Despite the lame excuses of Michael Welsh yesterday on Radio 4 and Dr Bethan Marshall today in the Telegraph, there are plenty of examples of schools situated in poor areas having huge success in teaching all children -that's boys as well as girls! - to read and spell.
Michael Gove says that the Coalition is particularly keen to get hold of solid evidence to show which reading methods work. Below is a table showing the results for fifty children taught using a linguistic phonic approach to the teaching of reading throughout Key Stage 1.
The test used was a simple, properly normed and standardised spelling test. What is immediately striking is the fact that only one child has a spelling age below his chronological age. This means that 98% of the children are performing above their chronological age. What is also quite extraordinary is that 90% of these children are already at least ten months ahead of the average chronological age for the class and that 64% are more than two years ahead. What is no less remarkable is that 44% of this cohort scored at the ceiling of the test (11 years).
In other words, not only is this school teaching pupils at the lower end of the continuum to read and spell successfully, they are also doing outstandingly well at the higher end of the continuum. there is still a continuum but it has been shifted massively to the right.
The school lies in a relatively poor area of Milton Keynes. It has topped the league tables in Milton Keynes in SATs for years and, just over a year ago, it came nineteenth in the league table for the country for the number of Level 5s in the English SAT.
How did the school achieve this? The answer is both simple and complex: simple because the school made it their policy to ensure that the teachers in Key Stage 1 were all properly trained to teach literacy; complex because training teachers to understand the way the alphabet code works in English and teaching them the specific skills, conceptual and factual knowledge needed to enable their pupils to learn to read and spell proficiently required resources and effort.
And the programme? Sounds-Write.