E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
November 04, 2002
Links and literacy

I make no secret of it: I have a lot to learn. And one of the things I most want to learn is: Which stuff will remain up on the www for ever, and which stuff will vanish, or be shut away in a complicated registration or payment prison? For example: Will this link to an article published on October 10th by independent.co.uk about a particular brand of "Synthetic Phonics" still be working two years from now? Or should I quote a few paragraphs from it, to ensure that this posting will make sense even if this link eventually peters out? Paragraphs like these:

It's just after break at Trinity Road primary school in Chelmsford, and the eager five-year-olds in Miss Tait's class are sitting on the carpet waiting for their lesson to start. Suddenly it begins at a cracking pace. Miss Tait warms the children up by getting them to build up some simple three-letter words from their constituent sounds. "My turn M-e-n, men. Your turn..." she says. "M-e-n men," they chant in response.

They are part of a successful scheme pioneered by Dr Jonathan Solity and Essex County Council with around 10,000 children across more than 170 of the authority's schools. The scheme challenges the Government's National Literacy Strategy on the grounds that it is not succeeding in teaching children to read. Since its introduction in 1995, Dr Solity's project has seen standards rise. The proportion of children who struggle to read and are labelled as having learning difficulties has been cut from around 25 per cent to between two and eight per cent.

Around 20 per cent more seven-year-olds now reach the required standard for their age using Dr Solity's methods. If his scheme were adopted nationally, it would save the Government more than 200m a year and rescue thousands of children from the educational scrap heap, he says.

The debate about how children should be taught to read has been a long and bitter one. And it was reignited last month by the Government's admission that it missed its target for enabling primary-school children to read and write. That target, set in 1997, pledged to have 80 per cent of pupils reaching the required standard in English tests by this summer. However, the initial strong improvements tailed off and the figures failed to show any improvement for the second year running, so that only 75 per cent of 11-year-olds were successful this summer.

The article goes on to refer favourably to two people whom I've learned to respect, who are among the people associated with the Reading Research Foundation, Sue Lloyd of Jolly Phonics, and Dr Bonnie Macmillan, who wrote a monograph for the Institute of Economic Affairs which I reviewed favourably for the Libertarian Alliance.

I would love to hear from anyone who believes that my prejudices about literacy teaching are all wrong, and that the government, with its "balance of different methods", is on the right track in literacy teaching after all.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:21 AM
Category: Literacy
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