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Wwelcome to your new position as secretary of education. In your speech at the Conservative Party conference, you drew our attention to the fact that you were in school. Since that was your goal, I took a look at your wikipedia page to see where you got your education. He says two of your three high schools were private. No one is responsible for the education their parents have chosen for them, but since you wanted to thank your teachers, some of us might like all students to have the same facilities that are offered in the area. private. I found a phrase to bring it about: “leveling up”. Don’t hesitate to use it.

One of the main themes of your speech was “illiteracy”. To tell the truth, I thought your government had cracked this. In 2011, I was in the House of Commons for the launch that year of the Summer Reading Challenge. We were fortunate to have a speech by then Minister of Schools Nick Gibb. He went straight to his favorite subject: phonetics – or to be more precise, systematic synthetic phonetics (SSP). He said the SSP would “eradicate illiteracy”.

He then went ahead and transformed the nursery, reception, years 1 and 2 and remedial classes in English, working according to his principle of “first, quick and alone”. In other words, SSP has become the only diet for infants as they learn to decode. To confirm that all was going well with this – and to monitor the quality of teachers’ teaching – the government developed the noise screening check, a test that asks children to say words out loud on a list. , some of which are made up words without meaning.

Although most officials are careful to describe this as “decoding” and not as reading, I have noticed that Gibb himself has sometimes described this act of saying words aloud as reading, speaking of “The proven phonetics teaching method. young children to read ”.

Now, 10 years after Gibb said about it, you say you are going to fight illiteracy. You will be dealing with children who do not “read”!

A quick glance at who was in charge of this program over the past 10 years until recently reveals that it was Nick Gibb, the continuing hand on the bar of eradicating illiteracy.

At some point, I think you will have to explain to us exactly what your government has done, eradicate illiteracy or not?

Going back to 2005, your former Prime Minister David Cameron made a fuss about it: “The biggest problem facing education today is that one in five 11 year olds is dropping out of school. elementary school without knowing how to read correctly. he said. The expression he used later, in 2011, and which others have used since, is that your party would demand that schools put in “the way that is proven”.

Seeming to echo this, you said in your speech, “We will focus relentlessly on what works. It has an earthy and rugged feel about it, suggesting that you have years of research to back you up. My first problem with this is that if you tackle illiteracy now, after 10 years of Nick Gibb’s methods, is that really what has been proven to work?

Second, people who study reading tests across the English-speaking world – like distinguished linguist Professor Stephen Krashen – tell me that so far they have found evidence that early phonic systems only quickly and simply improve ability. of children saying words out loud. on a list – which I hope we agree is not the same as “reading”.

My third problem comes if we refer to another test that your government is very attached to: the Stage 2 Key English Reading Test (for 11-year-olds). Here, children are asked to show that they can extract information from a passage of writing; that they can “deduce” why something happened in the passage; and that they can reproduce the order or the chronology of the passage. (By the way, I’ll say my take is that reading involves a lot more process than retrieval, inference, and timeline, but let’s agree that testing is a measure of a certain amount of “comprehension.”)

You now know that children score much higher on grade one tests than on grade six tests. These are of course very different ways of measuring what kids can do, of testing different things, so why should they match? No reason why they would – except that everyone who trumpeted the introduction of the first, quick and unique synthetic phonetics, claimed it would eradicate illiteracy. In other words, every child would be able to “read” and not just “decode”. There would be no illiteracy.

I would be the last to suggest that anyone who does not reach the expected level by the age of 10 or 11 is “illiterate”. This is why I am curious as to why you used this word. Are you really talking about the pupils who have been educated in England since 2011? There are of course children who arrived late in the system but all the others were educated according to the principles of Nick Gibb. Many parents will wonder what is wrong with the system that your government declared 10 years ago to be “proven to work”.

Yours, Michael Rosen


theguardian Gt

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