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"Catch Up" reading scheme. What do you think?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Leapyearbaby64, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    I'm going to be doing some work on the above programme for my MA, in particular looking at children who do not show an improvement after taking part. I will have access to data from across my own LEA. However, it would be interesting to have a range of perspectives from contributors here.

    Thanks if you have time!

  2. I would be extremely interested to find out more about children who do not show an improvement after taking part in the Catch Up programme.

    Some colleagues and I have evaluated this programme and found it very, very wanting - and certainly not in line with leading-edge reading instruction or the recommendations of the Rose Final Report.

    My local authority promotes it heavily and I have found it impossible to have discussions with them about the programme.

    I was manipulated out of a school where I was part-time Learning Support Unit manager and had some impressive literacy and behaviour improvements (and handwriting) of a group of very difficult children from following the synthetic phonics teaching principles and some good basic, common sense, no nonsense relationship/behavioural stuff with some key stage two children. I had proper results as evidence - and the children's work itself - and the pride they had in it - was truly impressive.

    After getting rid of me from the school, one teacher was told that the school needed 'something different from what Debbie promotes' and the local authority paid for three members of staff to attend the Catch Up training programme and implement that programme in school.

    So, I asked the local authority if I could have a copy of the programme to evaluate. The first person did not 'know' me and happily said she was sure that could be arranged. However, this response was soon reversed and they refused me a copy.

    A friend at the school was caught photocopying the material for me to see (not at my request - of her own volition - I knew nothing about it) and she was hauled into the office to be told that Debbie was 'making trouble for the school'.

    I emailed the top local authority advisor and asked who had evaluated the programme for the local authority and got no reply.

    I offered my services to evaluate the programme on behalf of the local authority and got no reply.

    I sent out a group email to about ten top people in the authority to question how the local authority could refuse to let anyone evaluate an educational programme in the light of all the ethos of 'transparency' where schools were expected to keep parents informed of educational content at every twist and turn.

    No reply.

    On the advice of a politician, I asked to see a copy of the programme to evaluate through the Freedom of Information Act. The local authority refused and notified me of a clause in the act which says they do not have to provide anything which I can obtain through other channels. So the politician got hold of a copy of the programme for me.

    I asked a colleague to evaluate the programme including the training course on behalf of the Reading Reform Foundation because I felt that I was too personally involved to be seen to be 'transparent' if I did a review myself at this stage.

    She attended training and evaluated the hard copy materials and I can provide you with the link to her evaluation. Certainly, this programme is very weak and pretty content less and not in line with the Rose recommendations whatsoever.

    Meanwhile, a new chief education advisor of my local authority wrote to me to say she had instructed her officers to have nothing more to do with me. The local authority was not interested in the results of my teaching ten children with literacy and behavioural difficulties. They did not want me to use my expertise to evaluate the intervention programme. I was told that I could no longer be involved with the ten children as I had left the school (although I was made to leave).

    As it was, one of my daughters was killed in a car crash the day after I left the school. Unbelievably, this was used against me when my school friend was told that I should be focusing on my grief and not emailing people at 2 in the morning. The lady who said this did not receive that email so it had clearly become the 'gossip' of the school managers and local authority people.

    Eventually, the type of teaching methods I have promoted for many years have become government guidance in the form of 'Letters and Sounds'.

    The absolute tragedy of this scenario is that local authorities are still promoting intervention programmes such as Catch Up and the government itself is inexplicably promoting the Reading Recovery programme - a programme discredited internationally - the worst possible method for weak readers.

    It seems to me that these flawed intervention programmes are going from strength to strength not on the basis of their content and not on the basis of them being in line with the research and leading-edge practice for reading instruction - but on the basis of the personnel who are involved with them and who do not seemed to be prepared to modify their programmes in light of advancements in our understanding of effectiveness of teaching etc.

    I cannot urge people strongly enough to actually EVALUATE content and methodology of intervention and first-time teaching programmes for themselves.

    Trust NO-ONE when they rave about a programme - including me or the Reading Reform Foundation.

    But, the Reading Reform Foundation provide a website and message forum with links to research and urge everyone to become properly informed as we are well aware of the power of advisors and the power of government as schools are being bombarded with initiatives - many of them based on myths and high-faluting nonsense.

    This posting may not be what you expected in response to your request for information.

    Anyone who has followed my postings over the years, however, will know me to be first and foremost a straightforward person full of common sense and practicalities.

    Simply look at the Catch Up programme and ask yourself if it fits the description of a rigorous intervention programme likely to teach children about the Alphabetic Code and to improve their skill of blending. Ask yourself whether the books provided match the knowledge and skills that children are given as part of the process of being taught to read.

    Or whether these programmes are, in reality, content-less, and more of the same guessing reading strategies that Jim Rose, thankfully rejected when he examined the evidence of research and best practice around the country.

  3. http://www.rrf.org.uk/newsletter.php?n_issueNumber=60

    If you look at a fixed message on the Reading Reform Foundation website, you can see a long string with reference to Ed Balls refusal to engage with the issues raised re Reading Recovery.

    There are quite a few downloadable RRF newsletters (see the homepage at www.rrf.org.uk ) which show this historic run-up to the House of Commons inquiry and national review into reading instruction methods.

    It is really quite unbelievable that local authorities and the government can claim to support the Rose recommendations and yet continue to promote intervention programmes which are blatantly along the lines of multi-cueing and guessing.

    Are they saying that the strongest schools and strongest pupils should receive synthetic phonics teaching and the weakest schools and weakest pupils should receive the reading strategies that Jim Rose rejects?

    And which teaching methods are teachers and teaching assistants to use when these methods contradict one another.

    Whatever teachers 'prefer' to teach, those in authority over us should not be so inconsistent and contradictory in their advice.

    Meanwhile, I have just discovered during recent training I attended provided by my local authority for Year Two teachers, that we have a gender gap issue in reading and writing for boys at the end of key stage one.

    Well - no surprise there. I have been trying to point to the Clackmannanshire research and leading synthetic schools where there is no gender gap - or it is reversed - for years. I have even been asked not to attend training in my local authority as I have questioned from the outset that they train teachers and teaching assistants to teach children to guess words when reading.

    I noticed also, that the assessment criteria for 'reading' that my local authority provides for teachers to use to assess their pupils is still based on the searchlights reading strategies and the 45 reception sight words.

    I queried this, and was told that as Assessing Pupil Progress was being trialled and would soon necessitate further changes for assessment criteria for reading, that the local authority advisors made a deliberate decision not to change the pro-forma for teachers as it would have to be changed again.

    So - with attitudes like this, and with a widespread promotion of the Catch Up programme - is it any wonder that there is a gender gap in my local authority for reading and writing.

    But don't you find it very worrying that there are apparently no mechanisms through which teachers (or anyone else) can question or challenge the advice we receive from on high.

    To this day my local authority will have nothing to do with me despite the fact that I can teach children very effectively, have a broad knowledge and understanding about teaching reading and through lobbying and looking at leading-edge practice, we have a change-around in guidance for teaching reading.

    I don't find it comforting living in Britain as I did when I was younger.

    We are having such battles in the early years with the oppressive state of affairs of the Early Years Foundation Stage - now statutory - where local authority advisors are charged by law to moderate evidence for the Foundation Stage Profiles.

    There is a massive proliferation of paperwork, a perverse emphasis on observations and assessment and an extraordinary interference with the practice of teachers and child-minders and private pre-schools for the birth to five year olds.

    I just hope that new students to the education profession include a few rebels like me who can see the scenario for what it is - and that they keep their minds open rather than suck up all the propaganda that their 'advisors' spout.
  4. We use Catch Up at school and on the whole it provides good results.

    I could say that this is because it is a fabulous programme or I could say that it's success is mostly to do with target children receiving regular reading support from highly skilled TAs who have the ability to adapt their methods to suit individual children. The good quality, non scheme, interesting books might also help.

    Even Letters and Sounds won't help if delivered by unskilled, untrained and unaware staff. Interventions are only ever as good as the people delivering them and anyone who says their scheme should be followed to the aboslute letter come hell or highwater really has very little understanding of children and teaching. As ever in teaching what works for one child or teacher may not work for another and this teach by numbers approach being promoted by various individuals and now our own government is really beginning to grate.

    Rant over.
  5. Catch-up works well if you choose the children carefully. We use (don't know if it's the same for everyone using Catch-Up) the Salford Sentence Test to assess children for the programme- children need to be about 6-9 months below chronological age to show good results at the end of the programme- maximum 12 months below. I think this test in particular is a poor indication of reading ability but does tend to show good results. All Catch-Up does is provide regular 1-1 reading sessions and I would echo sentiments of noeyedeer- it really is only as good as the person delivering it.

  6. Not sure if relevant for you, but perhaps anecdotal evidence helps build a bigger picture.

    ..so with parent hat on...

    My son went through Reading Recovery, I was anti it at the time and now many years later i am convinced it in fact did more harm than good. He is such a reluctant reader, required 1:1 support in GCSE etc etc. So it achieved nothing, no instilling a joy of the written word with him and no technical improvemnt either. and yes i could go on..
  7. Thank you very much for your anecdotal evidence and, yes, it is not only relevant but essential.

    At the moment, Reading Recovery under the Every Child a Reader umbrella is receiving massive promotion by government, industry and charity (via KPMG).

    Very, very glossy reports are being produced describing results in the most glowing terms but these results do not stand up to scrutiny.

    For example, I would want to know what the 'reading habits' are for readers having been through the RR programme. Do they guess at words from multi-cueing or do they habitually apply Alphabetic Code knowledge and blend the sounds in new words?

    This is not a small matter, it is a huge one.

    It is true that readers can learn to read differently and that they actually do 'read' differently - but it is also the case that there are more proficient ways to read and ways which will serve readers much, much better in the longer term.

    We do not even begin to know the picture of how many pupils/students read with an alarming amount of 'blurgh' reading.

    This is what I myself do sometimes when I cannot be bothered to fully decode a Greek mythology name or a Latin plant name. As I am reading silently to myself, I gloss over the new or tricky word as I don't 'need' it to gain comprehension of the text.

    But, I could attempt these words if I wanted to.

    The difference is with some 'blurgh' readers, is that they could not attempt to decode the bank of words new to them. And as books become more and more challenging, many readers 'blurgh' over a substantial amount of these words - to the extent that they have not really been able to achieve accurate comprehension from the text - or they are made to feel inadequate for the task.

    And I have often seen children in primary schools even where they read apparently fluently, make a huge number of guesses which does not prevent them from pressing ahead with their quite high-speed reading. I don't even think they know that they are misreading a large number of words and they are still able to maintain a kind of flow regardless.

    This may be sufficient for teachers (and parents) to think that the reader is proficient or proficient enough for their age. It certainly does not bode well for their reading development over time if they already have a tendency for 'blurghing' and 'guessing' at primary school.

    I think many students reach their personal ceilings in reading skill completely unbeknown to their teachers and parents. No wonder so many young people get turned off education and studying. Have you seen some of the study books for A-levels?

    I agree that learners are individuals and there is a case for some children to need very small group intervention or one to one intervention. But it should be made very clear to teachers that multi-cueing guessing and 'getting through' books one by one is not the best way to teach reading at all and this can positively damage children in the long term.

    I would love other parents to 'come out' and describe their children's long term reading after Reading Recovery or Catch Up.

    If you asked me if ever there was a case for a weak reader to be taught through multi-cueing and not through synthetic phonics teaching I would say 'never'. There is NEVER a case for presenting children with books to read independently which is beyond their alphabetic code knowledge and blending skills. There is NEVER a case for asking them to guess words through any strategy.

    Also, EVERY synthetic phonics proponent or programme writer would be more than willing to have their programme's effectiveness compared to intervention programmes like Catch Up and Reading Recovery. We have no doubt whatsoever which would be the most effective approach for teaching reading.
  8. Olivia B said:

    "All Catch-Up does is provide regular 1-1 reading sessions ..."

    I would agree but I suggest that regular 1-1 reading sessions would be much better still with cumulative, decodable books which match learners' code knowledge.

    We need the comparison without doubt but how do we persuade educationalists and politicians to do the right thing and set up the comparisons?

    There seems to be a huge number of influential people who avoid the comparisons at all costs.

    Now, why would this be I wonder?
  9. Erm, have you ever done Catch Up debbie? We do match books to readers ability. Yes children look for clues but also use their sounds. Often the children we pick as a school to put on Catch Up are the ones that can use sounds to 'read' but get no sense from what they read. They are often proficient at barking at words and have also often seen as ok readers because they can do just that (see year 2 level 1 and 2 end of year reading task).

    I've never seen the Reading Recovery scheme so I can't comment on that and I am not going to knock the value of good quality phonics teaching but Catch Up, if used sensibly, does have a place.

  10. Yes my son is definately a 'blurgh' reader, he has such little phonics knowledge that I wonder if he was ever taught it (when he was young I didn't work in schools - so I was a fairly useless parent!) now as someone who works in KS1 and with Reception I spend so much of my time working with it and value it for helping develop reading skills. But, obviously 'one size does not fit all.'

    My belief is that before a reluctant reader is made to read they should develop a love or at least liking for books / text. My son only reads that which interests him - don't we all to some extent - so why push children to read text which is not relevant to their lives. Not all boys like football , so why would they all like books. We just think they should because it's 'good for them.' and .... apologies for sounding like i'm on a hobby horse...I probably am.

    Happy Christmas all!
  11. http://www.rrf.org.uk/newsletter.php?n_ID=185

    To evaluate the content of a specific programme, you need to study what the programme consists of - its guidance, its testing procedures, the type of reading books it promotes and the training programme.

    Have you read the analysis above?

    If teachers, under the umbrella description of the Catch Up programme do not follow the programme's literature and the programme's training, then, in effect, they are not really following the programme.

    The Catch Up programme as described in this analysis gives a good reflection of the actual programme.

    If teachers and teaching assistants follow the literature and the training, then they are in line with the programme but not the recommendations of the Rose Report based on leading edge practice and the research on reading.

    How you 'match' books to pupils is very relevant.

    If pupils are already good at decoding and simply need more reading practice, then is this really what the Catch Up programme is about?

    The Catch Up programme is an 'intervention' programme and, yes, you do need to look at each individual pupil to analyse his or her personal needs.

    If teachers, under the auspices of the Catch Up programme raise children's reading levels - are these decoding levels, or comprehension levels or what?

    Or is it just more focused one to one attention and reading practice with books.

    These are not small details, they are significant details - and I am very worried that many pupils around the country will receive their little bit of one to one under the Catch Up umbrella when they actually need more time spent, more often, on filling Alphabetic Code knowledge gaps and opportunities to read words and texts which match their code knowledge - not which means they have to guess words from multi-cueing.

    This isn't just about children making progress with their reading, it's about how best to help them to make the maximum amount of progress.

    That is where the 'comparisons' must come in.

    Have you ever used a synthetic phonics intervention with decodable books?

  12. The children I work with at KS3 are, for the most part, 'reluctant readers' when they first come to me because they have very little idea of the 'mechanics' of reading. For them it is a difficult, laborious task that they avoid at all costs. What they read makes no sense because they guess and blurgh their way through text.
    I really feel that trying to instil a 'love of books' in children like this is pointless, they can't see anything in them to love! . You have to make their basic reading skills secure first; then they can make up their own minds as to whether or not they will 'love reading'. At the very least, making the basics secure means that they are able to confidently engage with whatever reading they have to do.
    I use phonics alone with these children, but I don't for a moment consider it to be a 'one size fits all' methodology. It is a body of knowledge which children need to learn to become secure and competent readers. Some children may need an individualised approach to help them learn most effectively, but what they need to learn doesn't alter; letter/sound correspondences, decoding and blending all through the word for reading, and segmenting for spelling.
  13. Maizie I do agree with all you say, that the mechanics need to be in place before the reluctant readers are expected to read. I guess what i was trying to say was that children need to want to read before being 'made' made to read a book, and that therefore they need to have this liking / love before they can be expected to. I think it is sad that children reach KS3 before they have these mechanics. But what i think many children lack is the opinion that books are ok, my son's attitude to a book is very negative, yet we are a home with many books, so it's not that he hasn't been exposed to them. Yet when in KS1 he was made to feel 'dumb' (his phrase) because he did not read well. So he associated reading with books etc etc.

    Also i felt that often he was deemed as an acceptable reader by the end of KS2 because he had some mechanics of reading but he did not comprehend what he had read. Finally in Y10 the Ed. Psych. who assessed him immediaately realised this to be the case. and i'm glad you agree with me that there is not a one size that fits all.
  14. "Have you ever used a synthetic phonics intervention with decodable books?"

    I have used phonic schemes and as I said before good phonic teaching (note I didn't say following a scheme blindly) is a MUST but where I have found Catch Up to work is with children who can blend, segement, decode, 'read' but often don't gather any sense from the book. I have found some phonetically decodable books very good indeed others made very little sense, didn't have a story and the content wouldn't encourage reluctant readers to read them. Swings and roundabouts both ways.

    "If teachers, under the umbrella description of the Catch Up programme do not follow the programme's literature and the programme's training, then, in effect, they are not really following the programme."

    I would be worried if any teacher or TA followed any scheme (phonic or otherwise) blindly without adapting to the children they teach. Take what works and discard what doesn't.
    "I am very worried that many pupils around the country will receive their little bit of one to one under the Catch Up umbrella when they actually need more time spent, more often, on filling Alphabetic Code knowledge gaps and opportunities to read words and texts which match their code knowledge - not which means they have to guess words from multi-cueing."
    Phonics alone is not what every child who struggles with reading needs. Sometimes they need access to a wider variety of books to spark their interest. Catch Up is designed to give this rather than placing children on scheme reading books which can become boringly repetative (let's face it who cares if Floppy Gets Wet?) but also demoralising if you're stuck on orange and everyone else is on black.
    "If teachers, under the auspices of the Catch Up programme raise children's reading levels - are these decoding levels, or comprehension levels or what?"

    The problem comes when decoding is confused with reading. I have two year 5 pupils who can 'read' fluently very complicated books. Do they have the slightest idea of what they are reading? None. They do not need more lessons in phonics or decoding. What they need are READING lessons, opportunities to discuss and understand books. This is when Catch Up is useful, after all reading is useless if you don't read for meaning. If children need to raise their decoding levels then I will teach phonics, if they have gone beyond that and need to learn to read then they need a different approach. Thankfully most children pick up the reading bit whilst learning to decode, but not all do and a blanket phonics approach won't help them.

    Thank you for a very intersting and lively debate, Merry Christmas!
  15. It seems to me that you are using Catch Up in a different way from the way that it intended!

    From the 'Introducing Catch Up Literacy' booklet:
    From the text that the learner has just read, a sentence
    is identified which contains a word that the learner has
    This word is carefully analysed by the teacher and learner
    (segmenting and blending phonemes or memorising
    letter names of high frequency sight words) and then the
    learner practises spelling the word.
    Then the word is written in its sentence and the sentence
    is reinstated in the context of the text. "

    This the word level work, which is the bit that you don't appear to be using.
    It is this that is the most concerning feature of the programme because, although the booklet is written with all the right phonics 'buzz words', the analysis of the training which Debbie linked to earlier makes it clear that this is not what the programme deliverers are being taught to do at word level.
    It is some time since the training session that was analysed; it may be different now, but it is doubtful...

  16. Even with the synthetic phonics programme that I have developed (and continue to develop), I have made it clear that whilst it is systematic and structured, that teachers, tutors and parents need to use its resources according to their students and their contexts.

    There is, therefore, no exact prescription for its use - but there is guidance on Alphabetic Code knowledge on the core resource throughout the programme.

    What worries me is that the reflective and adapted work that you describe and which sounds like it may be successful may come under the umbrella of the 'Catch Up' programme whilst you may well have moved away from the 'programme's' contents, underlying teaching philosophy, training etc.

    Also, you are right, each pupil needs to be looked at as an individual and decisions need to be made whether they are most in need of a synthetic phonics programme of work (that is, a more complete knowledge of the alphabetic code and more rehearsal at blending unknown words at word level and then sentence and text level) - or whether the children have a comprehensive alphabetic code knowledge and already have the ability to blend and just need more practice with reading words in books - improving the speed, fluency and expression and so on.

    Please don't think, however, that readers who are 'stilted' in their decoding do not understand what they are reading.

    Sometimes they do not, but sometimes they certainly do.

    There is also an issue for children for whom English is an additional language. Lots of book reading and conversations about those books is essential work.

    But that is another worrying aspect of the Catch Up programme which recommends a couple of very short reading slots of one to one reading each week.

    Many of us involved in intervention work would suggest that learners actually need far more time devoted to reading at all levels than a couple of short slots. We would be thinking along the lines of 30 to 60 minutes a day of basic literacy skills, some of which would be one to one opportunities.

    Many of us are championing the need for far more emphasis on basic skills teaching and this also means far more time.

    When I provide teacher-training, the first thing I have to establish is the need to ring-fence time on the timetable daily (or at least four times per week) - especially for the weaker learners.

    The bottom line is that each programme and each intervention programme should certainly be chosen on the basis of 'fit for purpose' and should certainly be compared in terms of content and training to others.

    My suggestion is - that programmes such as Catch Up and Reading Recovery may be promoted indiscrimately because they are preferred programmes of people in authority - whether or not they are fit for purpose or the best possible.

    I urge schools to become independent of thought and action.

    The consequence of independence - along with being well-informed - would doubtless lead to the demise of whole language intervention programmes - and would lead to a greater uptake of synthetic phonics teaching methods for many of the weakest readers who hneed to the alphabetic code knowledge and blending rehearsal.

    And for the children who need emphasis on opportunity to read alongside adults more frequently, they wouldn't need a programme for this - they could just read alongside an adult more frequently and discuss the contents of the book and the intentions of the author!
  17. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    I've not had time to catch up on this thread for quite some time and would love for people to keep contributing. It seems from scooting through this that at the very least it is being used for different purposes in different settings.

    I wonder if anyone could supply me with bald facts for their school. The marketing says that Catch Up makes the children "catch up". That is, those with reading ages up to 12 months below where they should be, catch up and stay caught up. In what % of cases has this happened in your setting?
  18. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    Bumping this up. Is anyone willing to answer the last question?

  19. I don't have an answer for this but would love to know others' results as I have just become involved with tracking our Catch Up program in my school as assessment coordinator.

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