Children in northern England being failed

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James Curran
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Children in northern England being failed

Post by James Curran » Thu Mar 30, 2017 10:38 am

Children in northern England being failed by educational divide, study finds
Figures showing academic attainment in the south consistently outperforming the north are stark, with Liverpool particularly badly off

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 ... tudy-finds

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Re: Children in northern England being failed

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu Mar 30, 2017 1:36 pm

Thanks for flagging this up, Jim.

This may be nothing to do with this north-south divide, but a few years ago when I was providing a talk organised by the local authority in Liverpool, I was nearly lynched by some of the early years teachers when I questioned the 'developmental-readiness' mindset and the 'extraneous' activities for phonics provision that are usually prevalent - taking the place of more direct, fit-for-purpose phonics content and activities. I was faced by so much rudeness that that was the closest I ever came to walking out!

Anyway, after that, headteacher Sam Bailey gave a fantastic talk at the 2015 Reading Reform Foundation conference - and when asked at the end what were the most important factors for rapid and dramatic improvements in two schools (Leeds and Barnsley), Sam referred to 'resources' and 'permission to put away the ping-pong balls'.

I suggest that the kind of 'start' children get off to with early foundational literacy skills will have a knock-on effect of literacy levels at the end of Key Stage 2 for at least some children - which will have a knock-on effect in secondary.

I blogged about this issue here:

https://phonicsintervention.org/2017/02 ... iods-time/

Although this blog post above refers to my programmes, you know that I will argue the same for any rigorous systematic synthetic phonics programmes and provision.

Meanwhile, the Education Endowment Foundation - a very influential and financially well-backed organisation, is spending a lot of money in the north-east promoting only those programmes and practices that they have researched. So what about the reputable programmes for literacy that they have not researched? I've taken the EEF to task with its description of 'phonics' on its site because, worryingly, dangerously, the EEF suggests that phonics does not work for all children - failing to understand that all children need to be knowledgeable about the alphabetic code and apply phonics skills for reading and spelling even if they struggle to learn compared to others. Note that Kate Nation and Gordon Askew agree with my suggestion that all children require phonics and that there is no great 'something else':

https://phonicsintervention.org/2017/01 ... -projects/

Also, there are a number of organisations involved with literacy and with intervention, that continue to give flawed messages to teachers which contradict the findings of the body of research on reading. I blog about this here:

https://phonicsintervention.org/2017/01 ... ds-advice/

I'm suggesting, then, that a combination of a number of factors might be causing children in the north to fare less well than their peers in the south - and perhaps these issues above may have something to do with this state of affairs?

Does it boil down to better teacher education and more secure knowledge and practices with foundational literacy getting children off to the best possible start?

James Curran
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Re: Children in northern England being failed

Post by James Curran » Fri Mar 31, 2017 7:10 am

I completely agree Debbie. The issues are complex but I think that we're all agreed on the vital importance of good early years Synthetic Phonics teaching for all young children. It's also essential to provide high quality early intervention programmes.The most effective programmes involve children spending at least three years in a pre-school setting with high quality staff and a mixture of children from different socio-economic backgrounds.
Fifty years ago the Coleman Report ,( Equality Of Educational Opportunity ) which is widely regarded as the most important educational study of the twentieth century, found that the most powerful predictor of academic achievement is the socio- economic status of a child's family , and the second most important predictor is the socio- economic status of the classmates in her school. In other words being born poor imposes a disadvantage; but attending a school with large numbers of low income classmates presents a second independent challenge.

And of course as Geraldine has rightly pointed out on numerous occasions high poverty schools can and do help disadvantaged children but unfortunately they are the exception to the rule. A study by Tulane university professor Douglas Harris , found that middle- class schools are 22 times more likely to be consistently high performing as high poverty schools.In 2000 the Heritage Foundation, published a report entitled, ' No Excuses', to show that high poverty schools could work well. The author proudly declared that he had found not one or two high poverty, high performing schools, but 21 high poverty, high performing schools. Unfortunately these 21 schools were dwarfed by the 7,000 high poverty schools identified by the US Department of Education as low performing.

James Curran
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Re: Children in northern England being failed

Post by James Curran » Fri Mar 31, 2017 9:27 am

In February of 2016 there was an article by Secret Teacher in the Guardian, ‘We’re not to blame for Poor Social Mobility’.

‘….The government looks to schools for failing to hot house youngsters who are raised in poverty. They’d rather do this than fix the actual conditions that determine their life chances……Let’s make cuts to the Sure Start scheme, that reached out and supported these families…..Let’s cut their benefits and force their parents to go to the food bank. Let’s force their grandma out of her council house or tax her ruthlessly for that spare bedroom that the children like to sleep over in. And when these children aren’t champions of social mobility, let’s blame the school’.

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