Systematic Failure: phonics and reading

I am not a primary school teacher and I don’t think I ever could be. I cannot master the dark arts that they purvey and control to survive. It is SUCH a skilled and nuanced professional track and I do not have the skill set to manage it. I just don’t.

But I do know how to teach kiddos to read.

I have done my dyslexia-specialist teacher training programme, for my sins, because it was brutally rigorous and incredibly demanding. So I know my stuff for this. I know that teaching reading is nuanced and complex and at times, it can seem like you take precisely 2789566544 steps backwards and to the side in order to scootch forward half a step.

For some children you need to do that and you need to do whatever strategies or programme that you need to do. Whether it’s looking at the shape of words and their roots, the suffixes and prefixes that you can add, how they sound, how they make their plurals, what your form your throat takes when you make the sounds. Whatever. You do whatever your kids need. Or so I thought. It’s what Teacher Standards say (standard 5, final bullet point). It’s what the SEND Code of Practice says all the way through (high quality teaching) and it’s what the bloody Equality Act says too: organisations have to make reasonable adjustments to prevent discrimination against individuals.

But apparently this isn’t true for teaching reading any more!

The new reading programme of study is possibly one of the most prescriptive, rigid sets of work I think I’ve encountered in a long time. Teachers are instructed that the only way to teach reading is through ‘systematic synthetic phonics’ programmes from a government-validated list. There is no room for deviation from that method, the list of programme or the methods proscribed within the programme.

That is a systemic failure. And quite possibly the most ridiculous proposal I’ve heard yet.

Teachers are not allowed to fulfil their standards or the criteria of the Equality Act 2010 by differentiating and adapting their teaching strategies or programmes to meet students’ needs. Not all students learn the same way and need different ‘ways in’. Some students need to be taught rime, shape and prosody of words and sounds. Other students don’t but English is a pretty ridiculous language in its spelling and we need flexibility in our approaches to be able to address that.

The new reading programme does not give us that and actually risks breaching about eleventy-billion rules, guidelines and laws in the process. It is utterly ridiculous!!

Just teach teachers to teach reading properly with lots of strategies and give kids who find it tricky wriggle room and funding to support their learning.

It’s not bloody rocket science!!!

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