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DfES: Contempt for Government/H of C Select Committee

Posted: Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:14 pm
by Susan Godsland
Posted by G Carter Wed Jul 12, 2006 9:38 pm

John Denham, Chair of Home Office Select Committee recently referred to the disconnection between the government and its Civil Service – political commentators have also referred to this recently. Home Office minister, John Reid, also noted that the Home Office Department is not ‘fit for purpose’. The political analysts have concentrated on the shambles in the health service, pensions, environmental issues, housing, the general cynicism . And, of course, the tragedy of Iraq and the fact that the government’s eye was taken off Afghanistan so allowing the Taliban to regroup.

Education of young children – nurturing of basic skills – has, it seems, taken a back seat to all the issues surrounding the government. It’s also taken a back seat to educational funding, student grants, reorganisation of further education (or lack of). The DfES has noted the vacuum, run amok putting up two fingers to the government’s recommendations. It is time for the political analysts, think tanks, MP and political bloggers, to turn their minds to the degree of contempt and cynical manipulation that is happening before our eyes. The Year 3 ‘framework’ /consultation is so corrupt and cynical it defies belief. And perhaps it's time to call in a public relations firm to brief the press ?

A few points from the House of Commons Select Committee recommendations and their observations :

I ‘ As data generated through Key Stage tests can be skewed by associated factors…we recommend that the DfES commission an independent evaluation of trends in reading standards among primary school children which would make clear the scale and nature of the problem faced, and provide a basis for further policy work.’

2. ‘ seems that at present around 20% of eleven-year-olds are not reading at an age-appropriate level. We recommend a review of the NLS to determine whether its current prescriptions and recommendations are the best available methodology for the teaching of reading in primary schools. Further large-scale, comparative research on the best ways of teaching children to read, comparing synthetic phonics ‘fast and first’ with other methods (for example analytical phonics and the searchlights model promoted in the NLS) is NECESSARY …This research should be commissioned by the DfES. As far as possible, this study should use control groups…’

3. ‘We consider it possible that current instructional methods, such as the NLS ‘searchlights’ model, may not fully exploit the potential of teaching interventions to raise literacy standards. Current evidence on this point is not conclusive. This is why we have recommended that the DfES conduct an immediate review of the NLS and commission a large-scale comparative survey to overcome the current gaps in the research.’

4.’We have received evidence to suggest that at present, teacher training is not adequate to ensure that all those who deliver the National Literacy Strategy have a full appreciation of what is involved in the reading process and the acquisition of reading by young children…leaving some teachers without adequate subject knowledge… The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education evaluation of the National Literacy Strategy found that a potential barrier to significant and lasting improvement to literacy was some teachers’ lack of understanding of how children actually learn to read.’

4. ‘Dr (Morag) Stuart commented, "The model of reading which is presented to teachers (in the NLS) which is this black hole of four things (i.e. four ‘searchlights’) operating and disappearing into a text is completely and utterly misleading and bears no relation to any research on reading that I know of." ‘

5. ‘In response to this critique, Dr Collins told us of the research background to the NLS. "There are two kinds that we draw on. We draw on a body of historical research…founded on the core research. I would say that in terms of the literacy strategy, we were very fortunate it was a seminal piece of research done in the late 90s in the United States through Marilyn Jaeger Adams which basically did a full review of all literacy research and informed our work…." ’

* I wonder whether there will be any retraction of this statement? It is very misleading and has lead to incalculable damage*

6. ‘The question before this Committee was to consider whether the NLS ‘compromise’ represents a synthesis of best practice drawn from a range of approaches, or a confusing mix of methods that is holding back further improvements in standards of reading….’

As far as I can see, there is a total disconnect between the government and the DfES and the government appears to be too weak, too bogged down by other problems, too apathetic to look seriously at what is happening.