Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

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Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:07 pm

The Times 6th January 2011.

Literacy teaching ‘fails premature babies’

Joanna Sugden

Improved survival rates among premature babies mean that schools must overhaul literacy teaching techniques so that children born early are not left behind, says a government adviser.
Barry Carpenter, of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, said that the education system would not cope with a “tsunami” of new pupils entering the classroom with complex learning difficulties, caused in part by rising survival rates among those born early. “Among the 80.000 children born prematurely each year, 90 per cent now survive and 63 per cent [of these] have some form of disability,” he said.

Previously these children would not have lived beyond 18 months or would have attended a special school. “Now they are surviving and going to all sorts of schools,” said Professor Carpenter, who is leading a £550,000 review of teaching for children with special needs.
Professor Carpenter warned that unless there were radical changes in the methods used in mainstream classrooms, many children would be alienated from the education system.

Premature babies were often born before their brains had been properly “wired”, he said, making aural learning more difficult. The technique for reading favoured by the Government, synthetic phonics, in which children learnt individual sounds in words and then blended them together, was not suitable for them, Professor Carpenter said.

“If your brain hasn’t got the wiring to process the synthetic phonics, then no amount of brilliant teaching is going to make you a reader using that approach,” he said.

Ministers want primary schools to focus on teaching children to read using systematic synthetic phonics. A new reading test for all six-year-olds will be based on this method. However, visual techniques worked better for some children with disabilities, Professor Carpenter said. “If we don’t grasp the new generation pedagogy now we will have lots of children alienated from the education system.”

Because children born prematurely often had underdeveloped brains, they found it harder to memorise instructions, Professor Carpenter said. “Their brains haven’t developed grey matter in the uterus and we can’t recreate the same conditions in the incubator as in the womb. You can still get them to read and write but the route might be different.

Teachers should use visually based methods including pictures attached to words rather than phonic approaches, which rely on a child’s auditory skills, he added.

Professor Carpenter, who is addressing the North of England Education Conference this week, will report to the Department of Education in March after a two-year study to find out how schools and teachers can better help special needs children.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “We have long argued that synthetic phonics is not the only way to teach children how to read. One size does not fit all and teachers need to be able to choose the right approach to reading for the children in their class. This should give the Government pause for thought in its proposals to introduce a phonics screening test for pupils in Year 1.”
...................................................................................................................................
Letters in response:

Sir, Professor Barry Carpenter suggests that some children may not have “the wiring to process synthetic phonics” (Literacy teaching ‘fails premature babies’, Jan 6). Similarly Christine Blowers, of the National Union of Teachers, states that “one size does not fit all” in teaching reading. Both should engage more with what is now known.

In one study after another there is success in teaching reading to children from very diverse backgrounds with synthetic phonics. Boys do as well as girls, for instance, while children on free meals and children with English as a foreign language achieve as well as the others. This is not found with other methods, nor with a mix of methods. Synthetic phonics may not be perfect, but it is the best method we have.

CHRISTOPHER JOLLY
Managing Director, Jolly Learning
...............................................................................................................................

Sir, Reading Propensity has little to do with time of birth, but reading failure has a lot to do with inadequate teaching. If “Look and Say” word-memorising were so wonderful, there would be not need for Professor Barry Carpenter’s research, as visual techniques are widely used.

To seriously tackle poor literacy, a drive akin to that which ended slavery is required, as illiteracy is a form of enslavement, whether the illiterate be a premature birth or not.

PADDY McEVOY
Holywood, Co Down

chew8
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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by chew8 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:23 pm

Good for Chris and Paddy!

Jenny C.

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maizie
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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by maizie » Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:00 pm

Because children born prematurely often had underdeveloped brains, they found it harder to memorise instructions, Professor Carpenter said.
When I read idiotic statements like this I want to cry.

What does 'memorising instructions' have specifically to do with learning to read with SP? Don't children also have to 'memorise instructions' if they are learning 'look & say'?

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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by yvonne meyer » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:47 pm

As the mother of a boy born prematurely (6 weeks pre-term, birth weight 2 kilos, under-developed lungs, 2 weeks in neo-natal intensive care on oxygen to assist his breathing, too much or too little oxygen can damage the brain) who failed to learn to read properly when taught 'Balanced', non-systematic/synthetic phonics, yet flourished when taught systematic/synthetic phonics (12 hours instruction = improved 3 year levels in spelling), I think Professor Carpenter needs some sense kicked into his thick head. :evil:

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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by geraldinecarter » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:38 pm

~What a wonderful reply from Paddy McEvoy!

Where does Barry Carpenter get his arguments from? I hope the 'Specialist Schools and Academies Trust' has chosen its academics/specialists/advisers more carefully. This sort of mouthing off is distraceful.

With some of his half-million pounds, I'd like to hear Professor Carpenter's arguments of how SP has 'memorizing techniques' at its core.

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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by Anna » Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:26 pm

I watched the Great Ormond Street programme last year and this issue was raised. However, they were discussing children born extremely prematurely, who previously would not have survived. I am wondering if these children with really complex needs really would be in mainstream schools? They would surely have problems with speaking, feeding etc which could not be catered for in a mainstream school.

I myself was 5 weeks premature but had no learning difficulties as a result and learned to read early and easily, despite the look say approach of the time.

Having read of the success of parents using the BRI books to teach children with global learning difficulties, I am convinced that SP is the only method which would teach children with moderate learning difficulties to read. My experience teaching some severely dyslexic children is that the main thing which differs is the pace and amount of overlearning needed. However, this decreases as time goes on.

If you have a picture next to a word, what happens when the picture cue is taken away? At some point the learner still needs to make sense of what the squiggles mean! As we know, even if the child does learn a small amount of words this way, it doesn't give them the tools to work out any unknown words, so at best leaves them with a small bank of words that they know. :evil:

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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by JIM CURRAN » Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:21 pm

Anna said: "I am convinced that SP is the only method which would teach children with moderate learning difficulties to read. My experience teaching some severely dyslexic children is that the main thing which differs is the pace and amount of overlearning needed. However, this decreases as time goes on."

After thirty six years teaching, the last nineteen, running a special education unit for children who have moderate learning difficulties, I can only agree wholeheartedly Anna with what you have said.

My one big regret, is that it took me so long to find out such a simple truth.

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Re: Prof. Carpenter says SP 'fails premature babies'

Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Jan 16, 2011 12:41 pm

Anna wrote:
However, they were discussing children born extremely prematurely, who previously would not have survived. I am wondering if these children with really complex needs really would be in mainstream schools?
Anna is correct.

It seems that this is an 'old story', perhaps being recycled by those wanting to push the anti-SP cause?

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6028561
Meet the latest challenge for every special needs teacher
Published in The TES on 27 November, 2009
But he added "help is at hand" through a new Government-funded £550,000 research project that he is heading. The project began last month and involves working with 12 special schools, 60 children and their teachers, parents and carers to develop teaching methods that can then be adopted by other schools across the country.

Complex learning difficulties have yet to be given a formal definition but include the growing number of pupils whose needs cross two traditional special educational needs (SEN) areas and require more sophisticated pedagogy to meet their potential.

Professor Carpenter gave the example of pupils who might need to be taught visually because they are autistic, but who also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He said the behaviour management strategies schools use for ADHD could conflict with the visual teaching.

Professor Carpenter said very premature babies would have been born before some of the normal "wiring" in their brain had developed, which meant teachers had to adapt their methods. "Their patterns of learning may be different to those we have previously known in children with learning difficulties," he said.

The two-year project, which was awarded to the SSAT after an open competition, will see 10 specialist advisers, including psychologists, working with the 12 schools.

The approaches they develop will be passed on to another 50 schools next autumn to test whether the methods are transferable.

Ed Balls, Schools Secretary, said: "It is important that we continue to support schools working with children with the most complex needs, and that we have sufficient staff using the most effective teaching strategies."

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