Sunday, July 12, 2009

More evidence of the fall in standards in maths and literacy.

A new report in the Sunday Express this morning claims that more and more teachers are struggling with basic spelling and numeracy. The article reports that 'Michael Gove, the Shadow Schools Secretary, pledged that a future Conservative government would raise teaching standards'.
The real question needing to be addressed is: how do we improve standards in literacy and spelling? The answer does not lie in ploughing money into secondary schools. The task needs to be undertaken in the primary phase. The evidence lies behind statistics like those published each year by Sounds-Write. Year after year dozens of teachers all over the UK and using the Sounds-Write programme test the children they are teaching in spelling and the results are simply incontrovertible. Children can be taught to read and spell to a very high level, in most cases far exceeding their chronological age.
Instead of spending money on setting up bodies to deal with parents’ complaints, the government should be making sure that the training institutions are equipping teachers to deal with the national scandal that leaves so many children leaving school without basic competency in these areas.


  1. This data is so convincing John why is no one listening?

  2. The answer is pretty straightforward really, Lizzie. If you were the government and you'd spent all that money on going nowhere slowly, would you want to come out and issue a mea culpa?
    The other reason is that for everyone working in the field and having success (to whatever degree) using a phonics programme, there is an army of academics who think they know better and are advising that we need a 'balanced' approach, blah, blah, blah - the sort of thing that got us into this mess in the first place.

  3. As you know John, three Education Ministers ago . . . Ruth Kelly, concerned about literacy levels, decided to fund Reading Recovery before hearing the outcome of the Rose Review. By the time the Rose Review was published, millions had already been invested in Reading Recovery. With the might of the Institute of Education behind it and lots of anecdotal evidence the 'balanced' approach was well established and was hardly dented by the 'phonics' of the Rose Review. I don't even know if it is about 'mea culpa' as this would assume that someone is taking responsibility and that there is accountability.

    Also are you sure it is an army of 'academics'? These educational policies show a total lack of intellectual rigour / scientific evidence base. I do wonder how these people get these jobs. Meanwhile, another generation of children (typically from disadvantaged backgrounds) are being failed.

  4. Lizzie,
    But isn't what you say about Kelly and her successors typical of this (and probably all) government(s)? Once embarked upon a course, regardless of the evidence and data stacked up against them, there's no shifting them - unless of course it looks as if they'll lose an election because of it!
    And what is the Institute and the UKLA (et al) but a huge number of (mostly)ill-informed people who, unfortunately, have the ear of those making decisions?
    Our task, therefore, is to keep patiently explaining the arguments against Whole Language and RR, while at the same time supporting quality phonics programmes, especially ones that produce data and evidence.