Re ELS - I, for one, really begrudge the money that must have been invested in reproducing ELS. Having said that, I don't really know in what way they have made the changes.
The original ELS was produced in very glossy purpose-designed folders for teaching assistants with a many-page teachers' manual as well.
Have new hard copy materials been produced to replace the original ELS - or is the new version only 'online'? It's a pity they just didn't withdraw the programme to be done with it- giving a clear sign that teaching methods for intervention have changed.
I was alerted 'big time' when I first attended ELS training back in 2001. I went thinking that the Year one intervention programme would be more phonics as Progression In Phonics + searchlights multi-cueing reading strategies wouldn't do the job of teaching all children to read well enough.
I was utterly amazed on receiving the teacher/teaching assistant training to watch the infamous ELS video which showed the teacher folding back (that is, hiding) the pages with writing on as part of his process of 'teaching' the children to read!!!!
What we then witnessed was a group of very young children being taught to read with every process (clutching at straws with a wish and a prayer
) except looking at the words!
It was a sign of how bad things were that not a person in the room passed a comment except me (of course). I was devestated and exchanged looks with the local authority adviser (one of incredulity and horror). I had never seen anything in my life which was so incredibly far removed from what we were supposed to be doing as teachers - that is, teaching children to actually read the words on a page!
At that time the 'Lighthouse' reading book scheme was rolled out and the local authority invited the sales rep to display this scheme at the training sessions (so much for the repeated comment to me that local authorities were not allowed to promote commercial programmes - boy local authorities don't half promote commercial programmes when it suits them!). Note the link with the lighthouse (lights) theme and the searchlights reading strategies!
I took along the Nelson Thornes 'Soundstart' books to show trainees. This was the only newish reading book scheme that had an element of phonics focus at that time. Since then our call for publishers to produce decodable cumulative phonics books has paid off and, thankfully, we now have several good sets of decodable books which we can use to support us in our teaching.
We really are in a state of flux. Whilst the government has gone so far to make the direct gesture to bring ELS in line with the Rose Report, meanwhile Gordon Brown (our Prime Minister) and Ed Balls (our Secretary of State for Education) continue to promote Reading Recovery - and RR is still very different from synthetic phonics teaching. In no way is it in line with the Rose Report - and political indications that it is a changing-with-the-times programme has not been evident to us at all.
The irony is that ELS was heavily linked with Reading Recovery. It was pretty much the 'State' version of Reading Recovery - and ELS contradicted the prevailing government phonics programme at that time, Progression In Phonics. Anyone interested can read reviews of both Progression In Phonics and the Early Literacy Support programme in previous RRF newsletters.
ELS directly promoted the Reading Recovery 'Bookbands' catalogue and I wouldn't be surprised if nearly every primary school in the country invested in the Bookbands catalogue on both government and local authority say-so. Schools are not trying to 'tie-in' their decodable books with the Bookbands cataloguing - but this is not possible because the early reading books are so very different.
You have to wonder just what 'links' there are between the various people in high places where we see all the anomolies in official advice right now. Clearly, some people in government have really seen the light and have done their utmost to change advice to the country (albeit with some diplomacy and linking to the past) whereas other people carry-on-regardless promoting programmes which in no way can be described as being in line with the Rose recommendations. But we are not being able to hold them to account for these contradictions - we are still swept aside by Ed Balls when we raise the questions.
The Rose Report is very long - but it is very clear that the approach for teaching reading and for remediation are the same synthetic phonics teaching principles.
More and more people are recognising the contradictions and I receive emails from various practitioners asking the RRF about this or describing their experiences - which are not at all acceptable although my impression is that no one is ever brave enough to take this further - that is, put in a formal complaint. What a pity!
Mind you, my experience is that when you do ask the questions over a number of years and in various specific circumstances - there is no process to hold the authorities to account for their contradictory guidance.
They should have nowhere left to hide following the government's protestation that it does uphold the Rose recommendations.
I know what I would say if it was Christmas.