Sunday 15 July 2012

'Pure' phonics? What's 'pure' about it?

I have been asked to clarify 'pure' phonics teaching from my previous posts. It's here:

Look closely at how the Year 1 curriculum on reading is described. It is a long version of 'first, fast and only' with Systematic Synthetic Phonics. It is clear that the vision here is that only texts that the children can 'decode' should be given to them, as they process through the 'phases' of the approved scheme. Yes, non-decodable texts (what you and I would call 'books') are presented to the children but, it is clear from this, only as books which are read TO the children.

This notion is taken from Ruth Miskin's instruction regime which is online for anyone to look at.

There is no evidence that this regime produces children who can a) read non-decodable texts better than children being taught by mixed methods and b) comprehend texts.

It is costing millions. I'll say that again. It is costing millions. It is being enforced and policed by the Phonics Screening Check (end of Year 1) which requires schools  to inform parents and carers that their children have failed. Many schools will teach to the test. This is the golden rule of all school testing: schools teach to the test.

To clarify: unlike Ofsted, I don't blame teachers teaching to the test. Of course they do. They're trying to do what the government, Ofsted, local management etc are telling them to. They have their jobs to safeguard. If they step out of line, they're in danger of being disciplined. This is NOT an attack on teachers.

Back to the Phonics Screening Check:
in the pilot of this test over 60% failed. Teachers are saying that it looks as if about 50% of children are failing this time round.

On all tests for reading, over 80% children learn to read.

This maths doesn't stack up. Many children are 'failing' at something they will do anyway.