BBC1 tonight: Teacher Squad.

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Susan Godsland
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BBC1 tonight: Teacher Squad.

Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Dec 13, 2006 11:02 am

BBC1 tonight at 7pm:

Real Story
The Teacher Squad: Following a special team showing teachers at a London school how to improve their methods. But with GCSE results below the national average at Walworth, it's no easy task.

Press release from BDA office (British Dyslexia Association)

School children with reading ages well below their
can achieve huge jumps in literacy standards, thanks to the work of
Xtraordinary People. The campaigning charity is the subject of a
BBC documentary, Real Story: The Teacher Squad (BBC1, 7pm, Wed 13th Dec)
which reveals how Xtraordinary People, with its 'diagnostic' teaching
, can significantly improve the reading and writing skills of
children with Specific Learning Difficulties and dyslexia.

Specialists from the charity, part of the British Dyslexia Association,
were filmed working with teachers and children at inner-city Walworth
Community Comprehensive School - a tough secondary in a socially
disadvantaged area of South London.

All children in Walworth's Year 7 (11 year olds) were part of the
43% of who had a reading age below 9 (the age needed to access the
secondary curriculum) and 66% had failed to achieve acceptable levels in
primary school Key Stage 2 SATs. Also:

* 2 out of 5 children screened at risk of Specific Learning
* Of the 66% of children who had 'failed' their SATS, 3 out of 5
with Specific Learning Difficulties, including dyslexia.
* Many of these had reading ages below 6 having gone the whole way
primary school without being 'diagnosed' or supported.
* Even the few children with a 'diagnosis' of dyslexia had not received
effective support to enable them to catch up or progress effectively.
* Many children with learning difficulties had been labelled as having
behavioural problems, some having a history of exclusion.

Yet, with just a few hours specialist teaching, using multi-sensory,
phonics-based methods,
the results were remarkable, as the BBC film

* The average increase in reading across all children is two years.
* Many have improved by 3, 4 and 5 years.
* One child increased by nearly 3 years in just 13 hours of teaching,
another by 2 years in just 9 hours tuition.

Kate Griggs, founder of Xtraordinary People, said:

"The results are plain to see. Yet what went wrong in Walworth is
all over the country. And it's needless - the system is letting our
children down badly.

"Our children shouldn't be allowed to slip through the system untaught -
so many currently do. The children we worked with in Walworth have
difficulties that simply hadn't been addressed by the system; we went
diagnosed their needs and taught them properly. This isn't another
scheme, it's diagnostic teaching that's been around and accepted for
decades. And it works.

"Xtraordinary People believed that if we could help these children to
succeed - no 'miracle cure', just proper teaching - then we could show
all children can succeed if they get the right specialist support.

"What was overwhelmingly evident from the results was the apparent
link between children who are failing, and the British education
lack of recognition and support for children with dyslexia and other
special educational needs.

"As a parent - and as a taxpayer - we've proved there is a way to help
dyslexic kids - now we need the Government to sort out the problem

"Xtraordinary People will continue to campaign for this expertise to be
available in every school."

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Post by Judy » Wed Dec 13, 2006 4:27 pm

This looks very interesting but sadly BBC Wales is showing 'Open All Hours' instead so I hope people who are able to see it will write about it on here!

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Post by Lesley Drake » Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:05 pm

I missed it, but it's certainly caused a lot of outrage on the TES opinion board.

Angry teachers

Any rrfers watch it?

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Post by Susan Godsland » Wed Dec 13, 2006 9:12 pm

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Post by bwking » Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:31 pm

Despite the phonics lessons that were suggested in the lead-up to this programme, there were no explicit SP lessons - nor was there any mention of the importance of the Rose Report.

There were occasional hints that phonics might have been used in some sessions not shown in the prog, but not enough to explain individual reading gains of up to 2 years (I think) to an intelligent and anxious parental audience. There was a good deal of 1 : 1 teaching away from the classroom, which we know can result in remarkable gains for individual kids, for a while at least.

I didn't like the squad bashing on asking kids to define 'syllable', ignorant-progressive style. Nor did I rate the teaching kids in three groups divided into their perceived 'learning styles', ie the mythical VAK definition of discrete ways of learning. The squad has latched onto the multisensory aspect of SP teaching - but do they do the full Monty? It was impossible to tell from this prog at least.


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Post by elsy » Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:43 pm

I agree, Brian, it was impossible to tell, apart from a few resources, what the intervention consisted of. The programme's emphasis moved from literacy at the beginning to a ferocious 'us and them' 'how dare they tell us what to do?' climax.

Sensationalism wins yet again.

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Post by JAC » Thu Dec 14, 2006 12:11 am

I've just watched this from the link provided (thanks).
Miss Bramble, the English teacher, articulated the feelings of many teachers no doubt, as did the principal with her final comment about pessimism versus pragmatic regarding resourcing!
There was much in this progamme that teachers everywhere - surely - are experiencing on a daily basis, children who can't access secondary curriculum, misbehavour, gratuitous advice on how to do things better!
With one -to- one it is not that difficult to improve reading ages - usually this actually means word attack/decoding - but it is another task indeed to remedy years of disengagement, years of poor work habits, and develop the language required for thinking and writing. I got the feeling that the founder of xtraordinary people thought the job was done once the children had been taught to decode.
Developing lesson plans which include a visual and kinaesthetic element as well as the talk from the teacher is a great way to make lessons more interesting for children but it does take a lot of preparation, so as Miss Partridge said, doing this for all lessons takes a lot of time and effort.

I think it was a good programme because it showed it it as it is. It is clear that there are no quick fix easy answers despite Kate Griggs belief - but good on Ms Griggs for making the film and aggressivley highlighting the serious reading problem in the high schools, including the need for better screening of the Y7s on entry, and doing something about their immediate literacy needs.
There is a lot to be said for including synthetic phonics training for all teachers, regardless of of subject or age group specialism.

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Post by kenm » Thu Dec 14, 2006 2:04 am

I found the programme interesting at the human level, but not making what I thought was the most important point: the principal failing is at primary level, that such a large proportion of illiterates should arrive at a secondary school. The failing at Walworth appeared to be not knowing how many of the intake could not read to an adequate level for normal secondary education. The methods that the teachers were using at the start were inappropriate to their least able pupils, but would not have been disastrous in a grammar chool of the 1950s, in which the literacy of the least able would have been substantially better. The Xtraordinary team might have acknowledged to the staff that they were being asked to change their methods to compensate for inadequate teaching in their feeder schools, but we were not shown any such interaction.

The production team showed us nothing that put this problem in the larger perspective. The most intelligent comment from a participant was from the girl pupil who suggested that Dan's(?) most urgent need was a social worker. There was evidence that not all reading inadequacy is associated with dyslexia, but nobody emphasized that point. One good point was made, that academic inadequacy led to bad behaviour, but no appreciation that if that effect had been active throughout primary school, it might take more than two months for improved academic performance and self esteem to translate into behavioural improvement.

I don't know how much radical restructuring is discouraged, or even forbidden, by Government edict, but the school staff were not observed producing any solutions to the illiteracy problem, such as creating a remedial stream for the entrants with inadequate reading skills. My depressing conclusion was that if these staff are typical (and I know teachers, both in state and private schools, who impress me much more than these did), it's no wonder that education is in a mess.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by JIM CURRAN » Thu Dec 14, 2006 9:19 am

Unfortunately I found the whole intervention to be shoddy, unprofessional and highhanded and I can understand exactly how many of the teachers felt. As Jac and Kenm have pointed out the failure was at the primary level and Secondary schools were having to pay the price. Also there appeared to be a heavy emphasis on Specific Learning Difficulties as if this was some how an excuse for children not learning to read and the little boy Jack who was diagnosed as a slow learner was seen as a lost cause. It’s very clear that if children have suffered years of failure and not learned to read then most fall into a loop of bad behaviour which makes it increasingly difficult for teachers to teach them, especially in a whole class setting. One to one teaching is what many of these children need over an extended period of time but this is seldom possible and after years of failure even significantly improved reading scores are not a guarantee of improved behaviour. The programme was good in that it gave a glimpse of the reality that is life in many Secondary schools all over the country.
The lady who led the project was well meaning but naïve. Teaching in any sector is a tough job but more especially in the secondary sector. Professionals like Debbie need to lead these teams. Of course prevention not later intervention is the real answer.

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Walworth; real story

Post by MonaMMcNee » Thu Dec 14, 2006 4:51 pm

I agree with Jim Curran. Multi-sensory teaching has proved to help strugglers learning to READ, but "they" seem to have ji-jacked this phrase and are pretending to use it for all subjects, history, maths, everything. If they claim to teach multi-sensory, they expect to be left alone to get on with it, right or wrong. I think the programme shown cldarly the kind of resistance we can expect from teachers resistant to change. They do nto want people coming into their classroom telling them what to do......
If I had my way, they would not be trying to teach history etc. but would go all-out to teach reading, spelling and basic maths for, say, one term, spend all day on it, changing the materials used, sounding out, blending, games, stories at their level (CVC stories), so that the pupils would realise emphasis was going on READING and that therefore it was important.
Another red flag for me was using the word "support", which can mean shared reading. I do not support my pupils. I teach them how to read for themselves. For me there was too much activity beyond what the pupils could do, words in sentences instead of letters/sounds in words - first.

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Post by g.carter » Fri Dec 15, 2006 12:06 pm

Mary - what is even more shocking is the resistance to the idea that children should/can be taught how to read in primary school. The tes Opinion thread contributors show no awareness or insight and seem bent on demonising parents/children. It's always been amazing to me that secondary headteachers will accept children who can't access the secondary curriculum and are likely after 6 years of failure to be strongly and adversely affected.

Can I paste your comments on this thread ?

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Post by bwking » Sun Dec 17, 2006 12:27 am

Yes Geraldine,

That sec. school HT's allow up to 40% of functionally illiterate entrants from the feeder primaries to enter without immediately exposing these to some kind of interventionary help just shows how conditioned these sergeants of the system have been to understanding that they must take a large proportion of thick, awkward squad types whom they are destined to merely entertain until their 'school days' are finished.

The idea that they are fellow human beings, although not members of the lower middle class, cannot enter their minds due to their 'training' in the teacher colleges that 'creativity' is all, because that is the best bet of the proles - because the proles cannot expect to approach the portals of access to the 50% of commanding occupations that the 7% privately educated do by virtue of controlling the legislation of such things.


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Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 17, 2006 12:40 am

You're on form tonight B!

This is a quote from a blog I came across recently which has a series of articles on it re the history of education.
These forces eventually saw the grammar system replace largely by the comprehensive system we have today. However we still have a considerable legacy from the 1944 Act. A few LEAs remain committed to the selective model. Many more while mainly having comprehensives still have a few grammar schools. While there are less than two hundred grammar schools they dominate state school entrance to top universities and remain contentious. Moreover the experience of grammar school has shaped our education landscape. Any proposal to provide different education to children of different abilities, and any diversity in schooling is condemned as a return to selection. Many people who are discontent with the current education system see a return to selection as the answer. I would not join them. The injustices of the system are clear. We do not need a highly educated minority, we need a high standard of education for all. A two tier system would be even more untenable now that it was. Selection created not just an elite of students but an elite of teachers too. It is simply not credible to believe we could once more re-divide the teaching profession and a wider society along those old fault lines. It is tempting only because our current system is failing to the extent that teachers and parents will always look for an alternative. Instead of designing an escape route for a small minority of teachers and students, we should be looking at saving all students and all teachers from what secondary education has become.
I'll post the link, but I think you have to scroll down to find the 3 articles.

interesting blog

The government needs to start believing in its own slogans...

EVERY child matters!

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Post by bwking » Sun Dec 17, 2006 1:06 am

But what do we have running the country, mon brave: a public school boy, putative leader of the Labour Party, much informed by a Christian savant at his university, and a ship's steward with delusions of education.

There will necessarily be motives of self-preservation and -promotion in play with these gentlemen, but how can we put the future of out littluns in the hands of anyone less than rational and well-read in scientific thinking?


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Post by Lesley Drake » Sun Dec 17, 2006 1:14 am

Put like that, they're a pretty rum lot!

The grassroots revolution looks a better bet...

Or putting Debbie in charge of all teacher training.

Think of the money, and lives that would save.

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