RRF Conference 2006: Ruth Miskin 'Fit for Purpose'

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

RRF Conference 2006: Ruth Miskin 'Fit for Purpose'

Post by Susan Godsland »

RRF Conference, 3rd November 2006 FIT FOR PURPOSE - Ruth Miskin

The government has told us that schools have to choose a high-quality phonics programme. Programme writers are now waiting to be chosen!

At Kobi Nazrul, where Ruth Miskin was head teacher, children were taught letters and sounds in the nursery. Constant repetition is needed to make sure that all children ‘get it’. Schools need to decide who is in charge. The same programme can produce very different results in different schools. The head needs to choose a ‘partner in relentlessness’. All the children who are not fluent readers need to be assessed – are they ABT (‘ain’t been taught’) or SEN (Special Educational Needs)?

In an Islington school of 400, 120 children were on the SEN register. 115 of these could not read. The SEN co-ordinator was so busy filling in Individual Education Plans that she had no time to teach them. Comments would be made such as ‘He needs to learn his sounds’. Ruth’s response was ‘Then teach them!’ Schools often want children on the SEN register: the more children it has there, the more excuse it has in OFSTED inspections. In two months, Ruth managed to get 80 children off the register.

While children are learning to decode, they need to put all their effort into that. Until they can read, they cannot read to learn. Children need to be grouped according to ability. Even in Reception, they should be grouped after half a term. By Year 3, there is a very wide range: at one end are the Harry Potter readers – at the other end are children who cannot read. Children do not mind being grouped, and they can get ‘switched on’ so quickly that they can move to a higher group almost overnight. The closer the homogeneity in the group, the faster the progress.

When a school implements Ruth’s Read-Write Inc. programme, the head-teacher needs to be involved. The school must also have a RWI manager, RWI teachers, RWI teaching assistants (who work one-to-one with children) and ‘ten-minute tutors’. The school should not wait before giving a failing child help. The school needs to coach, support and monitor.

Just choosing a synthetic phonics programme is not enough – the programme needs to be done properly. Ruth requires

* Participation (children need to be ‘full on’ all the way through the lesson).
* Positive teaching
* Pace
* Purpose
* Passion (If you don’t have it, ‘fake it till you make it!’)

Teaching needs to be relentless.