Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Amazing nuggets from C4's Lost for Words initiative.

I was watching with admiration at the changes to pupils in the Channel 4 Dispatches programme the other day, two years on from when they began an experiment to introduce synthetic phonics to an East London school, Monteagle Primary (H. Lynne Thompson).

Two points leapt out at me. One was the bone-headed mentality of the Dept of Schools, Education, Children, Families, Non-judgemental nuclear relationship units not necessarily based upon shared genetic backround, My Little Pony etc. 

Instead of synthetic phonics, costing, for the school in question £27,000 per year for the entire school of 4-11 year olds, they recommend schools to use their chosen one-on-one remedial technique (name escapes me, anyone?) that would have cost £100,000 for each age group, i.e. £100,000 for the 7-year-olds, another £100,000 for the 8 year olds etc etc. The teachers/coaches would need to be specialists, only usable after extensive training and only able to handle 9 kids a year, hence the high cost. 

Note to self: I wonder if  those in DETRiTUS (Dept of Education Teachers, and Regulations in Training, Universities and Schools) who decided this approach have any direct, indirect or other link to the companies who provide such expensive training to those coaches? By contrast, existing teachers can learn synthetic phonics rapidly and teach large groups...

The second, more shocking point was that all the teachers at the school had not been taught how to teach children how to read. I'll say that again another way - Teacher Training College had NOT taught all these Primary School teachers how to teach kids to read. That is like going on a driving course and not being taught about the steering wheel, brakes and accelerator! What is double scary is that few of these Primary Schoolteachers even QUESTIONED the fact that this monumentally important aspect, the very foundation of primary education was absent. The term "Duh!" does not quite cover it. It is, I suspect, a testament to the utterly poor education those teachers got before going to Teacher Training College that is responsible - a lack of critical reasoning and free thinking.

Still, things are being done by a TV Channel that the State does not seem to have a grip on*. Figures. They now look to improve Maths - good luck to them, I am sure they will do a better job than the State.

* It does seem that the State has an initiative on synthetic phonics, but as is so often the case the real message gets lost in all the bureaucracy, turf and ideology and a religious minset adopted, so the resulting plan seems to involve taking delivery of a truck load of FAIL. The State cannot lead. When it follows it tries to barge in front or trip up the leader. Best it just GETS OUT OF THE WAY, eh?

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