Monday, 13 June 2016

Education Scotland: the puzzle about the attainment gap

Now I have my own ideas about what would narrow the educational attainment gap between those at the top and the bottom of society, and like many other people, standardised testing is not one of them. So, given the recent pronouncements of John Swinney,  I went in pursuit of teachers` opinions which seemed a bit mixed and all over the place.

Then I came across a most extraordinary post from the Learning Zoo: This is a blog by Anne Glennie who says of herself on Twitter, with 2,130 followers, that she is a Primary Teacher, Literacy Consultant & Trainer, who resides in the Isle of Lewis. Her tweets have obtained 2,988 likes. 

What she noted was that the Education Scotland website had presented two contradictory versions of why disadvantaged children have difficulty with reading. One presented the answer to that as a failure of children to learn the letter-sound relationships. (Phonetics) and this was the original version: 
Children need to develop a number of inter-connected skills to learn to read successfully. An important first step is for children to develop decoding skills, through the teaching of phonics (how letters are linked to sounds) and phonological awareness. A balanced reading programme should also develop children`s fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Evidence from Scotland shows that children from disadvantaged background are more likely to have difficulties with their reading. One of the key factors which drives this appears to be the quality of  of the home learning environment, which can influence children`s phonological awareness, vocabulary development and oral language.
As a result, phonics-based approaches are more likely to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds master the basics of reading.
Anne Glennie celebrated the fact that Education Scotland had finally `got it` as I would have too.

However, that was short lived when she realised that Education Scotland had surreptitiously changed the text a few weeks later:

Learning to read is complex. Children must develop a range of inter-connected skills and knowledge. Some skills and knowledge develop as a result of direct instruction and practice. Others develop more slowly, through children having many repeated experiences with books.
Evidence shows that children from disadvantaged backrounds in Scotland are less likely to attain well in their reading. Key factors which drive this appear to be the quantity of reading experiences that young children have at home and the quality of those experiences. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to have less access to high-quality picture books, their home reading experiences tend to be less frequent and their conversations with adults about books tend to be shorter, less playful and narrower in scope. Home learning environments influence children`s views of what reading is for, their knowledge of books and stories, their phonological awareness, letter knowledge, vocabulary and oral language development.

The puzzle was that both posts were dated February 2016 and no acknowledgement of any edit was given.

She asked many questions about that and then this one.

"Did Education Scotland knowingly deceive practitioners by quietly removing the old document and publishing a look-a-likey replacement, hoping that no-one would notice the complete u-turn in advice?"

Well, yes I would say so.

How else are the authorities going to promote early interventions and interfering in the lives of women (families) from the first trimester  (12 weeks of pregnancy) and the Named Person, (chief gardener) fantasy?

Reading must not be about a tried and trusted teaching method for which the evidence is overwhelming, if the GIRFEC named person theory is to survive. It`s got to be about families and the early years.

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