Wednesday, March 22, 2006


All children should be reading independently by the age of 6, according to the author of an official reading review.

With a fifth of England's 11-year-olds unable to read and write properly, the Government yesterday accepted that schools must return to the "traditional" phonics method to raise standards. If they are taught well, every child should be able to read confidently within 18 months, Jim Rose, a former Ofsted director of inspections, who presented the findings, told The Times.

The move in effect abandons the central element of the national literacy hour, known as the "searchlights system", after the nine-month independent review found that it did not work. Since 1998, schools have been able to pick from a range of methods to teach children how to read. But from September, they will focus on one method, which will give 5-year-olds the "building blocks" to read by learning the sounds of the alphabet and blending them together into words. "It's a bit like numbers in maths. You wouldn't dream of teaching maths without it," Mr Rose said. "It gives children the building blocks to read - all the other approaches work, but in a less efficient, more distracting way."

Mr Rose said that other methods that have dominated since the 1960s, such as the "whole word" approach, where children recognise words alongside pictures, opened up "many more variables". He said that, ideally, all schools should employ a dedicated phonics teacher to undertake the change and sustain it, as had already occurred in some parts of the country. He believed that if phonics were taught well for 20 minutes a day from the first day of primary school, most children should be able to read within 18 months. "I'd have thought that by the time the child is 6 or 6 and a half, the vast majority ought to be showing promising progress, or reading a book on their own at least," he said.

Mr Rose's review, Teaching of Early Reading - whose initial findings were accepted by Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, in December - came after a seven-year project in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, found that children taught synthetic phonics exclusively were 3« years ahead of their peers in reading and 18 months ahead in writing at the end of primary school.

Mr Rose said that the "case for synthetic phonics was overwhelming", not only in raising standards in reading and writing overall but also in narrowing the gender gap, because boys in particular thrived with the more focused hands-on approach.

Ms Kelly confirmed yesterday that the phonics approach would be taught in all primary schools from September. "I am clear that synthetic phonics should be the first strategy in teaching all children to read. I want to be clear in the National Curriculum and we will now work with QCA on how best to do this," she said.

Teaching unions reacted with little enthusiasm. "Teachers will be bemused by the Government's proposal to promote synthetic phonics. Phonics is already at the heart of early-years teaching. They simply wish for an end to the reading wars," Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said


Federal vouchers to fund private education for slow learners in Australia

The parents of children who struggle to make the grade in maths and English could soon be able to send them to private schools under a taxpayer-funded voucher scheme. Education Minister Julie Bishop has flagged her support for an expansion of voucher programs, to also include disabled children. And as part of the push to improve literacy and numeracy, universities would be encouraged to establish centres of excellence for teacher training.

Releasing preliminary findings of a national pilot program offering $700 tutorial vouchers to students who fail to meet Year 3 reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop said parents had resoundingly endorsed the scheme, with 88 per cent "satisfied or very satisfied". However, tuition assessments showed that just 60 per cent of students actually improved their reading skills. Almost 70 per cent of tutors believed their students had improved.

Accusing the states of failing to invest enough in improving students' performance in reading benchmarks, Ms Bishop also backed debate on a voucher scheme in other areas. "I am quite supportive of the notion of vouchers across the board," she told The Australian. "The notion of vouchers to give parents choice is a notion that appeals to me. There are a whole range of areas where tutorial vouchers could be utilised. There is one with children with special needs. I think vouchers have a place there."

Prime Minister John Howard has previously ruled out a voucher scheme for all students that would allow parents to spend a taxpayer-funded grant at public or private schools. However, the Government has embraced the idea of $700 vouchers for students struggling with literacy.

Critics of the current funding model for schools have also argued that a voucher scheme already exists in practice, because students at both public and private schools all secure a basic grant from taxpayers.

Ms Bishop said she was also preparing to unveil major reforms to improve teacher training following complaints some universities were forced to run remedial literacy lessons for undergraduates. "What I think we can do is promote centres for excellence within universities," she said. "If there were a centre for excellence for teacher training other universities could draw upon that."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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