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Teacher colleges guilty of myths and nonsense, minister says
Teacher colleges guilty of myths and nonsense, minister says
Facing facts in education: What the evidence says about improving schools.
England’s schools have undergone substantial changes in the last decade, including: introducing systematic phonics teaching and the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check; implementation of the Shanghai model of maths education in thousands of schools; and the expansion of free schools and academies. These reforms and others were driven by evidence of how children learn and policies that maximise opportunities for children to attend high quality schools. What does an evidence-based education look like and why is it so important? What can England and Australia learn from each other?
The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, UK Minister of State for School Standards
Nick Gibb was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Education on 15 July 2014. He was elected Conservative MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton in 1997. He served as Shadow Minister for Schools from 2005 until 2010, and as Minister of State for Schools from May 2010 until September 2012.
Mr Mark Scott AO, Secretary of NSW Department of Education
Mark Scott is Secretary of the Department of Education in NSW. He has worked as a teacher, in public administration and as a journalist and media executive. He is committed to public education and learning environments where every child can flourish.
The Hon Rob Stokes MP, NSW Minister for Education
Rob Stokes is currently the Minister for Education with the NSW Government, where he is responsible for the leadership of teaching and learning across the tertiary and secondary education sectors in NSW. Rob has also served as Minister for Planning, where he was focused on promoting development throughout the state that improves people’s lives into the future, as well as securing the conservation and sustainable use of our State’s environmental and historic heritage.
A Critique of the L3 Early Years Literacy Program
The Reading Wars are a decades-old battle of ideas about how children should be taught to read: synthetic phonics, which involves using letter and sound relationships, versus whole language, which emphasises other skills instead of sounding words.
Dr Buckingham, a senior research fellow and director of the Five from Five reading project at the Centre for Independent Studies, and Mr Gibb yesterday toured the Centre for Cognition and Its Disorders at Sydney’s Macquarie University.
“I wouldn’t say the battle is won in England, far from it,’’ Mr Gibb said.
“For decades teachers have been trained using the whole-language approach so generations of teachers have come through the system … so changing that system is very, very difficult. It’s not going to happen overnight.’’
Mr Gibb also said children struggling to read needed more instruction, time and practice. “There are no shortcuts, they have to be able to decode because they’re not going to be able to learn 36,000 words on sight,’’ he said.
Britain introduced phonics screening in 2012 after the Rose review of the teaching of early reading in 2006 recommended the implementation of one particular method of phonics instruction — synthetic phonics — in all schools.
Mr Gibb said people continued to challenge phonics because “some children take longer to learn and they think there must be another method, and actually there isn’t’’.
“And secondly they conflate the idea of comprehension and decoding … but if you conflate the two things together, you don’t allow the children to learn, in the same way they learn the scales of a piano, this mechanical approach to effortlessly decoding.”
Nick Gibb: The importance of vibrant and open debate in education
For over a century, war has waged in education over the most effective means of teaching children to read. Finally, this fight is coming to an end thanks to the strong evidence in favour of systematic synthetic phonics.
One of the most important interventions in this war came from America’s Rudolph Flesch in 1955. In his book titled ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It’ Flesch concluded that Johnny was being held back at age 12 for his poor reading ability because he had not been properly taught how to read.
Johnny had been taught to read using a method known as ‘look and say’, in which children repeat written words they see on the page until they recognise the whole word on sight. As they begin to recognise more and more words, so the theory goes, they pick up the ability to read.
This was regarded as easier than the time-honoured method of teaching the sounds of the alphabet and how to blend these sounds into words, the method known as phonics. Flesch was deeply critical of the existing orthodoxy in the USA about how best to teach reading.
For decades, educationalists formed 2 camps – a small group in favour of using phonics was opposed by a larger body that promoted this so-called ‘look and say’ or ‘whole word’ method. According to this now-discredited theory, children would learn to recognise whole words or use context or other stimuli to guess what the word might be.
Thankfully, due to the overwhelming evidence in favour of phonics, there are now few educationalists prepared to deny that phonics should play a role in early reading instruction. Sadly, though, as so often when a losing argument is in its death throes, many decry the false dichotomy between teaching using phonics and using these now discredited approaches to reading.
Instead, many educationalists advocate using a mix of methods, combining guessing at words using context with some phonics training thrown in. Again, the evidence clearly shows that this is not an effective means of teaching children to read.
These fallacious and unevidenced beliefs about reading instruction have blighted the early education of generations of children around the world.
I vividly recall meeting a 9-year-old girl in a school I visited shortly before the 2010 general election. This girl had never been taught to decode. Instead, she had been given books accompanied by descriptive pictures. Rather than using her knowledge of the phonetic code, she was encouraged to guess words using pictures and the context of the story. The tragedy was that at the age of 9 she simply could not read – a situation that should not and need not have been allowed to happen. But, alas, she was not unique.
But in recent years there has been a reading revolution in England’s schools. Last year, thanks to the hard work of teachers and the emphasis the government has placed on teaching phonics, there were 147,000 more 6-year-olds on track to become fluent readers than in 2012.
This achievement is the culmination of evidence-based policy and teaching.
In 2016, 81% of pupils reached the expected standard in the phonics screening check, up from just 58% in 2012. And with 91% of pupils reaching this standard by age 7, there is room for even greater achievement.
There are few – if any – more important policies for improving social mobility than ensuring all pupils are taught to read effectively. Literacy is the foundation of a high-quality, knowledge-rich education. Those opposed to the use of systematic phonics instruction are, in my view, standing between pupils and the education they deserve.
Unfortunately, the pernicious arguments that ignore the evidence in favour of phonics still abound and are having a detrimental effect on the take up of phonics in some parts of the country.
By 2014, about two-thirds of primary teachers surveyed by the government agreed that the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics has value in the primary classroom. However, 90% also ‘agreed’ or ‘agreed somewhat’ that a variety of different methods should be used to teach children to decode words.
The evidence in favour of using phonics during early reading instruction is overwhelming. Now, the battle is to spread this message to all classrooms. Events such as this one provide an excellent platform for disseminating evidence-based practice. It is important to make and remake the arguments so that all pupils benefit from the very best teaching methods in primary school.
Could the next education secretary be Nick Gibb?
3rd January 2018
Please don't panic. In truth, the minister of state for school standards could prove to be the stability candidate
As speculation continues about whether Justine Greening will be kept on as education secretary in a forthcoming cabinet reshuffle, gossip is rife about who might replace her.
One persistent rumour is that comeback king Nick Gibb, currently minister of state for school standards, might be elevated by Theresa May to the largest office in Sanctuary Buildings.
Nick Gibb: How can policy ensure education equity?
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb addresses the Education World Forum (Tuesday 23 January).
How can and should policy be developed to ensure education equity? A knowledge-rich curriculum should be at the heart of all schools. We believe that is key to ensuring education equity. Endowing pupils with knowledge of ‘the best that has been thought and said’ and preparing pupils to compete in an ever more competitive jobs market is the core purpose of schooling.
Nick Gibb speech at launch of Midland Knowledge Hub
School Minister Nick Gibb marks another milestone in the drive to ensure children from all backgrounds reach their potential
It is a pleasure to be at the launch of the Midland Knowledge Hub. Today marks another milestone in the movement to ensure that all children benefit from a knowledge-rich curriculum.
This movement is driven by a desire to ensure all children – wherever they live and whatever their background – receive their entitlement: an education in the best that has been thought and said. In the words of E. D. Hirsch:
We will be able to achieve a just and prosperous society only when our schools ensure that everyone commands enough shared background knowledge to be able to communicate effectively with everyone else.
This is why the importance of assumed knowledge is vital.
Writing for Parents and Teachers for Excellence and ASCL’s ‘The Question of Knowledge’, Leora Cruddas summed up the roots of this movement, and what we hope to achieve:
The influence of E D Hirsch on educational thinking has been profound. At its heart is the idea that returning to a traditional, academic curriculum built on shared knowledge is the best way to achieve social justice in society. His work has also encouraged schools to focus on the concept of building cultural capital as a way to close the attainment gap.
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