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Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 10:37 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
There have been a number of political 'champions' for introducing and promoting the need for Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England - and Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Reform certainly stands out in this regard.

Although this latest speech of Nick Gibb is not specifically about literacy, I still felt that I would like to draw attention to it for its aspirational and equality tenor: ... curriculum

And here is Nick Gibb's final official Ministerial talk prior to the General Election in the UK, delivered at the UK Reading Reform Foundation conference (March 2015) just to illustrate Nick Gibb's resolute and sustained commitment to raising literacy standards via Systematic Synthetic Phonics alongside promoting literature and a love of reading: ... of-phonics

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:26 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Here's an extremely short youtube clip of Nick Gibb - no wonder he has stuck his neck out over and again to support Systematic Synthetic Phonics in a basically anti-phonics teaching climate! He recognised that it was simply the right thing to do! ... load_owner

Hmm... I can go along with that!

Someone who made a profound impression on me in my early adult life and early teaching career was the headmistress of the very first school where I had a full-time teaching appointment in a Y6/7 class.

She was Ruth Walker, co-author with Harold Fletcher of 'Nuffield Maths' that some teachers might recall.

I went to cry on Ruth's shoulder with some moans about new class organisation and she was very sympathetic but said to me, "Address your worries professionally. Write a report describing your findings and making your suggestions". What fantastic advice - it's been a guiding principle with me ever since.

I've been making that same suggestion to others over and again - but it's also what I've been doing ever since I received training during the roll-out of the National Literacy Strategy in England in 1998/9 and was shocked to be 'trained' to tell children to guess from the picture, initial letters, word shape and context - the 'clutching at straws' that my very weakest readers did (that I inherited in my class when I went on to be an infant teacher to find out what was going wrong with reading and spelling instruction in England!). This official guidance - known as the 'searchlights reading strategies' made no sense to me.

Of course it was no surprise when I looked into the research to discover that the multi-cueing guessing strategies, often known as the '3 cueing system' internationally, are discredited and yet they still persist as the basis of the Reading Recovery programme, and many other clones. They are still the basis of reading instruction in many schools across the world as our committee members for the USA, Canada, Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, England and South America will attest.

And that is precisely why there are more reports describing worries and suggestions that need to be written! :|

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 3:57 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
I digressed somewhat in the previous post because Nick Gibb's short video clip describing the profound influence of an inspirational teacher just reminded me of Ruth Walker's profound influence on me.

Here is further youtube video footage of Nick Gibb (currently Minister of State for School Reform) providing his keynote speech at the 2011 Reading Reform Foundation conference.

What makes this so important is Nick's clear commitment to promoting Systematic Synthetic Phonics based on the available international research and he describes the Government's commitment by the introduction of the statutory Year One Phonics Screening Check, changes to teacher-training and Ofsted inspection - and he also mentions the Government match-funded phonics initiative which was introduced in 2011 and lasted until October 2013 in England.

This is the level of understanding and commitment we need from politicians of all parties and of all Governments around the world.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Fri Jun 12, 2015 4:00 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Here is IFERI's page about the Year One Phonics Screening Check which we encourage everyone internationally to take advantage of because of its free availability and the fact it enables anyone to measure their teaching effectiveness against the baseline and year on year results of teachers in England:

Please do encourage wide use of the Year One Phonics Screening Check materials and we would love you to share your experiences and findings with IFERI if you do use the check!

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:17 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Schools Minister Nick Gibb addresses the Education Reform Summit:

The Purpose of Education ... -education

Note that Nick Gibb opens his speech with a mention of the importance of phonics:

Education reform is the great social justice cause of our times. If we are to deliver a fairer society, in which opportunity is shared more widely, we must secure the highest standards of education for all young people, regardless of their background.

This is the commitment which has been at the heart of the government’s programme of reform. It is a pleasure to speak at a conference today with so many dedicated professionals and experts who share this belief, and have guided and implemented the changes we have introduced.

Today, thanks to the hard work of thousands of teachers, 100,000 more 6-year-olds are on track to become confident readers as a result of our focus on phonics.

And later he writes about the introduction of the statutory Year One Phonics Screening Check which could give the world a wake-up call if all English-speaking countries used the same phonics screening check!

Our ambitious programme of reform is addressing this legacy, and this starts by getting the basics right. Reading underpins a child’s academic performance throughout their school career. In 2014, only 1 in 3 pupils who had just reached the current expected standard in English when in key stage 2, achieved 5 good GCSEs including English and mathematics. By contrast, almost 3 in 4 of those with a high level 4 in English achieved this GCSE standard.

The importance of strong literacy skills remain long after a young person has left school or formal education. Adults with good literacy skills (the equivalent of a good English Language GCSE or better) are much more likely to be in work than those with lower levels of literacy: 83% compared to 55%. Data from the recent OECD Survey of Adult Skills show that unemployed adults are twice as likely to have weak literacy skills as those in full-time employment.

We recognised the strong evidence demonstrating that systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective way to teach children to read. In 2012, we therefore introduced the year 1 phonics screening check to help teachers identify pupils falling behind with their phonic knowledge, who may benefit from additional help. We are supporting schools to establish phonics partnerships to help them further improve the quality of their phonics teaching. Each of the successful groups will be led by a school that achieves excellence in teaching early reading. The partnerships will receive £10,000 to improve the quality of phonics teaching; they will develop models that can be used by other schools, and share knowledge and resources that come out of their work.

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Wed Jul 22, 2015 6:26 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Rather than start another thread about events in England, I thought it best to add to this thread as it features the advent of political promotion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in England and describes some concerns and issues relevant to this topic.

The author of the original post has written a very heartfelt message and the responses to the posting are very interesting and relevant too:

My ‘Looks-like-a-phonics-blog-but-really-it’s-about-CPD’ post ... comment-39

OK here goes. This is a post on phonics (eek), even though it’s really about CPD. Neither side of the phonics debate, whether #TeamPhonics or #TeamReading, should emerge from this thinking ‘well she seems to agree with us’. My aim is to come at things from a slightly different angle; although in so doing I risk alienating everyone. Well, off I leap, lemming-like. Here’s lookin’ at you kid.

#TeamPhonics are facing a problem. The NFER are writing and talking about a report which states that schools DO teach discrete daily phonics, that phonics IS being taught first and fast and that teachers now get children to practise pseudo words. There are two flies in the ointment.

It's worth reading the blog posting and the readers' comments.

I added my own comment via the blog, saying:

I am hoping that what might make a difference in the longer term rather than phonics and whole language and eclectic approaches going round and round in circles is the advent of the internet.

This form of communication is unprecedented of course so now teachers, student-teachers, parents, researchers, politicians and the general public can access information and ‘findings’ that they have never been able to access in such an easy way and in abundance before.

Although there is a great deal of protest – particularly in the media – about the Year One Phonics Screening Check, if we could persuade teachers internationally to use the same check wherever English is taught for reading and writing, then we would be able to get an idea of what effective teaching (of phonics) can achieve and then look closely at the most effective content and practices.

Various people and organisations are calling for the universal uptake of this check and I would love to be able to persuade teachers to value professional curiosity such that they ‘want’ to know how their phonics teaching effectiveness compares to others.

As has been mentioned in the original posting, phonics decoding at word level is perhaps the most simple aspect of ‘reading’ to measure and phonics knowledge and skills is invaluable to young learners. I know of Reception teachers using the Year One Phonics Check resources through sheer curiosity and achieving results comparable with results attained by some schools at the end of Year One (for example, around 66% of the children reaching or exceeding the benchmark).

I agree that ‘contexts’ must be taken into account, but then it is helpful for ‘like schools’ to know the results they are achieving.

The new organisation, the ‘International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction’ (IFERI), is promoting international use of the Year One Phonics Screening Check. How wonderful it would be if we could change teachers’ hearts and minds about the value of snapshot national tests for informing our CPD:

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Thu Sep 24, 2015 5:28 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb comments on England's Year One Phonics Screening Check results for 2015:


Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:17 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
Nick Gibb comments in the Telegraph: ... rking.html

Schools minister: Focus on phonics is working

Thousands of children are now on track to become excellent readers as a result of the Government’s focus on phonics, vindicating reforms to transform the way young people learn to read, writes Nick Gibb

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:30 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
See page 12 - Nick Gibb writes about the influence of E.D. Hirsch on his ideas for reform in education: ... iculum.pdf

Re: Nick Gibb, champion of Systematic Synthetic Phonics England

Posted: Thu Oct 08, 2015 6:29 pm
by Debbie_Hepplewhite
More about Nick Gibb: ... ign=buffer

I suspect that if Nick Gibb and Sir Jim Rose had not championed systematic phonics and the Simple View of Reading, England's teachers would not be so far down the road to improving their phonics provision and enabling more children to read and write.

There are still many issues in England, however, including the practice of multi-cueing reading strategies in many schools, the continued entrenchment of Reading Recovery in the Institute of Education - and weak phonics provision for mainstream and intervention because of a lack of deep professional development.

At least in England, however, 'Systematic Synthetic Phonics' provision and the use of cumulative, decodable reading books for beginners are promoted officially and the statutory Year One Phonics Screening Check has enabled teachers to get an appreciation of their teaching effectiveness compared to others.

In 2011, 32% of the children reached or exceeded the 32 out of 40 words benchmark (for decoding 20 real words and 20 pseudowords) in the 300 pilot schools.

In 2015, 77% of the children reached or exceeded the benchmark in all England's infant and primary schools.

I expect that schools will stall out at this figure because of the continued multi-cueing reading strategies and some weak provision.

753 schools, however, achieved 95% to 100% of their Year One children reaching or exceeding the benchmark.

IFERI is encouraging schools internationally to use England's Year One Phonics Screening Check which you can read about here: