Monday 9 April 2012

Haz the cat sat on the mat - and duz it matta?

During the election both coalition parties promised less "top down" micro-management from the centre. Now, by introducing tests on phonics into the infant schools, they are trying to dictate how children are taught to read. This is in stark contrast to the 50s when I trained as a teacher. Then it was our proud boast that, unlike the regimented French teachers , who were clearly not trusted by their governments, our teachers were free to teach whatever and however was in the best interests of their pupils.

I do not claim to be an expert on teaching reading, but, unlike, I suspect, those ministers who claim to know best, I have actually and successfully taught a handful of "backward" readers to read.

It is hardly rocket science, but seems to have escaped these know-all ministers that:

*all children are different;,
*some are ready to read before others (my next-door neighbours younger son reached "reading readiness" very early because he was desperate to read the instructions on his video-games);
*forcing young children to learn things before they are ready is usually a waste of time and often counter-productive;
*different children respond in different ways to different methods of learning to read.

In my brief period as a junior schools teacher (with one hectic half-term taking the reception class in the infants) reading was taught by "look and say" and phonetics. The standard system was "Janet and John" and page five contained the word "aeroplane", after reaching which every long word was "aeroplane" to some children.I'm sure that fifty years later things have moved on a bit but, in education as in medicine and most other areas it is a nonsense for politicians to be dictating the minutiae of professional practices. The result inevitably leads to a "tick box" mentality and lower standards.

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