I've never known such an annoying online news item with so many advertisements and interruptions to the text with pop-up advertising - dearie me.Lincolnshire primary school gets £10,000 from the Government as reward for phonics reading success
The story is about an academy where 100% of the Year One children reach or exceed the benchmark in the Year One Phonics Screening Check. The academy receives £10,000 of government funding to disseminate its phonics practice to other local schools.
This initiative appeared to have a very short time-span of advertising its existence and I was only alerted to it by someone else telling me - in other words, I'm not sure that it was well advertised at all. I wonder if this was deliberate.
Nevertheless, it shows that Nick Gibb is still attempting to highlight the need for high-quality phonics teaching.
At the Reading Reform Foundation conference in March this year, however, I did make the point that there are so few reputable Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes in England that it would be possible to call upon the expertise of all the phonics programmes' authors but I'm not aware that all the authors are invited to share their findings, knowledge and expertise - and guidance about the nuances of their own particular programme.
The consequence of this is that inspectors and advisors, arguably, cannot recognise whether schools are anywhere close to delivering the various programmes' content according to the programmes' guidance and training. This is not a small issue because the guidance is as important as the body of work of the programmes themselves.
Take, for example, the issue of 'organisation' where it appears to have become the in-thing to provide phonics lessons in homogenous grouping whereas only one programme's author recommends this type of organisation.
Another issue is typical duration of phonics lessons which tends to be '20 minutes'. This has been hugely influenced by one particular programme's guidance - which is not the same as other programmes' guidance.
The organisations I believe would benefit from this specific insight include the universities for teacher-training, Ofsted and the DfE - and, of course, the schools themselves.
It would be interesting, indeed important, to find out whether this dissemination of 'good phonics practice' amounts to being programme-specific or practice-specific.
Either way, there are inherent dangers in this.
I myself have experience of being mid-consultancy when senior management are forced to change to another programme according to the preference of an individual brought in to oversee the school.
When schools have invested money (public money) in a reputable phonics programme and they are happy with that programme and being trained and guided on that programme, I personally don't think it's acceptable for an individual to come in and enforce change without full rationalisation - that is, by writing a report which evaluates the original selected programme and compares it with the proposed programme to show the change is, in effect, a genuine improvement - and not a whim.