10:33 am

Re. what Debbie says about ‘intervention’: I think we have to be a bit careful about how we put things. One can give ‘more of the same’ and still legitimately call it ‘intervention’. It can be the ‘same’ in the sense of being good synthetic phonics, but ‘different’ in the sense that it’s delivered one-to-one or in small groups and after the time when most other children have mastered it. There's nothing wrong with labelling this 'intervention'.

I'm still not sure to what extent it's true to say that the government and local authorities are 'intitutionalising' interventions of a 'mixed methods' type - I have been trying to find out but haven't got very far yet.

Jenny C.

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Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Jul 25, 2007 9:22 am

Gordon's written a book.

His new book, Britain's Everyday Heroes, comprises the stories of 33 ordinary people, three of them Scots, whose commitment to a cause or a community has informed and inspired him. They are the kind of people the honours system should celebrate, according to Mr Brown.
Another hero recognised in Gordon Brown's book is Dr Thomas Mackay, who tackled illiteracy in one of Scotland's most deprived areas.

West Dunbartonshire was cursed with one of the UK's worst literacy rates, with 28% of children leaving primary school functionally illiterate.

Now, thanks in part to the pioneering work of the 61-year-old psychologist, a research consultant to the West Dunbartonshire Literacy Initiative, it has been all but eradicated.

West Dunbartonshire Council believes it will be the first in the world to eradicate illiteracy in its schools, and that it is on target to have all school leavers up to expected reading levels by this November.

The initiative had two key aims: to transform the achievement of all children aged four to seven through a comprehensive early intervention programme, and to eradicate illiteracy from the entire school population.

Synthetic phonics, where children learn to "sound out" the letters, has been at the core of the scheme. Since being launched in 1997, reading levels have risen year-on-year. Some 60,000 children have so far been individually assessed and evaluation shows that children entering P3 have an average reading age almost six months higher than previous expectations.

Gordon Brown noted: "The success of this dedicated work, one-to-one, one by one, will not only enhance individual lives but will impact on the local economy and on the wider society for years to come."

http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/focus/d ... 64.0.0.php

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