The Reading Reform Foundation Conference, March 2015 *updated*

‘From the Rose Review to the New Curriculum. A growing number of schools successfully teach every child to read; the majority still don’t. Why?’

The theme of the Reading Reform Foundation conference (above) drew attention to the fact that some schools achieve very highly despite complex and challenging circumstances. Indeed, London schools, despite being ‘inner city’ schools, are gaining a reputation in England for nationally high standards and some commentators attribute this to the rise in standards particularly in primary schools. Many primary headteachers would attribute their rise in standards to getting the foundations of literacy right by ensuring high-quality Systematic Synthetic Phonics provision within enriched language and literature settings.

The conference was very well-received and attendees included people from America, Spain, Ireland, Scotland and Australia.

Most of the talks were filmed and will be added to this blog posting as the footage becomes available.

Debbie Hepplewhite gave the opening talk, ‘Does it really matter if teachers do not share a common understanding about phonics and reading instruction?’ Having watched the talk via youtube, a number of ‘tweeters’ recommended this video for INSET (In-service training) suggesting that ‘all teachers’ would benefit from watching it!

Debbie’s PowerPoint – click here

Next, Anne Glennie talked about the lack of ambition and lack of phonics training in Scotland with her talk, ‘The Attainment Gap? What about the Teaching Gap?’ – and this is despite the fact that England and other countries internationally paid heed to the Clackmannanshire research (Johnston and Watson) conducted in Scottish schools.

Following Anne was Josie Mingay with her talk, ‘Phonics in the Secondary Classroom’. This talk generated a great deal of interest and Josie had more questions from the audience than anyone else. Clearly we still have weak literacy in many of our secondary schools – and this is surely why ALL teachers need to be trained in reading and spelling instruction, not just infant and primary teachers. In any event, a ‘beginner’ for whom English is a ‘new’ language, isn’t necessarily a five year old.

Sam Bailey was appointed headteacher of a struggling school with results well below national expectations. The theme of her talk was, ‘Transforming the life chances of our children – simple methods, great results’.She described in detail the rapid improvements with the adoption of Systematic Synthetic Phonics programmes (Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters and Phonics International) in a climate of support, expectation, challenge, and rigour.

Gordon Askew brought his wealth of knowledge and experience to bear for his excellent talk, ‘Assessment, including the Phonics Screening Check and assessing reading at the end of Key Stage One’. To be honest, his talk was not what one might have expected and it turned out to be quite inspirational considering the topic!

Marj Newbury is a retired Early Years teacher with 37 years experience, She has also delivered synthetic phonics training extensively in schools both in the UK and worldwide – including as guest lecturer in her local universities. Marj’s talk, ‘Teacher Training’ not only described her work, but also voiced her concern about changes to the way we are training teachers in England.

Angela Westington HMI CV (Her Majesty’s Inspector) was invited to talk about her very important Ofsted report, ‘How a sample of schools in Stoke-on-Trent teach pupils to read’. Angela has considerable experience of leading and participating in national surveys and what is so important about Angela’s report is the clear description of strong phonics and reading practice and weak practice. Angela was not filmed but her ‘Stoke-on-Trent’ report is a must read and you can find it via the link below:

Stoke-on-Trent report – click here

Finally, the RRF was very appreciative that Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Reform, rounded off the conference with his final ministerial speech prior to the general election in the UK, Nick Gibb has been at the forefront at looking closely at the findings of international research to inform reading instruction and championing changes in the statutory National Curriculum to incorporate Systematic Synthetic Phonics. The theme of his talk was, ‘The Importance of Phonics’:

Nick Gibb’s speech – click here

 

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