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Open letter to Gove: Y1 phonics screening check must go

 
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debbie



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 8:16 pm    Post subject: Open letter to Gove: Y1 phonics screening check must go Reply with quote

Well - no surprises here - Reedy of the UK Literacy Association heads up an open letter (with multiple signatories being described as 'leading educationalists') to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in England, to call for the abolition of the Year 1 phonics screening check:

Quote:
Started by: TES_opinion 27-6-2014

A coalition of leading educationalists, organised by the UK Literacy Association, writes:

Dear Secretary of State,

Last week, all six-year-olds in England’s primary schools were tested through the government’s phonics check, together with the seven-year-olds who ‘failed’ it first time round last year. We, the undersigned, have serious concerns about the usefulness of this test, as well as the emerging negative effects on how children are taught to read in Key Stage 1 and their confidence as readers.

Officially, it is described as assessing text decoding skills. Actually, it is dangerously confused.



http://news.tes.co.uk/b/opinion/2014/06/26/open-letter-to-michael-gove-why-the-y1-phonics-check-must-go.aspx

Over a year ago there was a debate between Reedy and myself in 'Teach Primary' (not that I knew my piece was part of a 'debate') but I then went and wrote a 'Response to Reedy' to address the points he raised in protest of the Year 1 phonics screening check.

See:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/reedy_response.pdf

I'm also going to link to the thread regarding Andrew Davis's pamphlet which is one of the references supporting the call for abolition of the check:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=591
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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2014 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well - there's some real argy-bargy going on via Twitter and this led me to a blog about the term 'phonics denialist' and the open letter headed up by Reedy and referencing the Andew Davis paper. So, I've added my two-pennyworth about the real teachers and the real children I know of who don't bat an eyelid at the Year One phonics screening check - they just get on with it and get excited about their year-on-year improvements:


http://davealdridge.brookesblogs.net/2014/06/29/on-phonics-denialists/#comment-8688

Quote:
On ‘phonics denialists’

Posted on June 29, 2014 by Dave Aldridge

David Aldridge is Principal Lecturer in Philosophy of Education and Programme Lead for Professional Education at Oxford Brookes University.

Friday’s TES published a letter from a group of educationalists to Michael Gove calling for the abolishment of the Year 1 ‘phonics check’. Signatories included the general secretary of the UK Literacy Association, the chairman of the National Association for Primary Education, the general secretary of NASUWT, and the chair of the National Association for the Teaching of English. In response to the letter, one well-known educational commentator (@oldandrewuk) tweeted “See some phonics denialists got a letter in the TES”. I’m not going to spend any time questioning the use of the markedly pejorative term ‘denialists’, and the attribution of a questionable ethical agenda that is usually implied by it. I’ve done my homework here and see that Andrew Old has used this term in relation to phonics for some time, been called out for it, and made his responses.

But the substance of the charge (implied in this tweet but offered explicitly elsewhere) is that a large number of academics and other educationalists in positions of significant esteem in relation to the teaching of literacy persist in objecting to the application of phonics, or refusing to assent to certain propositions about phonics, despite the overwhelming evidence stacked against them. This is a claim that needs to be questioned.

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debbie



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2014 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sue Cowley adds her thoughts, via her blog, re the Year One phonics screening check:

Freeing the angel

http://suecowley.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/stopmakingsense/

Quote:
The Year One phonics screening test is not a test of reading, it is a test of a child’s skill at decoding words out of context. It is a test designed to ensure teacher compliance with a government mandate. And it is a test in which children as young as five learn the lesson that, in school, they can pass or they can fail. I don’t know about you, but I am bewildered by these thoughts. Like Winston Smith in 1984, I cannot get them to make sense – the act of doublethink is beyond me. If I was going to name some imaginary monsters, I would not name them pog or queeb or strom. I would call them the Grumblegrowlerator, or the Slimyblobificon, or maybe even the Tssktsskpurrificalt. But then I’m engaged in the creative process of trying to make sense, because that’s what I always thought language was for. How on erath could I be so datf?


I've replied of course.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Andrew Old' revisits the debate over the Davis phonics pamphlet in light of the latest chapter of the 'open letter' to Michael Gove- the Davis pamphlet is one of the two references for the open letter:


http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/revisiting-the-debate-over-the-davis-phonics-pamphlet-part-1/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Quote:
Phonics denialists often use a similar tactic. So much so that you can often predict which “authorities” they will end up quoting. Perhaps Stephen Krashen, an American professor who is reported to have claimed “[A]ny child exposed to comprehensible print will learn to read, barring severe neurological or emotional problems”. Perhaps one or all of of the trio Torgerson, Brooks and Hall who managed to do a review of the evidence on phonics which rejected all but 4 of the studies on reading comprehension and then concluded that what remained was insufficient to support the consensus that phonics teaching benefited comprehension. Perhaps Michael Rosen, the children’s author who described phonics as “barking at print”. Perhaps Henrietta Dombey, another educationalist, who, despite not being any kind of neurologist, gave us her interpretation of brain scans as part of an argument against phonics. The same denialist organisations will also pop up again and again, particularly NATE and UKLA. There’s no shortage of people with opinions that are against phonics, often with highly respected positions in the education establishment, but with an utter lack of good evidence for those opinions. While some denialists will catch you out (for instance, Dr Mary Bousted pretending her PhD was about phonics) mostly you encounter the same people and sources again and again.

The latest “go to” expert without evidence for the phonics denialists is Andrew Davis. Another educationalist (although as I understand it, this time with a maths background) he wrote a pamphlet for the once prestigious Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. This received some publicity at the time of publication for the sensationalist claim that teaching a child with systematic synthetic phonics was “almost a form of abuse”.


Note the reader's comment made by John Bald about Davis's pamphlet:

Quote:
I think Andrew Davis’ book is the worst-informed attack on phonics to date, and am glad you’ve drawn attention to it. I posted on it here http://johnbald.typepad.com/language/2014/01/dr-david-davis-on-synthetic-phonics-1.html Best wishes, John Bald

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part 2 of 'Andrew Old's' blog posting 'Revisiting the debate over the Davis pamphlet':


http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/revisiting-the-debate-over-the-davis-phonics-pamphlet-part-2/

Quote:
In this post from yesterday I went over the problems with Andrew Davis’ pamphlet on phonics. It had media publicity at the time of its publication for a reference to phonics teaching being “almost a form of abuse” and argued that we should ignore the research on systematic synthetic phonics because we could not identify whether those methods have actually been used.

An obviously incoherent argument mixed with a lack of any evidence, and a tasteless comparison with child abuse, would, of course, be an embarrassment to anyone engaging in a serious debate. But denialists do need to be able to refer to texts by educationalists in order to give the impression of intellectual legitimacy to their position. While I don’t want to go over Twitter discussions about the pamphlet (suffice to say many of its most ardent admirers seem unfamiliar with its content) it’s worth commenting on a couple of blogposts which attempted to defend it. The first is here. In it, the obvious criticisms that its claims are unsupported with evidence, and in defiance of the evidence, are defended by an appeal to the nature of philosophy:

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave Aldridge writes via his blog - 'The phonics debate - a further modest philosophical contribution' in response to 'Andrew Old's postings about the Davis pamphlet:


http://davealdridge.brookesblogs.net/2014/07/03/the-phonics-debate-a-further-modest-philosophical-contribution/#comment-8997

I'm posting my own comment here as it is awaiting moderation at the time of me including this on my message forum:

Quote:
Debbie Hepplewhite says:

July 4, 2014 at 12:16 am

Whilst the philosophers are philosophising about this issue, and the bloggers are blogging and debating about this issue, there are many very hard-working teachers getting on with teaching real children how to really read – the mechanics and the underpinning language comprehension – both enhanced by lots of language around a range of literature.

Whether people are in agreement with the Year One phonics screening check or not, nevertheless it has sharpened teachers’ minds about the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of teaching the most complex alphabetic code in the world – and the phonics skills not only for lifting the words off the page – but also for putting the words on the page (that is, spelling and handwriting).

I read as widely as I can regarding reading instruction – including the blogs and the various discussions around the subject of reading instruction – and what strikes me is a total disconnect between those discussing the subject and those getting on with the teaching.

No-one has ever, ever said that teaching the alphabetic code and phonics skills is ‘reading’ in its entirety, but philosophers and others are deluding themselves if they cannot appreciate, or refuse to appreciate, that the more easily and efficiently children can decode words – within their oral vocabulary and new to them – then the more likely they will be able to become ‘readers’ in the full sense – that is, understanding the literature they can read by decoding more readily.

It is a tragedy that for many years the teaching methods – or lack thereof – sent little children home with their ‘reading books’ in their ‘bookbags’ with their ‘reading record books’ to attempt to read those books for which they had not been taught the alphabetic code and blending skill. This is largely what happened – and may still be happening in some cases.

How many stressed scenarios at home with tired children, tired parents, feeling obliged to ‘hear’ the child read his or her reading book – which could only be ‘read’ through guessing the words. If you cannot decode the words, all that is left is guessing.

And as children get older and the pictures and obvious storylines are not so obvious, then all there is is phonics to lift the words off the page if they are not known already.

Philosophise and argue all you like – but there are many of us, programme authors, teacher-trainers, teachers – who are working extraordinarily hard day in and day out to enable ALL the children to lift the words off the page so that they can read independently – and write independently – which is truly empowering and opens up the world contained within the literature.

The Year One phonics screening check has made a major contribution leading to far more of the children being taught the mechanics of reading more effectively by more teachers. If philosophising academics really cannot appreciate that, what a sorry state of affairs this is. If philosophers get some kind of satisfaction from undermining the Year One phonics screening check which, in effect, also undermines phonics teaching, then the state of affairs is beyond mere words.

Kind regards,

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A brilliant 'Part 3' posting by 'Andrew Old' - I'm very grateful for his thoughts and responses regarding this issue of 'phonics denialism' and the various strange meanderings of some academic philosophers who have stepped into the fray.

If you have followed this issue via my PI forum, you really need to read the whole of Part 3 - it is excellent:

Revisiting the Debate Over the Davis Phonics Pamphlet: Part 3

http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/revisiting-the-debate-over-the-davis-phonics-pamphlet-part-3/#comment-16438

Quote:
Teachers will always be under pressure to teach a particular way, even if it is from fashion, training and school level pressure rather than national policy. When I argue for an evidence-based profession, I am arguing that teachers should know the evidence and that the trump card when resisting pressure to teach in a particular way is being able to say “but the evidence shows this is not a good idea” without it getting you singled out as a troublemaker. I believe our professional judgement will hold more sway if it is professional judgement backed up by evidence and rational argument. If anything has brought about the statutory phonics check it is teachers ignoring the evidence on phonics or, worse, pretending to teach “phonics” while actually teaching children to guess rather than decode. I don’t want evidence-based practice to create a new orthodoxy, I want it to establish the rules by which orthodoxies can be resisted and overthrown. Evidence will never tell us exactly how to teach, but it will expose when we are mistaken or, worse, when we are dishonest. While we should have plenty of freedom to make our own decisions, we should not be arguing for the principle of making decisions based on ignorance or irrationality. I don’t want the freedom to teach by telepathy or to encourage children to rub their brain buttons. I want the freedom to make informed and reasonable judgements and that requires an informed and reasonable profession.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2014 10:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Open letter in support of the Year One phonics screening check:


http://news.tes.co.uk/b/opinion/2014/07/30/open-letter-to-nicky-morgan-39-why-the-year-1-phonics-check-must-stay-39.aspx#.U9ls_Oj0cD8.twitter

Quote:
The recent open letter from "a coalition of leading educationalists" calls for the Year 1 phonics screening check to be abolished. We strongly disagree.

We believe the check is helping to remedy a situation which is longstanding and unsatisfactory. Too many children struggle with reading and writing because phonics has been under-emphasised. They have been led to believe that they should learn many words as unanalysed wholes or guess them using cues from pictures or context – strategies which fail as texts become harder.

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