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Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:39 pm
by Papermover
I'm sorry to bombard you all again, with what is effectively a bit of a panic on my part. I know this is largely a scientific board, I do understand some of the things you talk about :grin: and my posts are more about how one particular school affects me, my child and now it would seem friends children.

Another big thank you btw to all of you and especially Debbie for the PI help and John for the amazing S-W opportunity. My daughter loves to read, she still does some of the things the mixed method school recommends, but infrequently, and can always correct with guidance.

Anyhow, back to my worries for today.

A few weeks ago I went to a talk run by the Headteacher who was talking about the new NC. I was a bit concerned when he said that the school would be pragmatic about using it, and would stick with what worked. I said nothing at the meeting, as I was also being pragmatic thinking I've done my bit to try and change things and at least I can changed things for my daughter.

However there is also a growing band of parents who can see my child can read, and enjoys it and have been talking to me about it as their children hate reading and can't do it. I couldn't not tell them what I know, so shared websites and knowledge. I didn't think it was fair for them to go along with the view that " your 6 year old is probably mildly dyslexic; youv'e got a son, they read late, your child is summer born, they will catch up."

Last week all the parents were invited to a talk about helping your child to learn to read. I was in two minds about going, as I didn't want to be in the position of not agreeing with the teacher. However against my better judgment, and with much encouragement from one member of staff ( who no doubt now has my number, and won't ask me again!) I went. I was half hoping it would be a talk on how the school have changed its methods inflight of the new NC. It wasn't. It was a RR teacher telling parents all the same old mixed methods. I kept quiet through the

.Children just have to learn words by sight
.There is no way to decode some wordds such as the word head, or said.
.Children must use picture clues, some parents cover the pictures over but you musn't do this.
. It's really important children guess words from the initial letter
. It's good to teach children to learn the alphabet names and tell you what letter name is missing in list ( I really wanted to ask about this but I kept quiet.)

I kept quiet through it all until she said

. Some people think that phonics is everything but that isn't true because English isn't a phonetic language so it's really important we don't place too much emphasis on it.

At this point I put up my hand to talk. I told the room that this wasn't true, that English of course phonetic and anyone who is taught the English Alphabetic Code would be able to decode "head" and "said" easily, and I talked her through how I'd do it with my child. I think I might have said she obviously didn't understand phonics if this was her view :oops: . The discussion went on with a lot of sniggering at the back of the class and it culminated in me saying "what you are doing is now illegal".

It was awful, I was shaken, the RR teacher seemed furious and was shaken. We had a discussion afterwards which went as badly as could be expected. She was angry I had questioned her professionalism.

Afterwards one parent I didn't knowcame up to me and asked if I'd explain what I was talking about, so I've had an email dialogue with her.

Anyhow, I've just been called in to a meeting with her and the head- I don't know if you remember but I've already had meetings with the head that went badly. I'm angry and upset that I was called into this meeting at drop off time, in front of all the other parents and children but espesacially in front of my daughter who looked absolutely distraught. It was handled in a really confrontational way, actually blocking my exit from the classroom and stopping me saying goodbye to my child, who is going through a clingy stage and hates drop-off. I told her I would attend a meeting but I would want to know what it was about and I would not attend alone. The teacher got really annoyed and just said its about last week and why do you feel the need to bring someone?

Anyhow, my partner and I will attend a meeting on Wednesday. I'm really worried that they are going to tell me I can't drop my daughter off at school anymore. They have a policy document about "difficult parents" and that's one of the things that's suggested. In fact the policy really annoys me, it's all worded as if the school is always right and the "difficult" parent always wrong. I've asked a friend who was at the meeting and she said I wasn't rude, I was really worried I had been but it seems I didn't raise my voice and just explained things.

So, what I would like to know is;

The school used 24k in a year to fund one to one RR intervention. Woul this have been enough money to train and equip a one form primary school in phonics? Something like PI or Sounds-write? As this money was Pupil Premium money, could it have even been used in this way?

If phonics is statutory, is it illegal for a school to use other methods. I assumed it was, but maybe I am wrong. As the RR teacher said, it's not as if anyone is going to throw her into prison.

Why do schools use RR? I am aware there was some issue over funding? Is there somewhere I can find out information about this?

Is the Institute Of Education Linked to mixed methods teaching? If so, how are they getting away with it?

What links does the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education have to mixed methods and RR?

Finally, is there any usefulness in guided reading?

( edited to ask the following) is it true that children with autism can't learn phonics and have to use mixed methods, maybe because of auditory problems? I am pretty sure this doesn't make sense, but I don't have any evidence.

Thanks for listening.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:17 pm
by kenm
Papermover wrote:Finally, is there any usefulness in guided reading?

( edited to ask the following) is it true that children with autism can't learn phonics and have to use mixed methods, maybe because of auditory problems? I am pretty sure this doesn't make sense, but I don't have any evidence.
According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, autism is a highly variable neurodevelopmental disorder, and language is one of the areas that varies. I can believe that some autistic children can't learn with phonics but I would expect them to be even less successful with other methods.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:30 pm
by chew8
This is a horror story, papermover.

Jenny C.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 8:39 pm
by Papermover
Yes kenm, that's what I thought, but without any hard evidence it's a bit difficult to talk abut with the school. Apparently they can't use whole class phonics as there are autistic children integrated in the school and it wouldn't work for them. A quick Google has come up with a school for autistic children that uses Sound-Write.

I'm glad you think so Chew8, I'm feeling a bit sick and anxious like I've done something wrong. All I can think I could have done would be to have kept quiet, but how can you do this if you know something isn't right? All those parents would have left the room with not questioning anything, at least now there may be (is) some doubts in some of their minds.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 11:33 pm
by volunteer
Ok. If you don't want to, don't go to the meeting. They have no right to demand that you go into the school. You were very sensible to say that you would not go without your partner and that you wanted to know what it was about.

My guess is, that from now on this is about making you feel the size of a pea so you never dare disagree with them about anything ever again, and also the start of trying to make life unpleasant for you so that you wish to leave the school (this will be the ultimate aim).

I have been bullied twice by headteacher and chair of govs combined when there were aspects of my child's education I was not happy with. First time I was trapped in a room against my will at the end of the day while my children were looked after by a teacher elsewhere. Second time it involved threats about a school banning order and saying that they were concerned about the welfare of my children and they fixed up a meeting with someone or other from the local authority who I wrote to and never, ever heard back from. I should never have walked into that second meeting. I thought it was going to be about my child's spelling and handwriting problems. There were three in there - the head, the chair of govs (none of their business) and a secretary to minute it. I made sure that at the end the secretary minuted that I felt threatened and I made sure afterwards I received a copy of the minutes. I felt from then on that they had to be worried I had the minutes of this very silly meeting minute which showed what nasty liars they were.

Have they now told you who will be present and what it is about next week?

Are you implying that you are worried about a school banning order? You have not done anything which merits a "school banning order". Look them up in detail. A discussion should have been possible between you and the RR teacher even if you never could agree. It did not have to be one of these silly "you are attacking my professionalism by daring to disagree with me" type of conversations.

I would write in and say that you can no longer attend this meeting. Put in the same letter that if it is something to do with your child's education please can they put it in writing to you and you will endeavour to attend with your partner at a later mutually convenient time if it is something which requires face to face discussion to deal with it adequately in the best interests of your daughter. Tell them in the same letter that if they continue to make you feel bad for explaining the clear position about phonics in the new national curriculum to other parents you will be sharing your concerns with OFSTED next. You could also mention that a friend of yours who was present felt that you explained your views clearly and politely so you do not understand what the big fuss is about, particularly when what you said is stated in black and white in the new national curriculum which they are required to implement (unless they are an academy - are they?).

I have had much worse nightmares with schools, Papermover. You can head this one off at the pass. You are in a stronger position than the school as you are right. I don't understand why they choose to be so intransigent about not teaching phonics very well but you have done them a favour by improving your child's reading and you are only telling them what OFSTED should be telling them at some point in the future.

You do need to take a long, hard look at this school though and be sure that you are happy about the rest of the education and pastoral care there. I have no choice, but a move would have been a good thing for lots of reasons. However, I'm not one to move because of bullying. It's two years on since the last episode. The head and chair have retired. Some things are still strange though - I am supposed to communicate any questions I have for the classteachers by e-mail to the head. It feels ridiculous. One day I'll ask why this method of doing things is imposed solely upon me. But right now, I don't really care as it means that I have a very good log of all my communications with the school and the ones that are not dealt with at all or inadequately.

Do they have all the policies that they should have on their website or just a few selected ones to frame the one about "difficult parents"? I like their approach to partnership working with parents - not.

Keep on reminding yourself you did nothing wrong. You turned up to a meeting about helping your child learn to read (which you have done, most successfully). You did this free of charge, in your own time. The paid for lady was rude to you by not entering into a pleasant discussion about RR versus phonics. Why shouldn't you have expressed your views on phonics at the meeting, even if phonics was not upheld in the new national curriculum (which it is), without being made to feel like you did something wrong.

I really don't think you should go to this meeting. By going, you are letting them continue this treatment of you being the underdog who did something wrong. If they invoke their "difficult parents" policy on you and won't let you into the playground etc, stop taking your child to school and get a solicitor like Anita Chopra. Google her.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 11:51 pm
by Derrie Clark
This actually sounds fairly typical I'm afraid. As a Governer 10 years ago I had an email warning me about the way I was challenging the school's practice! I have had several teachers and parents now tell me that autistic children respond well to Sounds-Write because it is so logical. It's incredible that schools aren't curious about always looking to ways to improve practice.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:49 am
It's a bit of a sweeping statement to say that children on the Autistic Spectrum can't learn to read using phonics.In a long teaching career , I have taught many children on the Autistic Spectrum to read using a systematic synthetic phonics approach.Just last year a pupil on the Autistic Spectrum made gains of over 3 years after completing our reading programme. This was not an isolated case but rather the norm.I have found that the structure of a synthetic phonics programme suits many children on the spectrum.I found , as you would expect, comprehension to be a much bigger problem than decoding for children on the autistic spectrum.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:52 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I have a huge, long-standing issue about not being able to hold people in authority to account.

Please email me papermover at and perhaps we can arrange a chat.

I am sick and tired of dedicated parents finding out about the phonics/reading debate, investigating the research and issues independently, resorting to teaching their children to try to counter the mixed methods in their children's schools, on occasions speaking up and questioning the practice of the schools - to be intimidated by the school - or sidelined - or whatever.

I have seen, and many of my phonics colleagues and associates have seen, over and again children who have been let down by their schools - albeit inadvertently on occasions - by practice which is not rigorous or informed enough - and some of us who work specifically with slower-to-learn children (for whatever reason) have seen this and have tried to work in specific scenarios to address this.

The bottom line is that it appears impossible to hold to account any schools/personnel/advisors/inspectors/institutions for their practices.

I started a thread only the other day here about the mixed methods guidance in one school: ... .php?t=750

I started a thread only the other day about the lack of accountability and transparency when a complaint is made against Ofsted here: ... .php?t=749

I revealed some years ago the carry-on in my Local Authority - and believe me this article does not tell half the story here: ... eNumber=60

I tackled Ed Balls when he was Secretary of State for Education in the parallel promotion - and funding for RR - around a time when the Science and Technology select committee itself challenged the, then, Government promotion and funding for Reading Recovery - and the committee itself said that steps should be taken for Reading Recovery to come in line with the Government acceptance of the findings of the Rose Report (I'll need to find the thread about the select committee's conclusions) but I am not aware of any official RR guidance documents that we can see to show if this did indeed happen.

Some researchers collectively signed up to letters of protest regarding the continued promotion of mixed methods and Reading Recovery in other English-speaking countries: ... .php?t=446

Perhaps it is time for parents to write a collective letter or individual letters to politely enquire how they can be expected to address the context in schools where the schools persist with mixed methods against official guidance?

Parents are in a position to call upon quite a vast amount of literature (threads/research etc) to support their worries - and they can now call upon the Government's official 'core criteria' which includes references to NOT promoting the guessing strategies of guessing from picture, context, initial letter, whole word shapes - which is clear for all to see.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:56 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
As we all know, Susan Godsland's site provides a huge amount of relevant information and references to inform and call-upon:

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:33 am
by Papermover
Volunteer, thank you!

No the school is not an academy it is a VA faith school. I challenged the school before my daughter even got there dud to some dubious admissions practices. Schools Adjudicator got involved, our child got a plce, a governor went, the admissions policy was changed.

We need our daughter to go to this school. We live in social housing so can't, and don't want to move. There are no places at other local schools, many of which attract the "rent and move" B list celebs of London. i have spoken to friends with children at all the other
Local schools at the approach to reading is more or less the same in them all. All the children in our street go to this school, it's a lovely community.

Thank you for the benefit of your experience. It's more or less what I thought. I will think about it today and talk it over this evening, but I think you are right. My partner thinks the meeting won't happen as I emailed the school and asked for an agenda and the policy this meeting was attached to. I haven't heard anything.

I think that before I complain to Ofsted, I need to complain to the governors and the Local Authority? Is that right?

The policy about difficult parents isn't on the web site. I picked it up from the school office ages ago ( I am a union representative and I figured how this might go- forewarned etc). I'm dreally worried about Child Welfare, my dd had a really nasty accident recently and the head asked which parent was with her and what happened. I thought he was just being nice. Luckily most of the other parents in the class were there as it was at a birthday party. Will the school have reported this to someone. It's logged at the hospital as we went to A&E.

I'm also annoyed for my daughters NQT, she said she had no idea what the RR teacher was doing in her classroom. Isn't that a bit rude?

I think the autism excuse is just that.

The head has said that the school results are now so good ( they were poor and triggered an inspection just before new inspection guidelines) that Ofsted won't return for at least three years.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:35 am
by Papermover
I cross posted with you Debbie.

Thank you for all the info, I will re-read the post and follow the links and e-mail you. It would be lovely to chat!

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:46 am
by volunteer
Derrie Clark wrote:This actually sounds fairly typical I'm afraid. As a Governer 10 years ago I had an email warning me about the way I was challenging the school's practice! I have had several teachers and parents now tell me that autistic children respond well to Sounds-Write because it is so logical. It's incredible that schools aren't curious about always looking to ways to improve practice.
Post crossed with Papermover.

Gosh. I thought that as a governor one might be immune to the kind of nasty bullying that goes on in some schools. Was this from school management or another governor? What did you do? What was the nature of the warning? Understand you might not be able to say on here. How would you suggest that Papermover proceeds having been in a similar situation yourself?

I would strongly recommend that Papermover does not go along to this meeting which sounds as though it has been fixed up to be a dressing down/ telling off/ bullying situation of some sort. I would also advise Papermover and her spouse never to seem anything other than super-duper relaxed and jolly in situations where they are being observed by staff and governors --- and continue to disagree as much as you like where you know you are right to do so but without getting tetchy etc no matter how much they may try to wind you up.

I strongly believe that at the final bullying meeting I went to (2 against 1 plus a secretary to minute) that they were deliberately out to wind me up. The chair and head were incredibly unpleasant to me for 40 to 50 minutes. Each time I got a chance I managed to say a few words relating to what I was wanting the meeting to be about only to be pretty much shouted down, talked to incredibly rudely and it literally felt like they were close on spitting at me. I just stayed very calm. That was easy as, despite their previous nastiness and unhelpfulness, I was still pretty gobsmacked.

When they said they were concerned about my children's welfare I asked what was worrying them, what had they seen, what were members of staff saying. I said I was sad to hear they were not happy at school when they seemed so fine at school. The results revealed it to be pitiful lies. I think they were hoping that I would blow up in front of them, the secretary would minute it, and then they would have evidence for the banning order which was one of the things they were threatening me with. Also, they would probably have used it as evidence to social services of a parent with a volatile temper if they had decided to continue down the route they seemed to have started about my "children's welfare". At other points in time they had told me that my husband was intimidating. He is not.

The other technique was to mound up everything that I had ever written into the school. This happened more than once. It was an unfair trick as I had been asked to put everything in writing rather than just have a quick word with the teacher now and then, and most things in the pile would have been things that they hadn't bothered to read or answer so I'd sent them in several times. The head would sit there with it in a pile at the beginning of the meeting and say "look at this. This has to stop. You are bullying my staff." I would always say that as I couldn't see what was in the pile in front of her I couldn't really comment, but that I was sure the pile would be much smaller if the school responded to my communications - some of which were pastoral and nothing at all to do with the academic side of things.

It sounds awful, and it makes you wonder why I keep my children there, but I hear tales of high-handed behaviour from other heads and chairs of govs round here, and there are few spaces at other schools, so I've always stuck with the devil I know.

After this ultimate of bullying meetings and then the written letter I received afterwards with a meeting date with a council officer and a continuation of the banning threat, I visited the GP to tell him the school was concerned about the welfare of my children in case it ever did escalate, and I contacted a child protection solicitor in a completely different area who gave me some advice. I also told a small number of very trusted friends about what had happened in case it ever blew up into something more serious.

Don't step into what I believe is a bullying situation.

Good luck!

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:33 pm
by volunteer
I would phone OFSTED and see what they think. It would be a "qualifying complaint". Not sure if you would have to take it through the school procedure first or not. Take a look at the other thread about the schools in Stoke and their reading inspections. You describe things which sound very like a lot of those Stoke schools.

What grade did your school get in its last inspection and what date was the report published?

Just keep good notes of everything and always be polite. If they are unpleasant to you, let trusted friends know. I am sure that nothing can be cooked up against you - the sort of thing I was subjected to was just intended to scare I am sure. They wanted me to leave the school, simple as that I think. Our school is in a small village and most days I walked past the chair of govs on the pavement. I always smiled at her. She never, ever looked me in the eye.

Is the vicar on the governing body?

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:56 pm
by Derrie Clark
I was a parent governor and was warned against advising on teaching methods by the Chair of Governers.

Re: Papermover v RR teacher

Posted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:34 pm
by volunteer
Ah right. You were stepping outside your allocated role, whatever that was! Never mind that you might have known a thing or two about what you were talking about and it could have improved reading outcomes at the school.

Papermover is doing the same thing at her school - stepping outside her role as a parent - which is to send her child to school every day, not question what is on offer, do the homework exactly as set and required by the teacher and then sign the form agreeing that her child can attend Reading Recovery one to one sessions as and when needed if her child is one of those that turns out to have difficulty learning to read with the fare that is offered in the mainstream classroom.

Stay calm and carry on, Papermover.