RRF Conference 2008: M. Grant 'Saying “NO!” to Waste'

Transcripts and Reports of Talks given at past RRF Conferences.
Susan Godsland

RRF Conference 2008: M. Grant 'Saying “NO!” to Waste'

Post by Susan Godsland »

Dr. Marlynne Grant: Chartered educational psychologist and author of the high quality phonics programme, Sound Discovery.

Saying “NO!” to Waste

Power Point Slide 0

Today we are saying, “NO!” to waste. “No” to the waste of money in education and
“No” to the waste in children’s lives through ineffective teaching of literacy.
Imagine for a minute a whole cohort of 90 children entering Reception into three
parallel classes. Unfortunately their baseline assessments are very low. On a scale
of A to E, they are E for language (the lowest) and D for social skills. Poor things,
but this is the reality that many of us face today in our classes. In this cohort there
is a high level of special needs, there are few books in their homes and parental
education is not high.
What are their chances of success? Where will they be at the end of Reception (at
age 5), at the end of Key Stage 1 (at age 7) and at the end of Key Stage 2 (at age
11)? Has their life script already been written?
Would you believe it if I told you what such children would achieve:
• On average, 15 months above chronological age for their word reading and spelling
at the end of Reception
• 95% would achieve national expectations for English KS1 SATs (at age 7)
• 94% would achieve at least national expectations for English KS2 SATs (at age 11)
• Even better, 65% would achieve Level 5 for English KS2 SATS (expectations for
14 year olds)
• Best of all, none, not a single child would achieve less than Level 3B for English
Not a single child has been omitted or disapplied from the results I am going to be
telling you about today. Every one with all their range of complex needs has been
included. This includes the Down’s Syndrome children, the children with moderate
and severe learning difficulties and the children with complex language difficulties.
Every child included. Every child eventually a reader!
So, how were these results achieved? That’s the adventure I’m going to be telling
you about this afternoon?
I’m Marlynne Grant, a practising Educational Psychologist for a Local Authority and
the author of Sound Discovery®, assessed by DCSF assessors as meeting all the
criteria for a high quality synthetic phonics programme.
First, I’m going to tell you about my experiences as an Educational Psychologist and
then about my research: 8 consecutive years research with whole cohorts of
Reception pupils and also longitudinal studies following children to the end of their

Primary Education. I’m also going to point you to other independent research studies
by Local Authorities using my programme as a Wave 3 intervention with their dyslexic

Power Point Slide 1

This slide refers to studies following children to the end of their Primary Education,
taken from the House of Commons Select Committee report. Both studies showed
better short and long term results than NLS. They were the Johnston and Watson
study in Scotland and the Grant study in England. I am going to tell you about the
Grant study in England.

Power Point Slide 2

How has literacy been taught during my time as an Educational Psychologist?
During the 1970s it was through look and say with the use of graded readers.
In the 1980s it was through whole language where the underlying rationale was that,
“learning to read was as easy as learning to speak”. The role of the teacher was as
facilitator and do you remember the use of “magic lines”?
What was outcome of all this? Frankly it was reading failure. I know this
professionally and personally. Professionally, I was working for the Dyslexia
Institute at the time and saw the misery first hand of the children and parents
coming through our doors. Personally, half of my son’s class were taken by their
parents to the local Dyslexia Centre. This was from a middle class school, where the
parents were professional, well educated and committed to their children’s education,
whose houses were bursting with books and who had shared books with their children
and read with them since the cradle.
Did the Educational Establishment not question teaching methods at this time?
Generally, no. Instead they thought the problem must lie within the child, the child’s
inability to learn to read, which they called dyslexia. More and more children were
labelled dyslexic.
There were voices of reason around at this time:
One such was Jonathan Solity (academic Educational Psychologist) who proposed an
Instructional Theory of Dyslexia. He said:
get the instruction wrong and you create illiteracy;
get the instruction right and children will learn to read.

Another was Martin Turner, Chief Psychologist with the Dyslexia Institute. He said
that the majority of children coming to his clinic were, “suffering from instructional
dysfunction, not a dysfunction within the child.”
In the 1990s it was realised that there needed to be more structure to the teaching
of literacy. There was analytic phonics, synthetic phonics and the National Literacy
Strategy. At this point I would like to pay tribute to early pioneers of synthetic
phonics like Mona McNee, Sue Lloyd and Jenny Chew who opened my eyes to what was
possible. But I could not interest my schools in synthetic phonics. It was so
different from Whole Language and how they were being advised to teach their
So, I looked at the research into Whole Language and found there were serious
concerns about it in the literature. Why was this not being taken seriously by the
Educational Establishment?
I then looked at the principles underpinning synthetic phonics. Did the research say
that the key elements were effective in improving literacy? The literature said that
they were effective.
So, I felt confident in trying to make a case for synthetic phonics. I wrote a paper
about the research which went to the Elected Members of the Educational
Committee of my Local Authority. They gave me the green light to go ahead and do
some training in synthetic phonics.
In the 2000s synthetic phonics research continued and synthetic phonics
programmes became refined and published. In 2006 there was the Rose Report
which we all welcomed.
In the summer of 2008 the Sutton Trust reported that “during the 70s/80s social
mobility flattened off.” They stated that “The key is education – raising aspirations
from the beginning.”
I suggest it is no co-incidence that the time frames are similar and I propose that
the key is how we teach literacy from the beginning and sustain these gains.

Power Point Slide 3

Practitioners who use the Sound Discovery® programme report that they think its
greatest strengths are:
• The structured way it teaches, called the Snappy Lesson® . They say that no
other programme tells you so clearly what you need to do and that it teaches
all the essentials of good phonics teaching within single lessons.
• The simplicity of the phonic progression.

Combine this with the programme’s decodable texts (which develop independent
reading, reading fluency and reading comprehension) and the programme’s
modelled/structured writing activities (which develop compositional and independent
writing) and “Hey, Bingo, you have literacy”. (a quote from a SD user).
A quote from a Head Teacher using Sound Discovery® taken from the House of
Commons Select Committee Report, points to its other advantage: that it is
affordable and cost effective.

Power Point Slide 4

I thought you might be interested in research into MRI brain scans.
It has been found that the peak critical period for synapse development (that is the
development of neural interconnections) is between 4 and 5 years. I do not want us
to miss this critical period for teaching literacy during Reception.
It has been found that mixed reading strategies develop wrong neural circuits, so
that brains come to resemble those of dyslexics (poor readers).
It has also been found that a synthetic phonics type intervention changes brain
activity of dyslexics (poor readers) so that their brains come to behave like the
brains of normal readers.

Power Point Slide 5

SEN (Special Educational Needs), ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and Dyslexia do
well with synthetic phonics. Why is this?
I believe it is because of the way we teach:
• Because it is logical, sequential, predictable and everything is explicitly taught
• Because it is good for children’s interaction in a group
• Because it uses kinaesthetic and visual supports (which support all learning
styles and are particularly effective with boys)

Power Point Slide 6

My research with complete cohorts of Reception pupils will demonstrate how you can
raise aspirations and achievements from the beginning, which the Sutton Trust
reported was the key for improving social mobility.
The research was conducted over 8 consecutive years.

Pupil numbers are shown for each cohort over the 8 years. We were fortunate that
in 1998 the project school became the largest in the Local Authority, with three
form entry, so that our statistics were as robust as possible. From the research
point of view, we were fortunate that entry assessments for pupils were so low as
then we could show how such children could still achieve good literacy levels. Also we
wanted to demonstrate how such results could be achieved with complete cohorts of
children, with absolutely no child omitted or disapplied.
Each child contributes to the results in the table, The quoted results are end of
year, average gains above chronological age, for reading and spelling.
Over the 8 years the end of Reception year average gains above chronological age
were found to be about 15 months for both reading and spelling.
If the average end of year chronological age in the cohort were 5 years 4 months,
then the end of year average reading and spelling ages would be 6 years 7 months.
Before the Project
Before the project, the school had a large special needs register. There were several
dyslexia Statements of Special Educational Needs. It was assumed that significant
literacy difficulties within the school were inevitable. But as soon as the project
started, no more dyslexia Statements were required. However clearly the ‘dyslexic
families’ were still sending their children into Reception. Such children continued to
have ‘dyslexic profiles’ with;
• auditory sequential short term memory difficulties
• organisational problems
• speech and language difficulties
• poor listening skills
• problems with attention and concentration
• motor co-ordination problems:
Such children showed the same profiles as their elder siblings( with severe literacy
difficulties) but the difference was that the project children went on to learn to
read and write.
In 1997 we taught the sounds effectively. Never before in the school had end of
year reading and spelling averages been above age levels.
In 1998 we introduced structured teaching in the form of the Snappy Lesson®. We
were pleased with the results but surprised at the gap between reading and spelling.
I realised that what was missing were decodable books that children could read with
the sounds they had been taught.

I asked the publishers if they could write them. They said, “No.”
So. I wrote them myself, the Phonics First Books. These are 29 little books, written
very carefully to introduce 6 phonemes at a time until all 42 were covered. The books
also drip-fed in high frequency irregular words which we wanted children to learn.
The back cover of each book shows clearly the phonemes in the book, with the list of
irregular words.
I then asked the publishers if they would publish them. They again said, “No”. At
that time the potential value of decodable books was not generally realised. So,
Ridgehill Publishing was formed to publish the books. This is now Synthetic Phonics
Ltd which currently has a wider range of decodable texts and reading books to
support Sound Discovery®.
In 1999 we used structured Snappy Lesson® teaching as before but included the
Phonics First Books as children’s first experience of reading books for themselves.
The results showed an additional end of year gain of 5 months reading age
attributable to the Phonics First Books. Children’s first experience of reading books
with their phonics and blending was successful. So that phonics and blending were
being reinforced and established as the primary strategy for reading, without
children having to guess or memorise. This avoided the children having to use mixed
reading strategies to read their first books, thus developing wrong neural circuits.
In subsequent years, we continued to use structured Snappy Lesson® teaching and
Phonics First Books as children’s first experience of reading books for themselves.
As you see, reading and spelling averages were virtually the same.
In 1998 the project could have failed if the school had changed to the phonics in the
National Literacy Strategy. The school did not want to change, as they believed they
would not achieve the same good results. However they were under some pressure to
switch. Also it was suggested that they might not do well at their next OfSTED
inspection if they did not change to the phonics in the NLS.
To resolve this, I went to the top. I contacted Chris Woodhead. He arranged for
Jim Rose to visit the school to see what we were doing. Jim gave his unequivocal
approval of:
• our good results
• our clear teaching structure
• our lesson plans.
This gave us the confidence to continue with synthetic phonics. At the school’s next
OfSTED inspection the outcome was “excellent, with no points for improvement.”

This did not prevent impromptu visits by HMI (Her Majesty’s Inspectors) to see what
we were doing. One such was Janet Brennan who reported very positively about
Snappy Lesson® in the OfSTED publication, Reading for purpose and pleasure, An
evaluation of the teaching of reading in primary schools, December 2004, page 25.

Power Point Slide 7

A fine grained analysis of our Reception results revealed:
• no gender gap – boys did equally as well
• no summer birthday gap
• no free school meals gap
• EAL (English as an Additional Language) children did very well and if there
were a gap they caught up quickly.
What we realised was that our teaching was more powerful than these potential
barriers to learning. If you teach in this way, you can make a difference and give
your children a flying start to their literacy. I believe you will be making the first
contribution to their social mobility.
As Keith Stanovich said, “Children who are first off the starting blocks with their
reading, never lose their advantage. They become more intelligent.” Stanovich also
quoted the “Matthew effect” when referring to literacy acquisition,
“For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever
does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”
Matthew 25:29 (New International Version)

Power Point Slide 8

But as you know not all children get it straight away. So, every good synthetic
phonics programme needs to have built into it the ability to identify slow-to-start
children and provision for very early intervention. At this stage, the extra teaching
can be light touch, little and often, with lots of repetition and reinforcement, not
something different.
In our research, our children were slow-to-start for a variety of reasons but they all
received the same intervention, teaching them the essentials of what they need to
know. Again, not something different and in our case, delivered through the mini-
Snappy Lesson®.
The Snappy Lesson® intervention was multi-sensory, integrating what children see,
hear and do, thus it is suitable for all learning styles.

We noticed that in the January of Reception, following Quality First Teaching from
about October, children on average were about 12 months ahead of CA for both
reading and spelling. The majority had learned their 42 phonemes and were beginning
to read and write simple words and sentences. But some children achieved no
measurable reading or spelling scores at all (see table in Slide 8). These received
very early intervention straight away from the January in the form of mini- Snappy
Lesson® sessions. They were taught together in a small group, 3 times per week
during Registration, for about 15 minutes each session with one of the Nursery
Nurses. At the end of the year, their scores above CA are recorded in the Table.
We managed to eliminate the potential ‘tail of underachievement’ and to take the
first step towards eradicating illiteracy from the whole year group.

Power Point Slide 9

Ongoing Intervention- every good synthetic phonics programme needs to be able to
identify poor literacy at any age and to provide intervention.
Fortunately in Sound Discovery® we have simple assessments and Placement Tests
which are quick and easy to use, but yield vital information about phonic knowledge
and skills and provide a start point for the programme, at any age.
Students with poor literacy need more intensive and frequent structured teaching,
again teaching them the essentials of what they need to know (Grapheme-Phoneme
Correspondences – in the simple and complex alphabetic code and how to deal with
polysyllabic words; blending for reading; segmenting for spelling and that blending and
segmenting are reversible processes).
In our case, this teaching is delivered through structured Snappy Lesson® sessions
using prepared Lesson Plans, which detail clearly what you need to do. Plus support
for students to apply and generalise their skills into the classroom. We call this the
Bridging the Gap materials and activities.
Fortunately our Core Materials are non-age specific and are suitable for all ages.
One prompt for my writing Sound Discovery® was to have a programme which could
be used across the age range, and which would be suitable for Secondary age pupils
and adults as well as for Primary pupils. To teach them the following are core:
• Simple assessments and Placement tests
• Manual
• Banks of words and sentences
• Prepared lesson plans

Power Point Slide 10

The longitudinal research followed children through to the end of their Primary
Education. It incorporated:
• Light touch early intervention as needed
• Ongoing intervention as needed
• Quality First Teaching of the programme for all children from Reception to
Year 6, as all children need the opportunity to move through the programme
• Bridging the Gap materials and activities which develop:
o Reading fluency
o Reading comprehension
o Compositional writing
o Handwriting
With this teaching package in place the following results were recorded:
Summer 2003
KS1 Results 95% of the cohort of children achieved national expectations for
both Reading and Writing. Note the high level of Level 3s for Reading, with boys and
girls reading equally as well. Note the high level of Level 3 Writing. Level 3 boys’
Writing (24%) was very significantly different statistically from the Local Authority
figure (8%)
KS2 Results Note the high level of Level 5 boys’ writing: a third of the boys
achieved Level 5 writing, which was very significantly different statistically from the
Local Authority figure (9.5%). This was quite remarkable, given that the boys
entered school with the lowest level for language on a Scale of A to E.
Does this suggest, we might have an answer here to the ongoing national debate about
boys’ writing. Boys’ writing is not an issue if you teach like this.

Power Point Slide 11

Summer 2004
At 11 years old, 94% of the whole cohort of children achieved at least national
expectations, for their Key Stage 2 English SATs. Note that this was significantly
different statistically from the figure for England (77%)
65% of the whole cohort of 11 year old children achieved above national expectations.
They achieved Level 5 which is the national expectation for 14 year olds. Note that
this figure of 65% was significantly different from the figure for England (26%).
Best of all, no child in the whole cohort achieved less than Level 3B.
There were no severe difficulties with literacy, and no illiteracy.

I was able to follow up the lowest pupil in the Year 6 cohort, who had achieved Level
3B in his KS2 English SATs. He was a boy with a Statement of Special Educational
Needs for a complex set of difficulties. His brain scan showed significant brain
damage. He had severe learning difficulties, with cognitive ability below the 1st
Percentile. Without his good literacy levels he undoubtedly could not have managed a
move to a mainstream Secondary School. The Authority has a policy for inclusion but
he would have met the criteria for one of the few special schools: a school for
children with moderate to severe learning difficulties with additional complexities.
In the event, he moved to his local Comprehensive school which is a tough city school.
At Year 9 he was coping so well that, at his statutory Annual Review, all parties
agreed that he no longer needed his Statement. He was destatemented. With his
good literacy skills he went from strength to strength, academically and socially. He
could access the curriculum by reading and he could record his knowledge and ideas
clearly and legibly through writing. He could also keep up with the content of the
curriculum as he could “read to learn”.

Power Point Slide 12

Now I can point you to independent research carried our by other Local Authorities,
using Sound Discovery® as a Wave 3 intervention for their dyslexic pupils.
These Authorities wanted to close the gap for their dyslexic pupils (those with
severe literacy difficulties) in a way that was manageable and cost effective.
In 2003 there was the Norfolk pilot which was reported in full in the House of
Commons Select Committee Report, 2005. In 2004, there was the Bath and North
East Somerset pilot. In 2005 a larger pilot in Norfolk. In 2008 there was the
Wiltshire pilot.
Guidance in the DfES leaflet 0201/2003 “Targeting support: choosing and
implementing interventions for children with significant literacy difficulties”
mentions rate of progress. One index of this was Average Ratio Gains. The way this
works is as follows:
If there is a 3 month intervention and an average gain of 3 months, the Average Ratio
Gain is 1 (3 divided by 3), which does not close the gap.
If there is a 3 month intervention and an average gain of 6 months, the Average Ratio
Gain is 2 (6 divided by 3), which significantly closes the gap.
The DfES stated that ratio gains of 1.3 or above were deemed educationally
significant in 2003. In 2007 the DCSF wrote that gains of 1.4 and above were
deemed appropriate for a Wave 3 intervention to be considered ‘educationally significant’
(“What works for children with literacy difficulties? The effectiveness of intervention schemes”)
With these figures in mind look at the Wiltshire results. Their Average Ratio Gain
for Reading was 3.7 with 65% of pupils achieving in the 2 to 10 range. With a 4
months’ intervention at least one pupils would have gained an increase of reading age
of 40 months. Their Average Ratio Gain for Spelling was 1.9 with 50% of pupils
achieving in the 1.4 to 7.3 range, and 60% of these in the 2 or above range.
All these Authorities conducted their own pilots, have rolled out the Sound
Discovery® programme across their Authorities and have written their own research
I think we can now definitely say a resounding “NO!!” to waste.
We know how to give all children a flying start to their literacy in a way that is
simple, achievable and cost effective. We know how to help them sustain their early
gains, achieve good literacy levels and eradicate illiteracy.
To eradicate illiteracy, this is a goal now that we surely can’t ignore.

Dr Marlynne Grant,
Chartered Educational Psychologist;
November, 2008.

Susan Godsland

Post by Susan Godsland »

Here are the ppt. slides for Marlynne Grant's talk.

You'll need to rotate it:

http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Marlynne_Gran ... 20Mode.pdf