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The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2013 2:41 pm
by john walker
Yesterday I went to the Inside Government conference on phonics in which Gordon Askew laid out the principles of systematic, synthetic phonics for an audience of assorted teachers and academics (though mostly teachers).
I thought Askew was very good indeed and that he said nothing that most ;-) of the contributors to the RRF could disagree with. In fact, he included in his talks the point about writing being a representation of the sounds in the language. Gill Jones, for Ofsted, also made absolutely clear that Ofsted would be looking closely at the screening check results, how schools were teaching reading (i.e. whether they were using decodable readers to build fluency and confidence and whether the decodable books were broadly commensurate with where children were in their phonics instruction), and whether phonics was being used as the primary strategy for writing.
In many other presentations, I felt that the 'systematic' aspect of instruction was fudged or was even tipping over into analytic phonics, which is anything but systematic. I guess that knowledgeable delegates could sit still for all of that inasmuch as there were other aspects of the talks to appreciate, especially two women from New Horizons, who seemed to be doing truly marvellous work with children who have been excluded from mainstream.
But then [he hadn't attended the previous sessions] along came Frank Monaghan from the OU to undermine pretty much everything that had gone before. [I'm writing a blogposting about it.] Of course, he said, nobody is saying that we don't need phonics at all - the Rosen line - but then I learned to read by reading. Frank Smith came up, of course, as well as other anti-phonics academics (Stephen L. Strauss, for example). It was anecdotal and the kind of insidious, dog-whistle anti-phonics politics at which some of these clever, confident academics excel; you know the kind of thing, a joke here, a joke there, let me inveigle you into my ideological stance by getting you to enjoy my joke at Michael Gove's expense, and so on.
Infuriatingly, we weren't allowed to make contributions to the conference, only to ask questions. So, our Frank was able to waltz in, throw his theoretical hand-grenade, watch it go off and waltz out again. I thought that the arrogance was breathtaking. What's more, I'd like to know who invited him because this was most certainly not the future of phonics.

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:57 pm
by maizie
john walker wrote:I thought that the arrogance was breathtaking. What's more, I'd like to know who invited him because this was most certainly not the future of phonics.
[ Post details ]
I wonder if he'd paid £3,000 for the privilege of speaking at this conference?

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:12 pm
by geraldinecarter
Thanks, John. Will look forward to your blog. Presumably you have read Old Andrews blog :
http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.c ... t-1-truth/

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:21 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
John's blog postings...

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013 ... -half.html

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013 ... cs-of.html

Thanks for these, John!

Just as an aside - the 'Inside Government' organisation is not inside government - but potential speakers are approached with a lot of chatter to suggest that this organisation has insider contacts and so on.

Then, I know of several people, myself included, who are chatted up with a view to one becoming a speaker at this supposedly influential conference - and then you are asked to pay £3,000 for the privilege.

My understanding is that speakers from the DfE and Ofsted are not approached and charged for the privilege - just, perhaps, the 'other' speakers or those with some commercial links?

Who knows!

But all a bit unsatisfactory by my standards.

Either people genuinely want to invite you to be a speaker on the basis that you have something worthwhile to contribute - or they don't - they actually just want your money.

I wonder whether the conference organisers knew or cared that their final speaker would actually be an phonics-phobe?

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:41 pm
by Derrie Clark
especially two women from New Horizons, who seemed to be doing truly marvellous work with children who have been excluded from mainstream.
'truly marvellous' indeed John. I was very impressed when, as they sat at the front with Frank Monaghan, they believed the young lad 'they' helped to read could a predict a word - although not in his spoken vocabulary - from 'context'! They certainly appeared to be taken in by Frank's 'exposition'!

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 8:05 pm
by chew8
I don't quite understand that, Derrie - can you clarify?

Jenny C.

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:01 pm
by Derrie Clark
Sorry Jenny, there was some irony in my post. After we had heard from Frank Monaghan there was some emotive discussion involving the audience about children being able to read using context (not needing to decode). To bring the focus back from the emotive nebulous debate I asked the two women (who had been describing the progress of the young lads at the school - previously twice excluded from mainstream, violent, etc, etc andnow turned around) about one of the lads. I asked if the lad was attempting to read a word, which was not in his spoken vocabulary (I gave 'impercetible' as an example), whether he would he be able to get the word just from context of the text? They replied yes they thought he would! This was indeed 'truly marvellous' or should I say, a bit of a miracle?

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:52 am
by chew8
I sensed that there was some irony, Derrie, but was a bit puzzled that you seemed to disagree with John about the work of the women from New Horizons: he seemed to think that their work was 'truly marvellous' whereas you thought they had been "taken in by Frank's 'exposition'".

Jenny C.

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:24 am
by john walker
Jenny, There's no doubt in my mind that the work they are doing to help some of these very angry and disaffected youngsters is marvellous. However, it's a bit of a curate's egg! What they need to add to their already considerable talents is a good phonics programme. In that department, it was obvious that more needed to be done.

Re: The Future of Phonics in Education and Learning

Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:23 pm
by chew8
Thanks for the clarification, John. I hadn't realised, from what you originally said about the two women, that you, as well as Derrie, thought that their thinking was deficient in some respects.

By the way, I share your view of Gordon Askew. I've met him two or three times and have been very impressed.

Jenny C.