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Every Child a Reader

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					                                            THE RESPONSE OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF
                                          TEACHERS TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS SCIENCE
                                          AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE EVIDENCE CHECK:
                                                   LITERACY INTERVENTIONS




1.       The National Union of Teachers (NUT) welcomes the opportunity to respond
         to the evidence check. This submission focuses on Every Child a Reader
         and Making Good Progress.

Every Child a Reader

2.       The Every Child a Reader (ECaR) programme is the latest in a long line of
         intervention programmes managed by the National Literacy Strategy (NLS).
         Before considering ECaR in detail, it is worth considering the evidence base
         for the National Literacy Strategy itself.

3.       The NLS advocated consistently, until fairly recently, both a whole word and a
         phonics method of teaching reading, requiring the teaching of both decoding
         skills and the development of a sight vocabulary. The research rationale was
         never made explicit to teachers, however, and many would have been
         unaware of the reasons for this approach. Equally, few would be aware that
         when devising the Strategy, programmes and practices from around the world
         were considered. The NLS‟s shared reading approach and types of texts
         studied, for example, were heavily influenced by the Australian “First Steps”
         programme.

4.       Arguably the most significant piece of research that was used to inform the
         NLS “Framework for Teaching” was the evaluation of the National Literacy
         Project (NLP). The NLP was introduced in 1996 as a model of teaching and
         professional development intended to raise standards in literacy, drawing on
         other similar international programmes that had a proven track record. The
         independent research evidence used to push for the NLS1 only appeared,
         however, several months after the implementation of the NLS framework in
         September 1998. Such post-hoc justification cannot be described as
         evidence-based policy making.

5.       Similarly, the publication by Government of the evidence base for the NLS2
         took place a year after its implementation, limiting any meaningful critical
         discussion of its merits. This publication was accompanied by a number of
         references to research reviews which supported the approach taken to the
         teaching of reading by the NLS. Most of this evidence, however, came from
         the USA rather than the UK. Reviews which reached different conclusions
         were not included. With such an unstable evidence base on which to proceed
         with a major national initiative, the focus of the Committee‟s enquiry is
         welcome, if long over due.


1
 Sainsbury M et al, „Evaluation of the National Literacy Project’, NFER, 1998.
2
 Beard R., “NLS:Review of Research and Other Related Evidence”, DfEE/University of
Leeds, 1999.


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6.       In addition, a key feature of the NLS was the evaluation carried out by a team
         at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISEUT). An evaluation is
         no substitute for research to inform the development of a funded national
         initiative. The various intervention programmes which have sprung from the
         NLS, as well as whatever replaces mainstream literacy teaching support
         when the Strategies are discontinued, should incorporate future research, in
         collaboration with schools and higher education institutions, to ensure growth.

7.       ECaR is informed, in part, by the well-respected and much-evaluated
         Reading Recovery programme developed by Marie Clay in New Zealand,
         which aims to reduce literacy failure in education systems through early
         intervention. This has been subject to a large number of national and
         international evaluations of its effectiveness since it was first established in
         1976 – 77 and has been the focus of an annual national monitoring
         programme since 1984. In addition, it is a structural feature of Reading
         Recovery implementation to report annually on the progress and outcome
         data for every child receiving tuition. This information is used to monitor
         effectiveness, ensure a high quality of delivery, and to continuously assess
         and re-adjust the design of the implementation

8.       The ECaR project was first run as a pilot scheme by the KPMG Foundation
         between 2005 and 2008. Its main aims included securing sustainable
         investment for widespread implementation of Reading Recovery and
         exploring how intensive support in reading could be provided in the most cost-
         effective way nationally.

9.       In the ECaR programme, children in Year 1 and 2 who are struggling to learn
         to read and to write may be offered a programme of interventions, of which
         Reading Recovery is one element. Unlike the “pure” model of Reading
         Recovery, not all children receive individual tuition from specially trained
         teachers, only those who are experiencing the most difficulty. The rest are
         typically taught by support staff, who will have received some training from
         the specialist Reading Recovery teacher in school. ECaR may also be
         delivered to groups of children, rather than on a one-to-one basis. Whilst this
         obviously addresses the brief regarding cost-effectiveness, it ignores the
         particular benefits identified in the research literature by these two central
         features of Reading Recovery.

10.      Another key difference between ECaR and Reading Recovery is that, for the
         latter, nominated teachers undertake a year-long in-service course run by a
         Reading Recovery tutor in their area. During fortnightly sessions throughout
         the course, teachers are trained in the use of specific Reading Recovery
         teaching procedures, while working daily with a minimum of four children.
         Although ECaR teachers also undertake a year‟s Reading Recovery training
         in England, they are expected to cascade their training to other colleagues,
         including support staff, who will be responsible for the delivery of other ECaR
         intervention programmes.

11.      There is certainly a substantial body of research literature which suggests that
         the most effective interventions are those offered to children in their first years
         of schooling. The NUT supports the longer-term strategy of ECaR, of
         identifying children who are failing to make acceptable progress at the end of
         Year 1 and providing intensive support to help them “catch up”. The NUT has
         serious concerns, however, that the programme “is designed to get a child
         with their needs back to age appropriate expectations” and that children are


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         identified as suitable for Wave 2 ECaR if they are “just below national
         expectations”, with Wave 3 designated for children who are either “struggling”
         or “lowest attaining”.

12.      The Government‟s concept of “age appropriate expectations” is worrying in
         relation to ECaR because of the age of the children who will be subject to it.
         Due to developments in neurophysiology there is now increasing evidence to
         support the view that up to the age of eight, children develop at markedly
         different rates or, as some more experienced teachers might describe them,
         some children are “late bloomers”. It is essential that a clear distinction is
         made between those who genuinely do have cognitive difficulties and those
         who simply require a little more time.

Making Good Progress

13.      Making Good Progress (MGP) contains potentially radical proposals for the
         future of assessment and personalised learning. The NUT believes, however,
         that, despite the DCSF‟s assertion in the initial Making Good Progress
         consultation document, that “the issues … should be the subject of a larger
         and wider agenda which should involve debate across the school system”,
         any potential for such a debate is diminished by its insistence on maintaining
         a high stakes approach to assessment and accountability. The NUT is not
         aware of and has not seen any research evidence which the DCSF may have
         used to establish the MPG framework.

14.      The nature and purpose of summative assessment has been the subject of
         intense debate for 20 years, as the initial consultation document itself
         acknowledged. Research evidence has overwhelmingly concluded that the
         current high stakes system of testing and assessment undermines children‟s
         learning. That successive governments have chosen to ignore, not only
         overwhelming research evidence, but developments in assessment in Wales
         and Scotland, is simply a failure of evidence informed policy-making.

15.      MGP seems to be based on the DCSF‟s extraordinary assertion that the
         “framework of tests, targets and performance tables have helped drive up
         standards in the past decade”. There is no evidence that such a framework
         has achieved this objective.

16.      The establishment of MGP was driven by the DfES‟s concern that “the rate of
         progress… has slowed in the past few years”. Again, it is unclear why the
         Government thinks that improvement takes place consistently and
         incrementally.




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