E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
January 14, 2004
Early Literacy Support that isn't comments at RRF by Debbie Hepplewhite

Incoming email from Debbie Hepplewhite of the Reading Reform Foundation:

Hello again Brian! A Happy New Year to you!

Likewise. And to everyone here, now I come to think of it.

I have posted some comments about one of the government National Literacy Strategy programmes designed as an 'intervention' programme for Year 1 children who are not making the greatest progress in their reading.

This programme is called the 'Early Literacy Support' (ELS) programme and parents should be very concerned.

When you look at the reality of the detailed instructions intended for Year 1 teachers and designated literacy teaching assistants, it is clear to see that the programme bears no resemblance to a phonics programme.

I posted the details about the ELS programme on the messageboard of the Reading Reform Foundation website.

Now messageboards are the Brazilian jungle to me. The Internet only came alive for me when a great light shone down from heaven upon me, a chorus of heavenly nerds sang, and I found blogging. However, the messageboard Debbie refers to is, I presume, this. And the comments she posted that she refers to in the email are, I'm guessing again, these.


The RRF has called for the withdrawal of this entire National Literacy Strategy early intervention programme. It is designed to be delivered by teaching assistants to identified children in the second term of their first year.

The programme is absolutely appalling. To anyone who knows about synthetic phonics teaching it is absolutely flawed from beginning to end.

I am feeling compelled to write about it again and to press harder for its withdrawal. Whoever wrote this programme arguably knows nothing about the early teaching of reading and writing and it is certainly and absolutely not commensurate with the research on reading. We cannot tell who is the author as we are given no information about the authorship.

It is worthy of a full enquiry and it typifies the methods of learning to read which the 'searchlights reading model' promotes directly and indirectly.

To date, the RRF has had no direct response, nor indeed any response, to it's call for the withdrawal of this programme.

Grammarians would quibble about that "it's" there, but I'm sure I've perpetrated far worse here many times.

To be more serious, this sounds like extremely bad news. I just hope that when the havoc caused is duly noted, it will not be blamed on phonics by unscrupulous look-and-sayers But, I fear that it will be.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:37 AM
Category: Literacy
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