Page 2 of 4

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:51 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb has provided another good speech - this time not about 'phonics' and literacy, but about the use of 'textbooks'.

I think his promotion of high-quality textbooks - content - is really important for the sake of supporting both teachers and their pupils.

I observe phonics and spelling lessons in schools across England routinely and the lack of proper 'content' in many cases is truly worrying.

What is also worrying is the misunderstanding, or belief, that phonics and spelling need to be dressed up with a plethora of 'fun games and activities' to make them palatable. This is just not the case. The conclusions from research-findings in America, for example, pointed to the need for the 'five pillars of literacy': phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. A body of work (content) for phonics and spelling should be rich with words and texts and therefore accommodate all the five pillars of literacy. 'Words' and language are so fab, so rich, that these do not need any 'dressing-up' - this is an entirely wrong basis to view phonics provision.

I frequently observe lost opportunities for explicit teaching of vocabulary with 'apply and extend' to texts as a fundamentally important feature of phonics and spelling lessons. In England, phonics lessons have been promoted as 'only 20 minutes' and then teachers quickly move on to introduce the next letter/s-sound correspondence the following day - so practice is shallow, superficial and inadequate. There is little 'content'.

Anyway, I think Nick Gibb's speech is worth sharing more widely - and significant to show that in England there is interest in how 'other countries' provide their core subjects: ... classrooms

How to get more high-quality textbooks into classrooms

Nick Gibb congratulates publishers for recent improvements in textbook quality and ambition and discusses further challenges ahead.
Many thanks for inviting me back this year to take part in your annual conference.

I am here to discuss the progress that is being made towards improving the quality of textbooks in English classrooms, but first I would like to talk about ‘The Simpsons’. In general, I am a great fan of ‘The Simpsons’, but sometimes the series gives the teachers of Springfield Elementary School too hard a time.

In one memorable episode, Lisa is quizzed on her homework by Miss Hoover: “What 19th century figure was named ‘Old Hickory?’”. Lisa does not know the answer, so Miss Hoover reads from the teacher edition of the textbook: “The Battle of New Orleans”. Clearly, she has read the wrong line. As any American history buff here will know, the answer is Andrew Jackson.

This gives Lisa the bright idea of hiding the teacher edition of all the school textbooks in her locker. Pandemonium at Springfield Elementary School ensues. “What do we do?” cries one teacher. “Declare a snow day!” cries another. Miss Krabappel forces class prodigy Martin to take over all teaching responsibilities for the day.

The moral of this Simpsons episode seems to be that bad teachers rely on textbooks, and are powerless without them. What has been termed an ‘anti-textbooks ethos’ is frequently seen in popular culture - from the scene, for example, in ‘Dead Poets Society’ where the inspirational teacher John Keating encourages his pupils to rip the pages out of their dreary literature textbook, to Severus Snape’s withering demand that Harry Potter “turn to page 394”.

This anti-textbook culture is an unusual feature of the Anglosphere. When I spoke at the PA/BESA conference last year, I quoted a statistic from the 2011 TIMSS international survey. Year 5 mathematics teachers were asked whether they used textbooks as the basis for instruction in lessons. In Singapore, those who did accounted for 70% of pupils surveyed, in Finland 95%, but in England the figure was 10%.

The majority of pupils in all but 10 of the 50 participating countries had teachers who reported using textbooks as the basis for their teaching. But in New Zealand, the figure was 7%, in Australia 25%, and in America 45%. I believe this has much to do with the historic legacy of child-centred education in the English-speaking west. Firstly, the dismissal of subject content as the basis of a school curriculum has pushed teachers away from teaching a codified body of knowledge, so typically embodied in a textbook. Secondly, what is often called ‘personalisation’ – the belief that teaching should be tailored to the interests and capacities of each individual child – runs against the alleged uniformity of whole-class teaching from a textbook.

Such an anti-textbook ethos has created a fundamental market failure in this country, leading to poor-quality textbooks, or none at all, being used in our classrooms. This is a self-reinforcing failure of both supply and demand: teachers have been told not to demand good textbooks, so publishers have neglected to supply them with high-quality textbooks.

This is just part of Nick's speech - do read the whole piece! ;)

I'm belatedly adding this piece by Chris McGovern from January 2018 as it references Nick Gibb and his push for the use of 'textbooks' in England:


Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:06 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb's speech on the importance of storytelling for National Storytelling Week: ... orytelling

The importance of storytelling

Nick Gibb explains how storytelling stretches children’s vocabularies, expands their horizons and extends their ability to learn.

People of my generation will remember the late comedian Max Bygraves and his famous catchphrase, “I wanna tell you a story”.

The reception Bygraves’s catchphrase always gained demonstrates the timeless pleasure of being told a good story. This is a pleasure that National Storytelling Week celebrates, and I am delighted to be a part of the events today.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 5:13 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb launches 'new classic books in schools' initiative: ... e-launched

New classic books in schools initiative launched

Jane Eyre and Gulliver’s Travels will be some of the literary treats offered to schools thanks to Penguin and Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

Anna Karenina, The Thirty-Nine Steps and Twelve Years a Slave are among 100 titles being offered as part of a new initiative from Penguin Classics, following a call for action by Schools Minister Nick Gibb to ensure there is more classic literature being taught in our schools.

The 100 titles - taken from Penguin’s popular Black Classics series - range from the earliest writings to early 20th century works, span fiction and non-fiction, poetry and prose, and are intended to offer a springboard for children to discover the classics. All the titles are by authors who died before 1946 and are therefore out of copyright.

Penguin is offering secondary schools classroom sets of 30 copies of each of the 100 titles for a package price of £3,000, allowing pupils to read along with their teacher and classmates.

The Schools Minister wants to encourage debate and discussion among students and members of the public on what classic literature should be read in the classroom.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 6:26 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
There has been a range of responses to the books' initiative announced by Nick Gibb, but I have a lot of empathy with the food-for-thought expressed in this blog posting: ... l?spref=tw

I am a secret book lover

If there is one thing I am sure of, is that if your force a child or teenager to love a film, book or food, you are more likely to find the child or teenager doing the opposite and loathing it with a passion. I was that teenager. My parents told me I would love Scotland as a holiday destination; I didn’t love it as a teenager – I do now, Kenny! My parents told me I would love ‘Dad’s Army; I didn’t enjoy it as a teenager. My parents bought me clothes and told me I’d love them: I didn’t even let the polyester hit my skin. I refused, rebelled and opposed everything, and anything, my parent deemed as being brilliant. It rebelled so much that at the age of eighteen I had a tattoo. They didn’t love them, so I wanted one.

The latest debate in English is the government’s latest list of books a student should read at secondary school. As usual with anything to do with what books students should or shouldn’t read put out in the public domain it has caused anger and dismay. Some people questioned the relevance of these books. Others praised the quality of books on the list. And, one or two people shrugged their shoulders with indifference. The problem I have faced time and time in teaching is the idea of enjoyment. We have people arguing that the aforementioned books to be used in secondary schools are inappropriate. The initial fear is that students will not enjoy the books and that in turn will prevent students from loving books.

I have always felt uncomfortable about forcing this idea that students will love books. We have phrases banded about like ‘reading for pleasure’ and we ask students to review and rate the books that they have read. Teachers will enthuse about books they love and tell students that they will love the books too. In fact, everything about reading is all shaped around this view of enjoying a book. And, we are peddling a lie. A big fat lie. We are telling students that they must love books. We are telling students, who often do the complete opposite of what their parents and adults tell them to do sometimes, to love books.

Do read the full post!

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 4:22 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb's speech 'Schools as engines of social mobility' (March 2016) again emphasises the need for 'systematic synthetic phonics': ... l-mobility

It would be interesting to compare speeches with other leading figures in education in other English-speaking countries to analyse whether, or how much, they promote the need for systematic phonics provision. No-one in England can be left with any doubt about the priority and imperative Nick Gibb places on the need for phonics:

Schools as the engines of social mobility

From:Department for Education and Nick Gibb MP Delivered on: 9 March 2016 (Original script, may differ from delivered version) Location:Best in Class Summit, Sutton Trust, London First published: 9 March 2016Part of:Education of disadvantaged children

Schools Minister Nick Gibb sets out the government’s reforms to transform life chances through education.

The department has recognised the overwhelming evidence that the most effective approach to teaching early reading is systematic synthetic phonics. In 2012, we therefore introduced the phonics screening check to help schools identify pupils struggling to master the basics of reading so that any difficulties can be quickly addressed.

Since the check was introduced, the proportion of pupils reaching the expected standard has increased from 58% in 2012 to 77% last year - equivalent to more than 120,000 pupils reading more effectively. That’s 120,000 more pupils better prepared to develop a love of reading, and more likely to enter secondary school ready to succeed.

And our ‘gap index measure’ shows that the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers has already narrowed by 7.1% at key stage 2 and 6.6% at key stage 4 since 2011.

Our reforms to the primary curriculum are challenging and demanding, but the rewards colossal.

They include our focus on phonics. As increasing numbers of schools adopt high-quality systematic synthetic phonics in the early teaching of reading, imagine the effect of ensuring every child leaves primary school as a fluent reader.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:06 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb speaks about:

The importance of the curriculum

Nick Gibb addresses the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) event 'Taking ownership of your curriculum: a national summit'. ... curriculum

Due to the increased challenge of national examinations, and the new degree of innovation occurring in schools and academy trusts, I believe the conversation about curriculum taking place today is of a higher quality than at any time in the past. And this is a conversation that should lie at the heart of any successful school.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Sun Jul 17, 2016 1:01 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
As Theresa May has been appointed the new Prime Minister for the UK, a major cabinet reshuffle worried those of us who are well aware that 'phonics' promotion has been hugely driven by Nick Gibb. Would he lose his job?

Read the update about Nick Gibb's position in government here:


Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 10:53 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
I suggest that the impression Education Consultant, Charlotte Davies, gives of Nick Gibb and his promotion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics is a misrepresentation of what he promotes and misleading with regard to the research-informed substance of SSP - so I left a reader's comment:

Dear Nick, phonics is not fluent reading...

Published on October 2, 2016

Dear Nick, in the Daily Telegraph you claim that:"The latest figures show that 147,000 more six-year-old children are on track to become fluent readers compared to 2012 - 81 per cent of pupils passed the phonics screening check this year, compared to 77 per cent last year and 58 per cent in 2012. "

Further that: "Since 2012, many schools have enthusiastically adopted evidence-based systematic synthetic reading programmes." ... t-readers/

Sounds good doesn't it, but it is not. All the 11 year olds that we screened who had failed to achieve a level 4 at the end of primary school could decode using phonics; not one could combine sound and vision ( ... udents.pdf ). Decoding is not reading, it is just knowing how to convert symbols to sound. Reading for meaning means that you can make sense of what you have read. In order to do that you have to be able to combine sound and vision. You cannot check that six year olds can do that because binocular vision, in a normally developing child, does not come in until 7 years of age.

Phonics is a politically driven agenda. It is a series of publicly funded programmes to which politicians have attached their names and identities. That is not good for evidence based practice in any industry - it is reminiscent of 1960's and 1970's intervention in nationalised industries. ... tte-davies

Do read the full piece, it's not long.

I left this comment:

Hi Charlotte, I think you do Nick Gibb a grave disservice. From reading your blog posting, it suggests that all Nick promotes is systematic synthetic phonics and this is not the case.

The Simple View of Reading (Gough and Tunmer 1986) was recommended by Sir Jim Rose in his independent national review way back in 2006 - and this has been the professional basis ('a useful conceptual framework') for the teaching profession accepted by government/s since that time. This makes it very clear that to be a reader in the full sense requires both the ability to lift the words off the page ('What are the words?') and the spoken language comprehension to understand the words that have been decoded ('What do the words mean?').

Nick Gibb has also promoted the need to encourage children to love reading and to read widely and deeply - but have you missed that aspect of his promotion I wonder? The national curriculum for English for Key Stages 1 and 2 describe both the technical components for reading (alphabetic code and phonics skills - blending for reading, oral segmenting for spelling) and the language comprehension and need for literature that are so important.

Further, you seem to imply that systematic synthetic phonics is not evidence-based but this, too, is not the case. For anyone that is interested, a quick way to appreciate this is to visit the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction where there are links to global research on reading and, indeed, various threads on the message forum demonstrating that Nick Gibb promotes more than just SSP.


Kind regards,

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:50 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Here is a link to another speech given by Schools Minister, Nick Gibb:

The Schools Minister talks to the Education World Forum about teacher-led education. ... nstruction

It is a pleasure to follow the speech of my friend and fellow E. D. Hirsch enthusiast, His Excellency Dr Jareonsettasin.

The theme of this session contains 2 statements and 1 question. Firstly, that international rankings are useful for policy makers. Second, that today’s students will be rewarded not for what they know, but what they do with what they know. And third, how can evidence or should evidence be turned into policy, action and change?

I shall begin by focusing on the second of these. And then what that means for the answer to the third - in particular for approaches to teaching. In the 12 years since I became a Shadow Minister for Education, I have never met anyone who advocates teaching children knowledge with the explicit intent that it not be used or applied. The absurdity of this thought highlights that the oft-heard statement we are discussing today is effectively a tautology. It is plain to anyone who considers the matter: one must possess knowledge in order to use and apply it. As E. D. Hirsch has said, knowledge builds on knowledge.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:10 am
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Minister Nick Gibb provides another sensible speech:

The importance of an evidence-informed profession ... profession

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb addresses Buckingham University PGCE students.

The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP

It is a pleasure to be at Buckingham University again, an institution with established values, an emphasis on traditional methods and a determination to influence other institutions.

It is important that the country’s most prestigious academic intuitions are engaged in advancing our understanding of education and ensuring the next generation of teachers are endowed with high levels of subject knowledge and evidence of best teaching practice.

I recently spoke at the Education World Forum in London, which is a gathering of education ministers from around the world. I spoke about the importance of evidence in education and how experts needed to embrace that evidence rather than the comfort of prevailing orthodoxies. Just as with decisions made by teachers in their classrooms, advice given by education experts should be evidence-informed.

I would like to comment, however, that the example of 'Brain Gym' and 'Learning Styles' mentioned by Nick Gibb in his speech may not be so damaging in reality as the perpetuation of 'multi-cueing reading strategies' when these amount to teaching children to guess the words on the page.

I note via Twitter that researchED managers and supporters are often quite preoccupied by the continuation of 'Learning Styles' as a non-evidence based notion in the teaching profession - but they do not equally take up on the continuation of 'multi-cueing reading strategies' which research shows are very damaging to beginner readers and strugglers. This is very disappointing.

Further, the Education Endowment Foundation may well be doing some good work in some aspects of education, but the organisation is not doing well with regard to its understanding and description of 'phonics'. I have raised this issue with Nick Gibb and described this both through the IFERI forum and through my 'Phonics Intervention' blog here (scroll down to the bottom of my blog posting and you will see Gordon Askew and Kate Nation also illustrating that the EEF has it wrong when it describes the needs of struggling older readers): ... -projects/