Ed Ball's evasion of valid questions and observations:

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chew8
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Post by chew8 » Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:20 am

This teacher should know better. The copy of the literacy framework which I have says that children should be able to read not only CVC words but also CCVC and CVCC by the end of the foundation stage - i.e. by the end of Reception. They should also know some common digraphs. As far as I know this has not been changed.

'Letters and Sounds' suggests assessments which include the following

By the end of Phase 2 (i.e. after 6 weeks): 'be able to blend and segment in order to read and spell (using magnetic letters) VC words such as if, am, on, up and silly names such as ip, ug and ock'.

By the end of Phase 3 (i.e. after a further 12 weeks): 'be able to blend and read CVC words (i.e. single-syllable words consisting of Phase Two and Phase Three graphemes)'. [A number of digraphs should have been taught by this stage, so teachers should realise that 'CVC' words would include words such as 'ship', 'moon', 'feet' etc. - i.e. the words are phonologically CVC even if they have more than three letters.]

By the end of Phase 4 (i.e. after a further 4-6 weeks): 'be able to blend and read words containing adjacent consonants'.

All this would fall within Reception for children who had started school in September or January, though not for children who had started only after Easter.

Teachers are not obliged to use 'Letters and Sounds', but they should be following the Framework, and the Framework makes it clear that children should not only know letters and sounds but also know how to use them in reading and spelling words.

Jenny C.

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Aug 31, 2008 8:47 am

Reception, however, is PRE-school - and it is not statutory to attend.

People know that the government has gone overboard in interfering with the pre-school (optional) domain in many ways - and one could argue that Letters and Sounds is just one of many publications that could be considered part of that bureaucracy.

Should the government, then, be able to implement compulsory national tests in the pre-school (optional to attend) domain?

Although I suspect that this is now rare - children do not have to attend school until the term in which they are five. Many start quite a while before this. Government guidance also affects child-minders and early years settings in both the private and state sectors.

In theory, therefore, one could suggest that planned teaching and therefore TESTING should only begin from the time when children are five - or ALL children are five in the setting.

I'm rather undecided about what I think personally regarding guidance for pre-schools. I realise that people (and their children) need some form of 'quality guarantee' when they hand over their children for others to look after - but on the political level I am not so sure that the guidance should be statutory, bureaucratic and burdensome.

I believe that the 'formal observation' routines expected by Early Years practitioners - and all the paperwork trail following on from this - is obsessive and counterproductive to good practice of working with little children.

On top of this, PRE-schools also have Letters and Sounds (or equivalent) to account to.

It makes me wonder whether someone shouldn't change the psychology and ask for voluntary reading results from the PRE-school settings - engaging the practitioners themselves as 'people'. Compulsory national testing could take place after that for quality-guarantee.

On top of all this, we return to the Reading Recovery fiasco:

As far as I am concerned, the government promotion of this discredited programme with its discredited whole language multi-cueing approach to teaching reading FOR OUR WEAKEST CHILDREN beggars belief.

This promotion single-handedly (in my opinion) undermines the recent advances in government 'common sense'.

It is also further-reaching in its implications than has been mentioned on this thread specifically.

What guidelines, for example, must teachers use to assess children's reading ability if multi-cueing guessing strategies are still considered credible for, at least, children with special needs in literacy?

What has happened, for example, to the notion of the 'running record' associated with Reading Recovery practice since Letters and Sounds has been published and introduced into schools?
Last edited by Debbie Hepplewhite on Sun Aug 31, 2008 11:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:11 am

The irony is unbearable!

As other countries - including New Zealand where 'Reading Recovery' originated - turn to pointing out the British government advocates phonics teaching - imagine that sections of our British government turn to promoting 'Reading Recovery'.

The dismay about this irony will be world-wide. The British government's actions look very foolish indeed to educators across the world. How can our government promote BOTH rigorous synthetic phonics teaching for teaching reading - and a whole language approach to teaching reading?

http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/about-us ... 20-04-2007
As the nation observes its first Dyslexia Awareness Week, literacy experts are calling for a change to literacy education. Among other things, they are calling for a return to using phonics to teach reading.

Professor Chapman appeared with Professor Tom Nicholson in the recent television documentary, Decoding Dyslexia.

They said that children and adults with dyslexia can be identified, yet there is a lack of government support and a lack of willingness to intervene to help pupils with dyslexia. There is still widespread misunderstanding about dyslexia, says Professor Nicholson. In the past it was thought to be associated with seeing words and letters backwards.

“Most experts now say that the cure for dyslexia is to teach phonics. Dyslexic pupils will benefit greatly through one-to-one instruction in phonics. Teaching pupils to remember words using visual strategies, is not the best long term strategy even though it might bring short term success. Phonics is an extremely useful teaching strategy and is now mandated in British schools. If we had it in New Zealand, then it would benefit many dyslexic children.”

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Sun Aug 31, 2008 9:39 am

Thanks Jenny, as I don’t teach in the primary sector I am not as familiar with the different phases. I read ‘Teaching Synthetic Phonics’ ( Johnston and Watson ) which gives an overview of Letters and Sounds but you really need to be using a programme in your classroom to become familiar with it.

Parents need to be given this information in an easy to understand format, so that they are not fobbed off. Does this happen at present?

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Post by chew8 » Sun Aug 31, 2008 6:19 pm

I take Debbie’s point about reception being in a sense pre-school. For all practical purposes, though, I think we have to take things such as the following into account:

1. In practice, most parents are quite happy to let their children start Reception as soon as they become eligible, which in many local authorities is either in the year or in the term in which they will turn 5 – so the reality is that lots of not-yet-fives are already in Reception and parents expect them to be starting on the 3 Rs;

2. The requirement for children to start attending school once they turn 5 means that a third of children are of statutory school age by January, with the proportion increasing as the year goes on, so there’s a good bit of Reception which IS statutory;

3. Traditionally, the teaching of reading has always started in Reception – Reception teachers are not going to stop teaching reading overnight, and unless they have clear guidance to the contrary, they are likely to carry on emphasising ‘sight’ words, context cues etc. In the circumstances, recommending that phonics should start in Reception seems sensible.

4. There is not unanimity even among synthetic phonics advocates on the best starting age - some would like phonics teaching to start even before Reception. If there is no change that we can agree on among ourselves and if the present situation is tolerable (which it surely is), we might as well accept it and show how much can be achieved by teaching which is both research-based and child-friendly.

The government has obviously had to make recommendations which fit in with current statutory requirements but I suspect that it has also tried to make these recommendations acceptable to as many people as possible on non-statutory grounds. Everyone won’t like everything, but the deal we’ve got is basically a good one from a phonics perspective.

Re. Reading Recovery: the current situation in many schools is that RR is going to kick in once children enter Year 1 – this doesn’t fit in well with the Rose recommendations but it’s not something which we can change very quickly. This makes it doubly important to ensure that whatever time children have in school before they become eligible for RR is spent as productively as possible. At present, children enter RR between the ages of 5 years 9 months and 6 years 3 months. This must mean that virtually all RR entrants have had 3 terms in school and that most of those who are 5-9 at the beginning of Year 1 have had those 3 terms in Reception. If their teachers have followed official guidance since Sept. 2007, the Sept. 2008 Year 1 strugglers should be a lot further on than RR entrants have been in the past, which can’t be bad. However much some of us might want either more or less to be done in Reception, I think it makes sense to accept current official guidance as sensible.

Re. statutory testing in Reception: again I take Debbie’s point. But if literacy teaching is starting in Reception, and if the early stages are the most important time of all to get things right, then it’s surely important to have objective checks on whether the right things are being taught and learnt at this stage. I see teaching and testing as a sort of package: once the teaching starts, there’s a need for some sort of objective check on the effectiveness of that teaching. It doesn’t seem sensible to refrain from such checks at the very time which is the most crucial of all from the point of view of establishing the right mindset. If within-school assessment at the end of each phase in Reception is honestly done, this might turn out to be all that’s necessary. The type of assessment suggested in ‘Letters and Sounds’ is after all only what sensible phonics teachers would be doing anyway - the details are left to them (e.g. the choice of words and non-words to use) and it's a lot more straightforward than the sort of paper-trail monitoring that Debbie mentions. Until we are sure that this is all that’s necessary, however, I think that the testing of a representative sample at the end of Reception by an outside agency would be a useful belt-and-braces exercise.

Jenny C.

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Post by chew8 » Sun Aug 31, 2008 7:51 pm

More thoughts....

I think the year in which children reach statutory school age is inevitably a tricky one organisationally. The difference between barely-4 and nearly-5 is huge. In New Zealand, I believe the system is that children start school on their 5th birthday - that levels the age playing-field but the constant stream of new children throughout the year can't be easy for teachers and must make whole-class teaching almost impossible.

In England, some local authorities have three intakes per year, some two (I believe), and some just one, perhaps with the younger children attending only part-time at first. Whole-class teaching is easier, but some children are obviously much younger and less mature than others.

I have always liked the following from Marilyn Jager Adams's 1990 book 'Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about Print' (p. 59): 'To cap their point, Yopp and Singer proceeded, quite successfully, to teach a classroom of kindergartners to identify new words by sounding and blending. The bottom line, they argue, is that the role of mental age is not one of limiting what a child can learn but of limiting the ways in which they can be effectively taught'. I think that the reason why UK synthetic phonics has such a good track-record in Reception is that it has found some very good ways in which young children 'can be effectively taught'.

Jenny C.

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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Mon Sep 01, 2008 12:13 am

Reception is certainly a key year for children to start to be taught the basics of reading.

Assessment, without a doubt, is also part of good teaching and informs our teaching.

It has been vital to start synthetic phonics teaching in Reception for many reasons including following the tradition of teaching reading at this stage, but also to ensure that whole language and mixed methods is replaced by synthetic phonics teaching.

I have read many postings on the TES (Times Educational Supplement) early years online staffroom forum with 'results' from changing to synthetic phonics teaching - all positive and speaking of significant improvements.

I just want readers of the RRF message forum to be aware, however, of the many conflicting messages from government, local authority and early years advisors of how early years teachers 'should' or 'should not' assess the children.

Added to the concoction, we have the conflict of advice by the publication of Letters and Sounds and the promotion of Reading Recovery.

The scenario has come to a sorry pass when Reception teachers have to be mindful of the possibility of children being given Reading Recovery in Year one if they aren't making sufficient progress by the age of six.

It's worse than that, though, isn't it.

Reading Recovery traditionally takes the 'bottom six' children of Year One classes. Is this to be the destiny of our youngest or least mature or slowest learners regardless of the countless evidence warning the teaching profession of whole language and mixed methods teaching?

It's nothing less than lambs to the slaughter.

I agree that there is plenty of good reason to get children up and running with their reading in Reception class and to have a national picture of the progress made - but the political scenario is such that no matter what their progress, the bottom six children will remain lambs to the slaughter whilesoever government continues to promote Reading Recovery as its favoured intervention programme.

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Post by Hammered » Mon Sep 01, 2008 12:55 am

Reception teachers (of which I am one) are currently stuck in the middle of systems and it is a mess. EYFS becomes statutory today/tomorrow with all its associated assessment expectations but Reception isn’t really part of it. The objectives are there, but the pedagogy and philosophies are for settings with high staff ratios. Indeed the examples given in recent literature to parents and journalists talk of nurseries and childminders but Reception is noticeable by its absence. Yet we too are following this curriculum and are expected as Debbie says to adhere to in some cases ridiculous expectations with regard to assessment (thankfully not in my authority).

But then we are also following the Primary National Framework for literacy and operating at ratios of 1:30. Why do the ratios change from 1:8 or 1:13 to 1:30 as soon as they hit Reception class? Last year 20 of my 30 children were summer borns and as we operate a 3 point of entry in my authority so they enter after Easter. This year I have 16 summer borns. How are these 4 year-olds going to be entering Y1 reading at the levels ‘expected’? I have told summer born parents this year with children who are just starting to blend not to worry as they still in the early stages of learning to read but it is going to take a lot of work and support this year to help them (we don’t have RR thankfully in our school)

Statutory school starting age in England is actually the term after they are 5, so technically summer borns can enter school in Y1 and miss out Reception, although unsurprisingly I have yet to find anyone who has done this.

Government must either say Reception is part of early years and give them the ratios to support this philosophy OR take away the expectations of assessment etc of EYFS and let them concentrate on teaching children to read and write instead. At the moment Receptions teachers are doing their best to work 2 systems and I think parents are confused as anyone as to whether their children is in a pre-school class or a school class.

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Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:05 am

Thanks, Hammered. I thought children had to enter school in the term in which they would turn 5, but you are right - I've just found the following in a DCSF FAQ list

Q: What age do children have to start school?
A: The compulsory age for a child to start full time education in the UK is at the beginning of the school term after the child's fifth birthday.

In practice, though, as you say, few if any parents insist on this - most are only too happy for their children to start in Reception as soon as the schools will take them, and there may be no school in the country which makes children wait until the term after they turn 5. I would hope that as the EYFS becomes statutory, the government will begin to see that its assessment regime is virtually impossible in Reception with current staff-pupil ratios.

Re. Reading Recovery: you say, Hammered, that your school doesn't have it, and there must be a fair number of other schools where this is also true. Re. Debbie's point about RR routinely taking the bottom 6: it may or may not turn out that way from now on. The availability of extra funding for RR has coincided with the entry into Year 1 of the first children who have had post-Rose teaching in Reception. If the weakest are struggling much less than the weakest in previous years, as should be the case, schools may not put all 6 of the weakest on RR (especially as they have to part-fund it) and they may start realising that more of what the children have had in Reception is a better solution.

Jenny C.

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Post by kenm » Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:28 am

chew8 wrote:2. The requirement for children to start attending school once they turn 5 means that a third of children are of statutory school age by January, with the proportion increasing as the year goes on, so there’s a good bit of Reception which IS statutory;
To the best of my knowledge, there is no statutory requirement for children to attend school at any age. There is a requirement that they should receive appropriate education, but Home Education is alive and well in both the UK and the US.

There was recently a proposal to put a requirement on local authorities to check on the progress of home-educated children, but after substantial consultation with the home-educating community and others it seems to have been shelved. There were some convoluted issues on the right of LAs to obtain access to people's homes for this purpose, and also the lack of any present requirement for parents to notify LAs that they have a child over five, but I'm not sure if these are what stopped it. A good argument for the home educators is that on average their children turn out a lot better than the school-educated ones, so "if it ain't broke why fix it?"; I don't know to what extent they used it.

My daughter is proposing to continue home-educating her four-year-old, and I am sure she would have told me if there were any new obstacles to this.
"... 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 » Mon Sep 01, 2008 9:43 am

Ken, I think the wording in the Education Act IS 'statutory school age', despite, as you say, there being 'no statutory requirement for children to attend school at any age' :???:

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Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 01, 2008 11:30 am

You are right, Ken, that children don't have to attend school at any age - they can be home-schooled (as are my grandchildren in the USA). But Susan is probably also right that the phrase 'statutory school age' is used in the Education Act.

The fact is that we are talking, in this thread, about children whose parents choose to send them to school and almost invariably do so as soon as the schools are prepared to take them. Most reception classes therefore contain children who are of statutory school age and children who are not. Schools need sensible solutions which allow for whole-class teaching as well as one-to-one attention where necessary.

Jenny C.

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Post by palisadesk » Mon Sep 01, 2008 3:38 pm

chew8 wrote:. If the weakest are struggling much less than the weakest in previous years, as should be the case, schools may not put all 6 of the weakest on RR (especially as they have to part-fund it) and they may start realising that more of what the children have had in Reception is a better solution.


Just to clarify, the school does not get to select what students are put in Reading Recovery. The Reading Recovery personnel do this, based on their testing of the students. In general it is the weakest 6 students who are selected, but they occasionally exclude a child (for example, a child with severe autism or a child with CP who cannot write with a pencil). A half-time teacher is assigned to RR and there are specifics as to what s/he must do and be provided with. A supervisor for RR monitors details and ensures compliance in a group of schools. No school could simply decide NOT to have the RR teacher do RR. Since the allotted time per student is 30 minutes daily, a half-day (being 3 instructional hours) permits six students to be seen by the RR teacher in that time. The RR teacher may not be used to cover for absent teachers or other duties that interfere with the delivery of RR services. The RR supervisors also monitor to ensure students are seen daily -- only very rare "special occasions" should cause cancellation of the students' Reading Recovery sessions.

Even when class teachers feel that RR is not the appropriate intervention for a student, their opinion does not determine who is selected (parents can refuse the service, however. Parental co-operation is needed and expected for the program to be successful). More than 5 students are typically seen during a school year -- as students are "discontinued" (successfully meeting the target "level"), other students are picked up for RR service midyear. RR teachers typically service 8-12 students during a school year. Sometimes RR teachers service two schools.

Students who have had a fairly solid grounding in SP during Reception may in fact blossom with RR -- the data show that students who do well in Reading Recovery are those who already have good alphabetic code knowledge and phonological processing skills. When those are solid, the "meaning-emphasis" approach in RR may facilitate their becoming better readers. I have seen this happen with children who decode adequately but whose text comprehension is relatively weak. If their sounding-out strategy is already secure, Reading Recovery will not undo it -- the danger in RR is for impulsive students and/or ones with limited or no phonics skills. These students tend to develop entrenched and immutable guessing habits.

Reading Recovery is tightly controlled, compared to many other interventions, and systems are in place to monitor compliance with established RR protocols. Thus schools have limited ability to modify it to suit their own situation. It's pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition.

Susan S.

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Post by kenm » Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:47 pm

Susan Godsland wrote:Ken, I think the wording in the Education Act IS 'statutory school age', despite, as you say, there being 'no statutory requirement for children to attend school at any age' :???:
Yes, but "statutory school age" was not the phrase on which I was commenting, though I disapprove of it because it carries an incorrect implication. The leaders of Home Ed in the UK spend a lot of effort telling the ones who would like to try it what officialdom can require them to do: often much less than parents think.
"... 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

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Mon Sep 01, 2008 5:14 pm

Hi Susan S. -

I don't know for sure, but I think that what will be happening in England from Sept. 2008 may not be exactly as you suggest - I think there may be a bit more flexibility for schools. No doubt we'll find out in due course.

Jenny C.

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