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Open Letter to David Cameron about parents sharing picture books with pre-schoolers

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by AnaSynth, Nov 29, 2011.

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    </font>I would be interested to hear what
    headteachers and teachers (especially those that are parents) think of our open
    letter to David Cameron and Michael Gove. It is our view that many teachers are
    also parents or grandparents and, because of their expertise, experience and
    enthusiasm, they introduce books to their children/grandchildren from a very
    early age and, as a whole, their children love reading (picture) books well
    before formal schooling. Many have told me that they have been made to feel
    guilty about their children being early readers, as if they have been
    hot-housing them, when it is nothing of the sort - just good teachers being
    good parents. And these children (especially the gifted and talented) do not
    need to take a backward step by giving each letter only one sound.
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    Alan& Hilary Davies

    THRASS UK LTD

    The Willows

    18 Long Lane

    Upton

    Chester

    CH2 2PD

    www.thrass.co.uk





    1 November 2011
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    Rt Hon David Cameron MP

    Prime Minister

    10 Downing Street

    London

    SW1A 2AA





    Dear Mr Cameron,
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    OPEN LETTER
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    THRASS UK Challenges the British Government to Justify its Unrealistic
    Approach to Teaching Literacy and to Reconsider its Position so that a Larger
    Percentage of 11-year-olds Leave Primary Education with Level 4 and Level 5
    English

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    Analytic Phonics starts with whole
    words - Synthetic Phonics starts with sounds



    The Government believes that, when it comes to the acquisition of literacy
    skills, all young children, even those who are gifted and talented, start
    school as a &lsquo;blank slate&rsquo; (tabula rasa) and that the process of learning to
    read and spell only starts when they start formal schooling. Its approach to
    teaching literacy is therefore based on schools using a restricted form of
    Synthetic Phonics (i.e. that each letter has only one sound), exposing children
    only to words that can be decoded by using these sounds, and discouraging
    parents, grandparents and nursery teachers from discussing the pictures, words
    and text in books with pre-school and school children.





    We believe this to be a completely
    misguided and unrealistic approach to teaching literacy that cuts right across
    what happens in the real world and we are therefore writing to challenge you to
    provide us with the details of one school in England that does not encourage
    its parents to share the pictures and words in books with their pre-school and
    school children, in order to develop speaking and listening skills, knowledge
    about the sounds and spellings in words, the structure of phrases and sentences
    and knowledge of the world and how it works and, most importantly, to develop a
    love of reading. We also invite you to reconsider your position on the teaching
    of literacy now, so that a larger percentage of children leave primary
    education with Level 4 (Expected Level) and Level 5 (Very Able) English,
    particularly as there is no national or international evidence to prove that a
    restricted form of Synthetic Phonics produces higher standards of reading,
    spelling and reading comprehension in 11-year-olds when compared to phonics
    approaches that use a combination of Analytic and Synthetic Phonics (i.e.
    AnaSynth Phonics also known as Keyword Phonics).
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    The British Government&rsquo;s re-assessment of THRASS Resources
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    Our THRASS Keyword Phonics resources
    are for teachers and parents who believe (as recommended by the previous
    Government), that pre-school children, school children and all other learners
    of English, should first be encouraged to discuss the pictures, illustrations
    and text in books and, whenever appropriate during these discussions, helped to
    guess the pronunciation of new words by using:
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    clues from the pictures and
    illustrations;
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    the sounds and spellings in the sight
    words/keywords they can already read (and spell, through naming and forming the
    letters in these words);
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    their knowledge about the structure of
    phrases and sentences (grammar), from what they have learned from listening and
    speaking to others (adults and children); and
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    their knowledge of the world and how it
    works (context).
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    And we have considerable evidence from
    Europe and Africa that this approach works, even for children for whom English
    is not their first language or who have special educational needs, including
    dyslexic and deaf children (using Cued
    Speech, an option included in our free Phoneme Machine software).





    However, earlier this year, the Raising
    Standards in English Team at the Department for Education (DfE) decided that
    our THRASS Keyword Phonics resources, which the previous Government rated as 10
    out of 10 and a high quality phonics programme, did not 'present high quality
    systematic, Synthetic Phonic work as the prime approach to decoding print, i.e.
    a phonics &lsquo;first and fast&rsquo; approach', and could therefore no longer be included
    in the Government&rsquo;s list of &lsquo;approved&rsquo;resources for teaching five- to
    seven-year-olds in Key Stage 1.
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    DfE reached its decision following
    advice from a panel of independent evaluators comprising Dr Marian Sainsbury,
    Dr Frances Brill and Professor Roger Beard and this was largely based on the
    grounds that our resources use 'a combination of Synthetic and Analytic
    approaches', a fact that we readily admit and of which we are actually very
    proud! Indeed, we do not believe that the best phonics method is Synthetic
    Phonics alone (as championed by yourself, the Government and, presumably, the
    evaluators) but a combination of both Analytic AND Synthetic phonics, AnaSynth
    Phonics (also known as Keyword Phonics), starting with pre-school children
    discussing the pictures, words and text in books with their parents,
    grandparents and nursery teachers, in order to give them the opportunity to
    read more and more words by sight before they start formal schooling. And this
    approach reflects much more closely what actually happens in the real world.
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    Our challenge to the British Government
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    We do not believe that any mums and
    dads, or headteachers and teachers in England are actually doing what you say,
    that is, only teaching their children a restricted form of Synthetic Phonics.
    Rather, they are using 'a combination of Synthetic and Analytic approaches', with many schools that use THRASS also
    using reading schemes, in
    whole or in part.





    But given that you and your Government
    believe that all school children, including those who are gifted and talented,
    should be taught to read and spell by first teaching them a restricted form of
    Synthetic Phonics (i.e. that each letter has only one sound) and then exposing
    them only to words that can be decoded by using these sounds, like &lsquo;ant&rsquo;, &lsquo;cat&rsquo;
    and &lsquo;dog&rsquo; (&ldquo;entirely decodable for them, so that they experience success and
    learn to rely on phonemic strategies&rdquo;*1) and discouraging them from
    reading new words by using pictures, like &lsquo;mouse&rsquo; &lsquo;house&rsquo; and &lsquo;horse&rsquo;
    (&ldquo;Children should not be expected to use strategies such as whole-word
    recognition and/or cues from context, grammar, or pictures&rdquo;*1) and
    the words that they can already read by sight, we challenge you to provide us
    with the name and address of one school in England that does not encourage
    parents to share the pictures and words in books with their pre-school children
    and, indeed, their school children, in order to develop speaking and listening
    skills, knowledge about the sounds and spellings in words, the structure of
    phrases and sentences and knowledge of the world and how it works &ndash; and, most
    importantly, to develop a love of reading. We do not believe that you will be
    able to supply us with this information, proving that the parents and teachers
    of England do not believe, as you do, that phonics is the first and only
    approach for teaching young school children to read.





    Synthetic Phonics alone is not working and can even have a detrimental
    effect on children&rsquo;s literacy skills

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    And there is considerable evidence that
    teaching literacy using Synthetic Phonics alone does not work. Year after year
    DfE produces evidence to show that many children at 11 years of age, the end of
    Key Stage 2, do not do as well as they should when it comes to reading and
    spelling. This is because, when reading, these children stick to giving each
    letter only one sound and, when spelling, they stick to a restricted number of
    spelling choices (that is, their parents and teachers can read what they write
    but, because of ignorance or poor visual training, they continue to go for the
    wrong spelling choices). We regularly hear from parents, whose children
    could already read many words before starting school, that their children then
    take a backward step by giving each letter only one sound when they read (e.g.
    m-o-u-s-e, h-o-u-s-e, h-o-r-s-e) and, for words that they could already spell,
    by using a limited range of spelling choices (e.g. mows, hows, haws). And we
    predict that your&lsquo;phonics first&rsquo; strategy will produce more and more children
    who do not understand about the 44 sounds and 120 key spelling choices of
    English and, as a consequence, will take longer to learn to read and spell than
    they should do, or they will continue to have problems with reading and/or
    spelling throughout their lives, meaning that they will never fulfil their full
    potential.
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    What we believe the British Government
    should be doing






    We firmly believe that your present
    approach is wrong for several reasons and that you should be encouraging
    parents and teachers to use a combination of Analytic AND Synthetic phonics in
    the homes and schools of England, and that this should begin before children
    start formal schooling. More specifically, the Government should:
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    1. encourage more parents to share
    picture books with their pre-school children, not fewer, as literacy is not
    just about reading and spelling, itis based on the essential skills of speaking
    and listening. Phonics should be taught within a broad and rich language
    curriculum, an approach that is well-documented worldwide,
    including in the British Government funded review by Torgerson, Brooks and Hall
    (2006)*2, in which they concluded, &ldquo;No statistically significant difference
    in effectiveness was found between Synthetic Phonics instruction and Analytic
    Phonics instruction.&rdquo;;








    2. promote a national initiative to
    encourage all parents to teach their children, especially pre-school children,
    the names of the 26 letters of the alphabet using 2-3-7 raps, by having them
    point under a b, a b c, a b c d e f g as they say &ldquo;Ay, Bee; Ay, Bee, See; Ay,
    Bee, See, Dee, Ee, Eff, Jee&rdquo;. The initiative should also encourage parents to
    teach their pre-school children to say aloud their first name and spell it (by
    using their finger to trace over the letters), because learning to recognise
    and spell your own name is an important social skill and introduces young
    children to the fact that words are read/written from left to right, that capital
    and lower-case letters represent sounds and that words can, with practice, be
    read as a whole;
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    3. provide funding for programmes to
    educate parents about the 44 sounds of English and the 120 key spelling
    choices, as pioneered by Oxley Park Academy, Milton Keynes, the Centre of
    Excellence for THRASS in England, where this year 91% of children achieved
    Level 4 (Expected Level) and 52% achieved Level 5 (Very Able) for their KS2
    SATS (English), a remarkable achievement for any school but especially so for a
    school with a high proportion of pupils who have special needs;
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    4. stop trying to convince parents that
    phonics is the most important method for teaching reading because, quite
    simply, it just isn&rsquo;t. While it is important that children should know the
    &lsquo;Best-Guess-Sound&rsquo; for a letter or group of letters when they are reading and,
    conversely, the &lsquo;Best-Guess-Spelling&rsquo; for the sounds when they are spelling (as
    we do with our 24/20 Phoneme Chart, on pages 14-15 of Keywords for English
    Phonics, a copy of which is enclosed), i.e. they should have a good
    understanding of English Phonics, phonics is not the &lsquo;first&rsquo; approach for
    learning to read and spell. It never was and never will be;
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    5. abolish the statutory requirement
    for maintained schools, academies and Free Schools to administer a Phonics
    Screening Check to all Year 1 children (all six-year-olds) during the week
    18-22 June 2012. Using the restricted form of Synthetic Phonics you recommend
    (i.e. that each letter has only one sound) children are not able to produce the
    sounds in 81 of the 100 most simple words in English (the 'Hotwords'). These
    words are: as, I, is, of, the, to, be, do, for, my, said, they ,was, with, are,
    by , has, have, saw, that, this, come, from, he, see, she, we, what, when,
    where, go, here, or, says, so, then, her, his, how, put, them, were, been, I&rsquo;m,
    made, make, more, now, some, word, does, don&rsquo;t, give, I&rsquo;ll, like, much, than,
    you, will, your, came, could, many, should, there, these, those, want, while,
    would, about, again, also, any, can&rsquo;t, such, their, very, who, why. The
    problems caused by the test are clearly recognised by numerous literacy experts
    and teachers, including the headteacher of a school piloting the test in the
    south of England who said of the test &ldquo;It does not fit with the English
    language. It states that there is only one way of pronouncing every sound for
    the pseudo words. Therefore many of our children were getting these words
    wrong, when in actual fact they could have been correct, since the pseudo words
    don&rsquo;t actually exist. I feel strongly that this test is devaluing the wonderful
    work that our teachers do to develop the many skills that five-year-olds need.
    It is taking reading back by about 30 years.&rdquo; It would be much better to make
    it a statutory requirement for schools to test all Year 1 children on their
    ability to read and spell the Hotwords; and
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    6. withdraw the 50% match funding for
    phonics programmes that use only Synthetic Phonics and, instead, provide this
    allowance for the programmes that use a combination of Analytic and Synthetic
    phonics. After all, there should be a continuity of phonics provision from 5-14
    years (through Key Stages 1, 2 and 3),
    so children over the age of 7 should certainly be using the sounds and
    spellings in the sight words/keywords they can already read and spell.





    We look forward to your response.
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    Yours sincerely,
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    ALAN DAVIES BA Hons, PGCE, MSc, AMBDA

    Chartered Educational Psychologist CPsychol

    Associate Fellow British Psychological Society AFBPsS





    HILARY DAVIES BA Hons, PGCE





    Copies:
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port
    & Neston
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of
    State for Education
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    </font>Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for
    Schools
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the
    Labour Party
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    </font>Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime
    Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Sir Jim Rose, former Director of
    Inspection, Ofsted
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    </font>Professor Greg Brooks, Professor
    Emeritus of Education, University of Sheffield
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    *1DfE (2011). Criteria for assuring high-quality phonic
    work.
    London: DfE


    *2Torgerson, C.J., Brooks,
    G. and Hall, J. (2006). A Systematic Review of the Research

    Literature on the Use of Phonics in the Teaching of Reading and Spelling.

    London: DfES





    Encl. Davies, A (2011). Keywords for English Phonics A4.
    Chester: THRASS UK



     
  2. Further to our open letter to the Prime Minister, &ldquo;We do not believe
    that you will be able to supply us with this information, proving that the
    parents and teachers of England do not believe, as you do, that phonics is the
    first and only approach for teaching young school children to read.&rdquo; here is
    the reply from the DfE, dated 23 November 2011, written by Alex Smith. We shall
    be sending a considered reply shortly &ndash; parts of the DfE letter are irrelevant
    or inaccurate. The bottom line is that the Prime Minister is not able to supply
    the name and address of one school in England where the parents are not using
    picture clues to help their pre-school children read words, phrases and
    sentences &ndash; indicating that the British Government&rsquo;s approach is a completely misguided
    and unrealistic approach to teaching literacy that cuts right across what
    happens in the real world.
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    </font>
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    </font>It is interesting to note that the issue that we raised about Gifted
    and Talented children and the part played by their parents (especially pre-school)
    has been completely ignored! Under the heading, Ofsted wants more ambition from
    'coasting schools', the BBC recently reported, 22 November, &ldquo;There are too many
    lacklustre schools in England which are not pushing children to reach their
    potential, says the annual report from Ofsted.&rdquo; We think that Ofsted&rsquo;s brief
    should be extended - because there should be more ambition from &lsquo;coasting
    governments&rsquo;!
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    </font>
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    </font>
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    </font>Department for Education
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    </font>Sanctuary Buildings
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    </font>Great Smith Street
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    </font>London
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    </font>SW1P 3BT
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    </font>Mr Alan Davies
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    </font>18 Long Lane
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    </font>CHESTER
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    </font>CH2 2PD
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    </font>Our ref: 2011/0075952
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    </font>23 November 2011
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    </font>Dear Mr Davies
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    </font>Thank you for the letter addressed to the Prime Minister regarding your
    product &lsquo;THRASS&rsquo; and Government approaches to literacy. I am responding as part
    of the Raising Standards in English team. I am also responding to similar
    letters you have sent to the Secretary of State and the Minister of State for
    Schools.
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    </font>I realise, following previous correspondence, that you have concerns
    regarding the re-assessment of your product under the revised core criteria. On
    this issue, I can only reiterate our previous response that although schools
    are required to teach reading using phonics, they are under no requirement to
    use any one particular method or product to do so and therefore, remain
    entirely free to use THRASS or any other phonics product that meets their
    requirements.
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    </font>
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    </font>There has been a considerable amount of research regarding systematic
    phonics, and it is widely agreed that this is an effective method of teaching
    literacy for all children. The evidence base on phonics teaching offers sound
    evidence, from reviews of Randomised Controlled Trials, that systematic phonics
    instruction has a statistically significant positive effect on reading
    accuracy.
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    </font>
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    </font>There is also some evidence to suggest that synthetic phonics offers
    the vast majority of young children the best and most direct route to becoming
    successful readers. For example, Johnston and Watson (2005) conducted a seven
    year longitudinal study which found that the synthetic phonics approach is more
    effective than the analytic phonics approach. Rose (2006) also concluded that
    synthetic phonics is the form of systematic phonic work that leads the majority
    of beginner readers to success.
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    </font>
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    </font>That is why we have amended the core criteria, and I must stress that
    Ministers do not intend to draw back from this.
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    </font>
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    </font>We agree that the teaching of phonics is most effective when combined
    with a language-rich curriculum to develop children&rsquo;s positive attitudes
    towards literacy. As my colleague mentioned in a previous letter, the core
    criteria do not suggest a blanket ban on pictures, only to picture clues which
    specifically guide the child towards the meaning of a word or sentence. It is
    not the case, therefore, that we discourage books with pictures &ndash; as can be
    seen from our recently-published catalogue of phonics products.
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    </font>
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>With that in mind, we have never said that parents should be restricted
    in sharing books with their children. Indeed, we would encourage parents and
    families to read with their children and so help to create an environment where
    children enjoy reading. What we have said is that we would like to encourage
    more schools to teach reading using systematic synthetic phonics, and our
    policies support this. Your challenge to provide the name of one school that
    does not encourage the use of pictures in order to promote a love of reading is
    perhaps, therefore, not appropriately worded.
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    </font>
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    </font>I am not sure why you refer to the promotion by the Government of a
    restricted form of synthetic phonics to the effect, as you put it, that one
    letter has one sound and that each letter must be blended individually. This
    appears to be a misunderstanding, as it is contrary to the approach taken by
    the products on our self-assessed list and also those in the approved list in
    our published phonics catalogue.
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    </font>You make specific reference to the introduction of a phonics check in
    year one. We have been clear that the new check is designed purely as an
    assessment of phonic decoding. This is not to underestimate other aspects of
    reading, for example fluency, and the knowledge of the &lsquo;hotwords&rsquo; which you
    mention. However, we believe that knowledge of phonics is crucial for all
    pupils as they learn to read, and a focus on phonic decoding only, helps to
    ensure the assessment is manageable for schools and appropriate for pupils in
    Year 1.
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    </font>
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    </font>I think there might be some misunderstanding about the scoring of
    pseudo-words in this assessment. Graphemes with alternative pronunciations can
    be pronounced in any phonically plausible way when they appear in pseudo-words
    in this screening check.
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    </font>
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    </font>I must stress once more that the Government does not intend to make
    changes to its stated approach as regards systematic synthetic phonics nor to
    alter its policy decisions regarding the core criteria, the phonics check or
    the match-funding. It remains for schools &ndash; and indeed parents &ndash; to decide
    which approaches, products and books to use with their children. However, with
    regard to the skill of learning to &lsquo;decode&rsquo;, Ministers wish to focus on encouraging
    approaches where they believe that the evidence shows the strongest evidence of
    success.
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    </font>
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Yours sincerely,
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    </font>
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Alex Smith
    <font face="Times New Roman" size="3">

    </font>Raising Standards in English Team
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    </font>
     
  3. http://www.syntheticphonics.com/pdf%20files/Extracts%20from%20the%20Final%20Rose%20Report%20March%202006.pdf
    Hi Alan,
    I look forward to reading responses to your postings.
    You might find the above extracts from the Rose Report interesting - as these include references to some of the points you have raised - and make clear the importance of 'word recognition processes' AND 'language comprehension processes' via the Simple View of Reading Model which has, effectively, replaced the guidance of the 'Searchlights Reading Strategies' which you still appear to promote.
    The situation across schools, however, is not at all clear - and at this stage no-one is able to measure the 'synthetic phonics' teaching approach because many schools still DO apply multi-cueing reading strategies in addition to teaching the letter/s-sound correspondences of the alphabetic code to a greater or lesser extent. An evaluation of the Year One phonics screener by Sheffield Hallum University indicated that almost three-quarters of the teachers still promoted the kind of multi-cueing strategies to which you refer. Thus, there are NO national results as yet which can be clearly attributed to a rigorous systematic synthetic phonics teaching.
    Further, Alex Smith is correct to point out that none of the phonics programmes promoted in the catalogue recently sent to schools include the 'one-letter-one-sound' approach which you discuss.
    Not one synthetic phonics proponent that I am aware of begins to suggest that parents and grandparents should not read with the children at home - on the contrary - we promote as much story-sharing, book-sharing and masses of conversations about all things at home. You are right to say that phonics teaching is one aspect of teaching reading and not the whole picture.
    I suggest that most adults will approach spelling through 'sound' first. If they need to spell longer, new or more challenging words, they invariably use a skill of syllable-chunking (which is a form of phonics), and they 'think' of the sounds as they write down most words. Phonics for spelling, then, is very much a proficient adult skill - and not just something we teach in the infants.

     
  4. http://www.syntheticphonicstraining.com/teachingmodel.pdf
    I found that I needed to clarify for people many years ago that synthetic phonics proponents are not at all suggesting that wider reading, and reading at home, should not take place. There is NO restriction of books for children.
    We have only ever said that synthetic phonics is part of the picture for teaching reading.
    I, personally, clarify that there are many ways that teachers have taught, and learners have learnt, over the generations.
    Indeed, rarely do teachers themselves describe that they have had a diet of reading instruction when they were young which matches what we are proposing nowadays.
    Sadly, however, whilst we became generally proficient readers and spellers, many of our contemporaries did not.
    Rose makes it clear in the extracts above that phonics teaching is diluted or diffused when children are taught many 'reading strategies' to access the words. They are counterproductive for many, if not most, if not all, children - in the shorter and the longer term.
    My position is quite clear: how could we ever have reached a point when we, the teaching profession, did not teach the alphabetic code of our language?
    You are not disputing the need to teach the letter/s-sound correspondences of the alphabetic code very thoroughly and you are one of very few people who have led the way in raising awareness about this.
    The issues seem to include that you misunderstand the nature of current systematic, synthetic phonics programmes, and you perhaps have not taken into account well enough that children are not served well by a diet of guessing words which displaces, in effect, the focus on learning the code and decoding the words.
    In addition to the research on reading instruction, Jim Rose and his team, and further advisors, inspectors and politicians, have also taken into account what they have seen for themselves in schools with the different approaches to teaching beginning reading.
     
  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    As a mother of early readers and a teacher I find your opening statement to be dangerously flawed. Surely any teacher will feel fortunate to have readers in their reception class I know I always considered it a huge bonus.
    I sincerely wish my son's reception teacher had bothered to take the backward step by teaching him phonics and encoding skills instead of ignoring his need to learn to form letters correctly and to spell words for writing.
    The idea that learning phonics within the class is a backward step demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the holistic nature of early years curriculum. Children are developing many important skills when learning as part of a class ...
     
  6. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    Well it works both ways. About 11 years ago, my daughter taught herself to read using a Letterland video and I was very confused when the school seemed to expect her to be reading by guessing at the pictures and learning page after page of repeated text off by heart. I think teachers on the whole are supportive of early readers. I had a boy in my class last year who started with a reading age of more than 8 years (Salford). He was given books to read from the KS1 library, but he sat through all the phonics lessons because he did not have complete phonic knowledge. He also learnt to use his phonic knowledge for spelling. I will confess to not having been so supportive of the child whose mother bought the entire decoable reading scheme for home (at least £300 worth) and who has helped her child learn it off by heart when he can't decode simple CVC words in a new text ..... hey ho,
     
  7. cariad2

    cariad2 New commenter

    This is the first of many sweeping statements. I'm not fan of this government, but I've never seen (and nor do you offer) any evidence for this assertion.

    I assume that you are referring to the "Letters and Sounds" document that many schools now use. This does not teach that each letter has only one sound. It begins by teaching children one grapheme (either a single letter or a digraph) to represent each of the phonemes used in the English language. But children are later introduced to the more complex code which includes alternative spellings for the various phonemes, and also the different sounds that a grapheme could represent.
    I teach Reception using Jolly Phonics which is endorsed by the government as it can be found in the match funding catalogue. I have already explained to the children in my class that the "oo" digraph and the "th" digraph represent 2 different sounds - hardly a "restricted form of synthetic phonics".

    Synthetic phonic - and, by extension, - the government would discourage children from using pictures etc as a means of guessing what a word is. But nowhere in the Letters and Sounds document, or any other government document, are parents etc discouraged from "discussing the pictures, words or text" in order to aid children's enjoyment and comprehension of a story.
    All good teachers, including those like myself who are advocates of synthetic phonics, discuss the pictures etc when sharing stories - we just don't use them as part of the discredited "searchlights" approach to reading.

    I would agree that synthetic phonics doesn't produce a higher standard of reading comprension. But that is as nonsensical statement as saying that teaching children the violin doesn't produce a higher standard of knitting. Synthetic phonics was never intended to teach reading comprehension. It is only intended to teach the other aspect of reading ie decoding.
    The Rose Report produced solid evidence for the effectiveness of synthetic phonics to improve children's ability to decode a text.
    I was converted to synthetic phonics teaching some time before the Rose Report (thanks to the invaluable advice of Debbie Hep on this forum). Since then I have seen a huge rise in standards of reading among the young children that I teach.
    For several years, the biggest problem I had was finding suitable texts so that children could use their new skills rather than being given books which relied on children memorising the text. Thank goodness for Letters and Sounds. More and more publishers are now producing excellent decodable books which children enjoy and can actually read.
    btw I'm also a parent. I've shared books with my 9 year old daughter since she was a baby, and still enjoy reading to her. We've done many of the things that you advocate eg talking about the pictures and the story. As a toddler, she used to love acting out her favourite stories.
    But when she reads aloud to me, she makes many careless mistakes eg misreading words by not paying attention to suffixes, reading extra words that aren't even there. She is an able reader, but rushes and sometimes appears to look at the whole word or phrase and then guess at what they say.
    However, if I make her slow down and reread a word carefullly using synthetic phonics then she can virtually always decode the word correctly - although it sometimes takes a few goes before she slows down enough to read the word carefully from left to right (eg today she misread "sacred" as "scared". After her 3rd misreading, I told her to look carefully, and see that the "s" and "c" weren't next to each other so couldn't possibly be making a "sc" sound. She finally concentrated and read the word correctly).
    I think this kind of carelessness is partly due to her personality, but could also be partly down to the teaching she had in Reception, when her teacher taught phonics, but didn't adopt a rigorous synthetic phonics approach to reading. I'm sure that if children are taught using a systematic and rigorous SP approach they have the best chance of becoming successful readers.
     
  8. gcf

    gcf

    Over the past years you have conducted thousands of trainings for THRASS in the UK, presumably costing schools millions of pounds. There must be hundreds of primary schools demonstrating that the approach you advocate is far more effective than the 'damaging' synthetic phonics. It surely would be a better use of your time to collate this evidence. As far as I can recall you have only singled out a single THRASS school. There must be hundreds more?
    Lengthy government enquiries in Australia and in America have shown that research in favour of synthetic phonics is robust.
     


  9. </font><font face="Times New Roman" size="3">



    I
    think the best reply, given the contributions above, is to repeat what we said
    in our letter to the Prime Minister, &ldquo;Stop trying to convince parents that
    phonics is the most important method for teaching reading because, quite
    simply, it just isn&rsquo;t. While it is important that children should know the
    &lsquo;Best-Guess-Sound&rsquo; for a letter or group of letters when they are reading and,
    conversely, the &lsquo;Best-Guess-Spelling&rsquo; for the sounds when they are spelling (as
    we do with our 24/20 Phoneme Chart, on pages 14-15 of Keywords for English
    Phonics, a copy of which is enclosed), i.e. they should have a good
    understanding of English Phonics, phonics is not the &lsquo;first&rsquo; approach for
    learning to read and spell. It never was and never will be.&rdquo; For those that are
    interested to better understand &ldquo;the &lsquo;Best-Guess-Sound&rsquo; for a letter or group
    of letters when they are reading and, conversely, the &lsquo;Best-Guess-Spelling&rsquo; for
    the sounds when they are spelling&rdquo; there is a downloadable INFORMATON FOR
    PARENTS powerpoint on http://www.thrass.co.uk</font>
    &lsquo;Lengthy
    government enquiries in Australia and in America have shown that research in
    favour of synthetic phonics is robust.&rsquo; There isn&rsquo;t! There isn&rsquo;t even any here
    in the UK &ndash; as Alex Smith states in the reply above &lsquo;There is also some evidence
    to suggest that synthetic phonics&rsquo; &ndash; &lsquo;some&rsquo;, &lsquo;suggest&rsquo; this is hardly
    conclusive proof.


    Wyse
    & Goswami (2008), Synthetic phonics and the teaching of reading. British
    Educational Research Journal, Volume 34, Issue 6, pages 691-710: A review of
    the teaching of early reading in England commissioned by the UK Government
    recommended that synthetic phonics should be the preferred approach for young
    English learners. In response, all English schools have been told to put in
    place a discrete synthetic phonics programme as the key means for teaching
    high-quality phonic work. In this paper we analyse the evidence presented by
    the review to support the change to synthetic phonics. We show that the review
    provided no reliable empirical evidence that synthetic phonics offers the vast
    majority of beginners the best route to becoming skilled readers. We analyse
    the available empirical evidence in English, and show instead that the data
    support approaches based on systematic tuition in phonics.




    We
    believe that there are many children that can read before formal schooling (and
    these are not just the Gifted and Talented). I just cannot see why anyone would
    want to expose these children to &ldquo;introduce a defined initial group of
    consonants and vowels, enabling children, early on, to read and spell many
    simple CVC words&rdquo; and to then give them some bogus &lsquo;phonics check&rsquo; at the end
    of Year 1!


    With
    regards to the comment &ldquo;parents and families to read with their children&rdquo;. This
    further reinforces the view that children are impassive learners and do not
    learn to read from being involved in this process. The Government does not seem
    to think that any parent is capable of teaching their children to read and that
    no child is capable of doing so before school. Their approach is unrealistic.
    Again, what does &lsquo;read with their children&rsquo; mean? This is a key point. What are
    parents meant/allowed to do? The words that these pre-schoolers see are
    certainly not totally decodable and, therefore, supports our view about reading
    sentences (as stated in the powerpoint):


    &ldquo;When
    your child reads aloud a sentence in a favourite book, they convert the written
    words into spoken words and are then able to focus on, and talk about, the
    meaning of the sentence. If they are unable to read one of the words, it is
    fine to tell them what it says but ask them to point under the word and repeat
    it aloud once or twice. When they have finished the sentence, ask them to read
    aloud the whole sentence again. Do this until they can say the whole sentence
    with clarity and confidence, including the word (or words) that they were
    previously unable to read.&rdquo;


    With
    regards to research, why is it that the discussion is about Analytic OR
    Synthetic phonics? We believe it should be both and we very much welcome any
    organisation that would do a serious comparison of the impact of the AnaSynth
    Phonics approach (e.g. THRASS, including encouraging parents to use the four
    searchlights with their pre-school children when reading picture books) versus
    the Synthetic Phonics Only approach. Any takers?
    Debbie,
    I very much appreciate your comment, &ldquo;You are not disputing the need to teach
    the letter/s-sound correspondences of the alphabetic code very thoroughly and
    you are one of very few people who have led the way in raising awareness about
    this.&rdquo; but I fear that the British Government do not now think this is the
    case. I very much appreciate your passion and knowledge for phonics but I am
    optimistic that, one day, in the not too distant future, we will sit down and
    have a cup of tea and you will say, &ldquo;In my heart I knew that it was wrong to
    push and recommend a &lsquo;synthetic phonics only&rsquo; approach for young children but I
    just wanted the sounds and spellings of English to be taught well &ndash; and to be
    well-understood by the children &ndash; and their teachers!&rdquo;. Debbie, there is a
    better way forward &ndash; it is not analytic or synthetic phonics it is BOTH! &ndash;
    analytic AND synthetic phonics!
     
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I cannot see why anyone would want to deprive these children from developing vital skills just bacause they can read ... a harsh punishment for reading early don't you think.
     

  11. I think that what is meant by this initial quotation is that some graphs can make more than one phoneme and therefore teaching children that a graph has only one phoneme actually holds them back. If they begin learning that letters can make different sounds (or do different jobs) in different words means that they have a more realistic view of decoding.
    I have seen this myself in older children who have been taught that an 'o' can only make one sound and then encountering 'o' in a word where it makes a different sound and finding it very confusing.
    I do not know the answer to this, but I do think that judging children's phonics using made up words does not give an accurate reflection of that child's reading ability. The child being tested might know several phonemes for one graph! [​IMG]
     
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Then I would suggest you have seen children who have not been taught well.
    The test doesn't prevent the child demonstrating that knowledge
     
  13. In addition, I believe that Alan's main point is that the government should focus on exposing young children to books to give them a love of print and that this should be our main priority. Why would anyone argue with this? If children are not interested in being able to read books for themselves, how are we as teachers supposed to interest them in aquiring the skills to do so? Without a love of print the idea of reading individual sounds, or indeed words is somewhat abstract. Don't you think?
     
  14. I would suggest that rather than having to undo the teaching that children have had one should be able to build on it.
     
  15. If you have seen this in older children it is because they have been
    very poorly taught. If you look at any good SP programme, or the
    government's Letters & Sounds, you will find that the alternatives
    are taught very early in the programme. This myth of SP teaching only 'one letter equals one sound' is either being promoted by THRASS in complete ignorance of how an SP programme is structured or is a deliberate strategy to mislead those who know no better.
    The child being tested might indeed know several phonemes for one grapheme. The test allows for any of those alternatives to be used. As it says in the Dfes letter quoted earlier in this thread which you appear not to have read.
     
  16. I taught Letters and Sounds for a number of years, through a number of year groups and to a variety of abilities (as have most teachers). I am judging on my own experience as a class teacher, which clearly differ from those of others.
     
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Sometimes when there is a fault in the building it is better to knock it down rather than build on weak foundations
     
  18. I am getting the impression that contributors to the forum are on different wave lengths in that they are not discussing the same points per se.
    Modern systematic synthetic phonics very quickly introduces young beginners to the notion that letters and letter groups are code for the sounds. Even in Letters and Sounds, 'c', 'k' and 'ck' are introduced at the beginning - all as code for the sound /k/.
    When people who use or support THRASS keep mentioning the errors of 'one letter, one sound' teaching, they are simply demonstrating that they are not at all up to date with what is promoted currently by the government - or the specific synthetic phonics programmes.
    I actually promote a 'two-pronged' approach to synthetic phonics teaching which consists of teaching the systematic, planned introduction of letter/s-sound correspondences and the three skills of blending for reading, segmenting for spelling and handwriting ALONGSIDE incidental phonics teaching whereby any letter/s-sound correspondence can be taught at any time as required - for individuals, for groups, for whole classes.
    Underpinning this approach is the provision of 'Alphabetic Code Charts' which show the rationale of sounds to graphemes (letters and letter groups) and which are very comprehensive in both the ORT Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters programme and the Phonics International programme.
    This means that when Chloe or Christopher or Stephen want to understand the spelling and sounds of their name, the teacher can refer to the Alphabetic Code Chart and provide some incidental or spontaneous teaching.
    Mini Alphabetic Code Charts are also provided for parents to understand the rationale.
    Where I differ in my guidance, however, is with multi-cueing reading strategies which amount to guessing words from:
    the picture clue
    the context of the sentence
    the first letter or letters of a word
    the word shape
    It's not that children haven't learned to read with such strategies - many have - but many HAVEN'T.
    This is, to me, the main point - that multi-cueing strategies detract from applying alphabetic code knowledge - they are not a good way of teaching reading as such strategies are generally not good for long-term reading ability. There are many pupils in English-speaking countries whose default method is to 'guess' words habitually - and the more advanced the level of language in the books, the more the guessing strategies cause faltering, failing and do untold damage to self-esteem.
    I believe we have a scenario largely hidden from us whereby untold numbers of young people are not knowledgeable about the alphabetic code and not automatic or proficient at synthesising the words in books that they do not know.
    It occurs to me that many teachers are so enthusiastic about THRASS because it DOES teach the alphabetic code where previously teachers were not trained in the code themselves and where pupils were not taught well in the code when they were younger.
    The difference in approaches, then, is mainly down to BEGINNING TEACHING.
    I have the impression that Alan accepts and promotes the multi-cueing approach to beginning reading which is rejected in the synthetic phonics teaching principles.
    Too many pupils make up words (and often they make up the wrong words). By making up the wrong words, they lose the true meaning of the text.
    By being taught that guessing is OK, the act of reading becomes a hit and miss affair. Some children can get by in the early stages of looking at books for young children, others can't make head nor tail of all the squiggles on the page.
    No-one (or hardly anyone) argues with the suggestion that we need to teach the complexities of the English alphabetic code in a full and rigorous way - the debate continues as to whether it is best to teach children to guess their way through reading material - or whether it is better to teach them alphabetic code explicitly and match the material we ask children to read INDEPENDENTLY with the alphabetic code they have been taught.
    I urge THRASS supporters to investigate the leading synthetic phonics programmes and the level of alphabetic code these include. I urge THRASS proponents to appreciate that the debate is not about teaching the alphabetic code and all its complexities, the difference is whether or not to teach children to guess the words on the page and to ask them to read books INDEPENDENTLY which are beyond them.
     
  19. Having taught for over 20 years; in primary school for 10 years, gone on to secondary and now teaching adults who cannot read and write, I have done the whole gambit!
    I have returned to the teaching of reading through phonics and blends ie the sounds with great success.. With my adults the relearning of sounds makes great sense to them and suddenly it 'clicks ' for them. Some words need a whole word approach and that is fine too.
    I think here, the key word is flexibility, a government which is not comprised of educationalists, is once again, interfering in a profession when there is no need. I totally agree that learning/reading needs to be structured but it needs to be flexible, not every child/adult learns the same way. Most schools I taught in, in fact, all the schools I taught in, welcomed parents/carers helping their children. They offered advice as to how, in order for the children not to be confused, and it worked wonderfully as any partnership should. Parnership is a key word here, as we all want the best for our children and a little guidance goes a long way.
    Perhaps if government interfered with the teaching profession less, things would go more smoothly and teachers would be allowed to teach and not be continually jumping through hoops!
     
  20. Thank you for your polite response! Imagine how well our young ones will be writing by the time they are 50!!
     

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