Monday, June 22, 2009

Standards stall - more evidence.

You might, if you were watching, have seen last week's 'English at the crossroads' Report from Ofsted declaring what we all know already: that English standards are 'not good enough'.
As I've written in a number of posting before (see the postings on the Policy Exchange Report), although the government have spent huge amounts of money on improving performance in maths and English, the latest Ofsted Report shows the Government is 'still failing to get the basics right in our education system'. This is despite the implementation of the national strategies and the new one-on-one booster classes.
David Laws, spokesperson for the Lib Dems, seems to have taken the trouble to read the Policy Exchange document and reaffirms that standards in reading and writing are improving far too slowly. In fact, there's been a decline in performance at Key Stage 1 and only a marginal improvement at Key Stage 2, of which the latter is probably accounted for by the fact that the marking has got more lenient.
The report, 'English at the Crossroads' (p. 4), also reveals that poor white boys are 'amongst the lowest performers in the country' and that (p. 5) '[i]n the primary schools visited, standards in writing were considerably lower than in reading'.
Most shockingly, despite all the money (£2.1 billion) no impression has been made on the gap between the most deprived and the most affluent in society.
It's a funny thing but there appears to be a close correlation between the percentage of children who fail to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths, and the number of people the OECD categorises as being illiterate or poorly literate. The pointers are there at every stage of the educational process: the Ofsted Report reveals that the majority of white working class boys fail to reach the required standard in English national curriculum tests for 14-year-olds. As Richard Garner, from the Independent, points out, ‘[o]nly 40 per cent succeed. Nearly half of seven-olds (47 per cent) also fail to make the mark in their tests’.
As I have consistently argued on this blog, it’s in the writing. The writing is the harbinger of what is going to happen later and tells us much more about how literate children are than reading tests or SATs tests of reading ability.
The fact is that there is an approach to the teaching of reading and writing (spelling) that works for all children regardless of background, sex, or who is actually teaching it; and it's called linguistic phonics. That Reading Thing, The Sound Reading System, and Sounds-Write all offer a tried and tested method that helps prevent reading failure or intervenes to remedy it when it has already taken place.

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