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Andrew Davis says imposition of phonics almost abuse (TES)
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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:01 am    Post subject: Andrew Davis says imposition of phonics almost abuse (TES) Reply with quote

http://news.tes.co.uk/b/news/2014/01/27/synthetic-phonics-imposition-is-39-almost-abuse-39-says-academic.aspx

Quote:
Imposing synthetic phonics is 'almost abuse', says academic


by Helen Ward TES

Davis said:

Quote:
“Teachers can learn a lot from educational research, but must be left to make professional decisions.”


Quote:
But Debbie Hepplewhite, one of the prime advocates of synthetic phonics and author of the Phonics International programme, said that she fundamentally disagreed with Davis.

“What is extraordinary and very worrying is that some academics think that teachers should have the autonomy not to teach the alphabetic code, the link between sounds and letters, or to teach it less thoroughly or just teach it to some children," Ms Hepplewhite said.

“It shouldn’t be controversial, teaching the alphabetic code should be like teaching the times tables. To use language like ‘child abuse’ just makes no sense.”


If teachers are left to make 'professional decisions', the danger is that they are not studied well enough in the field of reading and spelling - choices must be fully informed and we know that teachers are not necessarily knowledgeable enough with regard to research findings, or perhaps experienced enough in synthetic phonics teaching, to be in a position to make informed choices.

In any event, it should not be down to the chance of who the teacher is, and the teacher's views and knowledge-base, when children go to school - we DO have research findings and leading-edge practice to inform us - but not everyone wants to 'hear' or has had the training and experience to be fully knowledgeable.

The fact that the teaching profession even abandoned teaching the alphabetic code of the English language demonstrates that what teachers teach in the field of reading instruction is beyond individuals' 'professional choices'.

I suggest that it would be remiss of governments in countries where there is illiteracy and weak literacy not to investigate the research and not to inform and influence the teaching profession.

This field is just far too serious.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And here is the BBC piece on Davis's paper:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25917646

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

Quote:
Able readers damaged by phonics, academic says


Quote:
'Mechanical exercise'

"Being forced to move back from reading for meaning to a mechanical exercise of blending and decoding is likely to be off-putting," he said.

He added that the fundamentalist approach to synthetic phonics "threatens the interests of a minority of children who arrive at school already able to read".

"The vast majority of Early Years teachers handle this kind of challenge with their usual professionalism, and will continue to do so if they are not troubled by rigid prescriptions from policy makers," he said.

Quote:
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Too many children are not reaching the expected levels of reading at a young age, do not catch up, and then struggle in secondary school and beyond.

"Research shows overwhelmingly that systematic phonics is the most effective way of teaching reading to children of all abilities, enabling almost all children to become confident and independent readers.

"Thanks to the phonics check 177,000 six-year-olds will this year get the extra reading help they need to catch up with their peers."


What is extremely worrying is that Davis's paper has been taken seriously enough to generate a seminar!

If you glance at the many readers' 'comments', you get a reflection of how little people really know and understand about the teaching of the very complex English alphabetic code -and that teaching the code is about teaching spelling (yes - from the age of four in England and often sooner in some settings!) and not just reading.

Even if some children enter school ready-launched on the road to reading, they still deserve to be taught about the English alphabetic code for their intellectual knowledge and also for spelling purposes - and for reading and spelling more challenging text as they get older.

This is not a case of teach some children and not others.

Most literate adults fail to realise just how much they call upon some form of 'phonics' for reading and spelling new, longer and more challenging words! They use 'phonics' sub-consciously and because they may not have been taught the alphabetic code explicitly or systematically when they were children, they simply don't appreciate the role of phonics for life-long reading and spelling.

As I have said, and will continue to say repeatedly, the starting point is the common use of Alphabetic Code Charts which make clear the rationale of the alphabetic code and which list most letter/s-sound correspondences.

That is why I provide them free of charge and will always do so here:

www.alphabeticcodecharts.com

I believe this notion of the alphabetic code as a tangible chart is as important as 'the alphabet' or 'the times tables' or 'the periodic table'.

By the way, Davis declined the offer to visit a school local to him to observe phonics teaching in action.

I suggest his paper reveals he really doesn't know much at all about the content and teaching in good systematic synthetic phonics and linguistic phonics programmes.

In which case, he is speaking from a position of being insufficiently 'informed'. In his IMPACT paper, there is a section where he meanders with his musings about the alphabetic code raising the issue of accents and spelling alternatives which arguably indicates he is unaware of the way these complexities are addressed in good phonics programmes and as part of good phonics teaching.

If he did understand more of what is covered and involved, he would surely not be suggesting that four or five year olds who come to school reading already should not be taught phonics!!!!! Shocked
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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://news.tes.co.uk/b/opinion/2014/01/28/39-a-plague-on-the-fundamentalism-of-synthetic-phonics-39.aspx

More developments:

I've been invited to discuss this issue with Davis via a BBC Radio 4 PM live interview at 5.30pm today!

Excellent - I welcome the opportunity! Wink
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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK - I've now done the radio interview -frustrated that there is such little time when so much could be discussed, and needs to be discussed - otherwise interviews are in danger of becoming superficial soundbites.

I'm just glancing at Twitter and saw this link with different responses to the Davis paper:


http://educationmediacentre.org/newsreactions/whats-the-harm-in-phonics-experts-differ/

Quote:
What’s the harm in phonics?…experts differ

Expert reactions on the teaching of phonics, as published in IMPACT*
Following on from today’s media reports, for example on BBC on line, which raised some criticism about the teaching of synthetic phonics, Dr David Waugh, Director of Primary PGCE, School of Education, Durham University, commented:

“There are probably more myths surrounding the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) than truths, and my considerable experience of working in and observing teaching in primary schools suggests that the practices described in Andrew Davis’ article are unusual.

The Rose Review (2006) placed great emphasis upon phonics being taught in the context of a broad, rich language curriculum, with lots of experience of good quality literature. Without that, why would children want to learn grapheme-phoneme correspondence and acquire the ability to blend sounds to make words? Teachers, and many parents, are highly skilled at making texts appealing and engaging, and at showing children that they will be able to read them independently once they have acquired the basic skills, such as phonemic awareness.

While there are certainly some schools which limit much of children’s early reading to phonically regular texts as they acquire phonemic awareness, I know of no school which does not expose them to a wide range of stories, poems and other texts on a regular basis. And these texts will certainly include irregular words – it would be impossible not to, given that many of our most common words are phonically irregular (the, was, once, one, who etc).

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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://johnbald.typepad.com/language/2014/01/dr-david-davis-on-synthetic-phonics-1.html

John Bald's view of the Davis paper described on his language and literacy blog:

Quote:
January 28, 2014

Dr Andrew Davis on synthetic phonics.

R4 has just presented a debate between Dr Andrew Davis of Durham University and Debbie Hepplewhite, whose phonics materials are on the government's approved list. Dr Davis has just written what he calls "a short book", freely downloadable here.

Its ready availability is, unfortunately, the only good thing about it. I'm more than a little surprised at the lack of reference to the specific research on which government policy is based - the full version of the Clackmannanshire study carried out by Professor Rhona Johnson and Dr Joyce Watson - or to the supporting materials, which do spell out exactly what is done in the detail he says is often lacking. Most of his argument is based on personal views and things people have told him - ie hearsay, not what he has observed himself. His view that it is "a fantasy" to suggest that it is possible to research a method of teaching reading is shared by no-one I know in the reading community on any side of the argument, and his suggestion that phonics be used "on occasion with words children don't know" is an unsubstantiated personal view of the first order.

Not a good piece of research. Not research at all, in fact a rant. The R4 debate reminded me of the Monty Python Sketch about a five minute argument, though Debbie Hepplewhite remained calm despite the provocation of such ill-informed criticism. Dr Davis has, I think, not taught anyone to read for quite a long time.

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debbie



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 9:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03s71cx

Here is the link for the BBC Radio 4 PM interview with Dr Andrew Davis and myself.

Click on the video which will reveal the time band. Go to 43 minutes on the time band for the starting point of the interview - and it lasts about 10 minutes.

It is only available to listen to for seven days from today - Tuesday 28 January 2014. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/andrew-daviss-damp-squib.html

Thanks to John Walker of the 'Sounds-Write' programme for yet another sensible posting on his Literacy Blog:

Quote:
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Andrew Davis's damp squib

As expected, yesterday’s interview with Debbie Hepplewhite and Andrew Davis on Radio 4’s PM programme followed the usual course of the debates between phonics advocates and the anti-phonics lobby. As such, it was highly instructive.

Before I could write about the exchange, I had to listen to it again because, as often happens with phonics deniers, I couldn’t remember a single thing of note that Davis had said, so feeble and spiritless was he. Whenever I listen to a phonics denier there is usually a lot of mumbling about rich literary texts and what not but never any evidence. On the other hand, Debbie Hepplewhite was, given the limitations of time, clear, confident and forthright in what she wanted to get across. Her message was simple: the English alphabet code is more complex than other alphabetic languages and it is harder to teach. For this reason alone, it needs to be taught systematically and in a carefully sequenced way.


People listening to the interview may well say that Davis states that he
supports phonics teaching and is not anti-phonics - but then why the fuss he has kicked up in the first place? All the detractors from phonics in the UK say that they do 'believe' in phonics but then they go on to make a big deal about teachers being expected to teach the alphabetic code and phonics skills nowadays - and they also say that phonics is 'not reading' and it is 'anti-meaning' and it is an 'imposition' and challenges teachers' professionalism.

Really?

Quote:
Despite the fact that Davis came across very ineffectually, every time he and others who are deemed, because of their positions as university lecturers or prominent authors, question the efficacy of good quality phonics instruction, it strengthens the hands of LEA advisers, head teachers and others who do everything in their power to undermine its progress. For that reason, we should always be prepared to challenge the siren song of the opposers of phonics. What's at stake is the future of our children's literacy.


This is at the heart of the matter - that so many people in authority continue to spend considerable time and effort 'to undermine its progress' - that is, 'good quality phonics instruction'.

The evidence that this is the case is in the media aplenty. Confused
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Susan



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Someone on twitter accused you of not showing enough deference by calling him 'Mr' rather than 'Professor' Davis Rolling Eyes
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debbie



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realised that in hindsight - but it was only the pressure of the circumstances! Did they consider that I'd done it deliberately do you think?

For goodness sake!

Not much to complain about, then, in the scale of things surely!!! Confused

Was it someone you're 'following' and I'm not?

Actually - the opposite to intentional lack of deference is true - I call everyone by their first names usually and in my way I was being very polite under the circumstances to refer to him as Mr Davis!

That is ironic is it not! Wink

Actually - I have demonstrated lack of deference for Davis's paper because I have publicly described my view that his paper is ridiculous and did not warrant either the national attention - or becoming the basis of a conference.

These national developments, however, show the level of appetite for rallying around anything which might decry the need for universal phonics teaching for all learners! Crying or Very sad
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Susan



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The twitter person was using an Ad Hominem, attacking you rather than your argument, probably because they didn't have the ability to counter your argument.
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debbie



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.energyfm.net/cms/news_story_299155.html

This is a news item for the Isle of Man:

Quote:
Island won't follow UK on 'phonics' testing
Wed, 29 Jan 2014

The Department of Education and Children says it won’t follow the UK by testing all primary school pupils using the phonics method.

Used to teach children to read - the system requires them to decode simple words and use made-up words to help them learn.

The UK will be testing children nationwide, but an Island-based primary school adviser says it should be seen as part of a wider pool of teaching processes.

Research by the UK’s National Association for the Teachers of English has suggested that an over-emphasis on phonics “can do more harm than good”.

Caroline Savin says all children learn in different ways, something they aim to cater for in the Island:

Here we go yet again - another advisor who thinks we need to use 'professionalism' to ration phonics according to individual gaps and that children need a 'range of strategies' (whilst not specifying what those 'strategies' might be exactly). Play the very short video clip.

She has missed the point that the advent of the Year One Phonics Screening Check has definitely sharpened minds as to the notion of being more effective at teaching phonics illustrated by how well children decode the words in the check in like-settings and regardless of types of settings. The results for the check have risen notably over the three years including the pilot check - so far more children can now lift the words off the page more readily and accurately. GOOD!

Without this national objective look at children's decoding capacity in England, many teachers would have been clueless as to their effectiveness compared with others.

How do people in authority account for their reluctance, and refusal, to support a simple objective check of teaching and learning results - especially when good literacy is life-chance stuff for so many of our children?

It all boils down to the immorality of it being 'pot luck' as to what children receive.

The argument for 'trusting teachers' professionalism' should really not be the issue in this extremely important field - and it is to totally disregard the overwhelming findings of research and leading-edge practice.

As I say repeatedly, applying rational thought - all teachers need to teach the code of their languages really well. Why wouldn't they?

Is it because people think they know better and don't like the idea of having to change their practice and increase/improve their professional knowledge - outside of their comfort zones?

Is it because of the overwhelming notions of individualism and differentiation pervading our schools and practices?

Just because historically we haven't taught the alphabetic code and phonics skills at all, or comprehensively, or systematically, in English-speaking contexts and countries, doesn't mean we shouldn't move forwards by all becoming excellent teachers of the English alphabetic code and phonics skills.

The challenge is transcending such embedded views and personal views.

The logic is so incredibly simple and yet alludes so many apparently educated people - teach the alphabetic code of the country well for reading and for spelling.

Currently, so many people in authority are not even aware of what the English alphabetic code actually amounts to and what 'teaching well' amounts to - or even what modern, quality phonics programmes and practice really look like.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/catherine-scott-sounding-out-arguments-over-learning-to-read-1-6405996

The Yorkshire Post - more rallying under the Davis paper umbrella.

This is particularly galling as it is featuring 'Biff, Chip and Kipper' - which is associated with the Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters programme!

I can reassure anyone that my 'two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching' approach is extremely comprehensive and the level of knowledge and information afforded to teachers and learners via the Oxford Reading Tree Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters programme from the outset of phonics teaching (of which I am the phonics consultant and official training provider) is excellent.

We don't even know from the piece above whether the school concerned used Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters at all - or whether, for example, they used another programme, or no programme, to provide any phonics teaching.

One problem, however (and this is grave), is that when I visit or re-visit schools, I have yet to find teachers following my guidance properly and fully - in fact, they often disregard the guidance/training with the notion that they have "adapted the programme to suit their children".

So here we have Davis and others fighting the corner for 'teachers' professional judgement' which would uphold the right for all this 'adaptation' but which is in danger of fundamentally undermining the very careful design of not only use of the resources but also the underpinning training and/or guidance.

If teachers followed good programmes properly, children wouldn't still be using any form of scheme books beyond Year One!

I would aim for children being truly independent readers at a very early age which for the vast, vast majority is possible - actually - probable.

Sadly, these individual 'anecdotes' which are becoming increasingly prevalent do not begin to touch the details of the issues - and they are being published in the public domain with no opportunity to respond via the article itself.

I've also posted this same comment on the UK Reading Reform Foundation message forum where a thread has been developing for some time:

http://rrf.org.uk/messageforum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5887
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is an extremely sensible and evidence-based response to the Davis paper by Professor Morag Stuart of the Department of Psychology and Human Development at the Institute of Education, University of London:

http://educationmediacentre.org/blog/government-imposition-of-synthetic-phonics-is-damaging-able-readers-really/

Government imposition of synthetic phonics is "damaging able readers". Really?

Quote:
I will tackle two issues from this article: are able readers being damaged by the imposition of synthetic phonics teaching? And is the government really imposing only synthetic phonics in the teaching of reading?

“Government imposition of synthetic phonics is “damaging able readers” is the title of Mr Davis’s press release, yet he provides no evidence at all to support this position. He simply states:

“A small minority begin their schooling as readers. I do not mean that they can merely decode simple texts, but that they can read for meaning. A larger number are not quite at this stage, but, nevertheless, have made significant progress. Even if they cannot recognise many words, they know some, and have begun to grasp that written text can be transformed into meaning. To subject either the fully-fledged readers, or those who are well on their way, to a rigid diet of intensive phonics is an affront to their emerging identities as persons. To require this of students who have already gained some maturity in the rich and nourishing human activity of reading is almost a form of abuse.”

In the absence of evidence that children already reading on school entry are being damaged by the imposition of synthetic phonics teaching, let’s consider how likely this is.


Quote:
To summarise: the statutory requirements for the teaching of reading go well beyond a requirement to teach synthetic phonics. It’s expected teachers are given sufficient information about the pupils entering their classes in Year 1 to group them appropriately to their learning needs.

If the kinds of teaching practices that Davis describes do exist, and he offers no evidence to support that, a claim they are to be found in government policy is wrong and offers no excuse.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon Knight has written about the Davis paper on his blog 'Finding Knowledge':


http://people.kmi.open.ac.uk/knight/2014/01/to-read-or-not-to-read-decoding-synthetic-phonics/

I've posted some comments and links to the BBC Radio 4 PM interview and Prof Morag Stuart's response to Davis, and of course I'm pleased to be engaged with Simon about this issue.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John Walker writes about yet another challenge to phonics teaching - this time by Sue Lyle who lectures at Swansea University - poor students!


http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/prate-and-lyle.html

John writes:
Quote:
The article ‘The limits of phonics teaching’ betrays a lack of knowledge about the way in which the writing system is linked to the sounds of the language that is, even by the poorly informed standards of whole language proponents, quite staggeringly awful. The fact that it also comes from someone who is a Welsh teacher trainer from Swansea Metropolitan University and that it is going to go out in TeachingTimes simply compounds the awfulness of this caricature of what phonics teaching is.

Once the nonsensical and snide allusion to ‘commercial’ schemes has been dispensed with, Sue Lyle starts of well enough, informing the reader that a phoneme is the smallest unit of sound and that there are forty-four sounds in English. But that’s about it!

We get the usual stuff: the government, it seems, ‘assumes that simple decoding is all that is required in reading’. Of course, the DfE thinks no such thing. However, this is small beer in comparison with the egregious errors she makes in her attempt to travesty phonics.


Sue's lack of knowledge and understanding about the alphabetic code and about teaching the alphabetic code really is enough to make one weep.



Crying or Very sad
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