Wales, UK: Outstanding post by teacher Rob Randel - laying bare flawed official guidance

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Wales, UK: Outstanding post by teacher Rob Randel - laying bare flawed official guidance

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed Apr 22, 2020 4:52 pm

Primary teacher, Rob Randel, has done an outstanding job laying bare the inadequacies and flaws in the official guidance for teachers and others in Wales:

Does #CurriculumforWales leave reading to chance?

by Rob Randel ... hance.html

...With all this in mind, we can now turn our attention to the guidance we have in Wales: our professional standards for teachers and leaders, the literacy framework, Estyn, the Welsh government’s guidance for intervention, and of course, Curriculum for Wales.

If there is one thing that Curriculum for Wales should absolutely make sure it gets right, then it is reading. However, despite there being amendments to the draft, it still falls far short of what is needed to ensure all children in Wales receive the best, evidence-informed reading instruction.

Firstly, Wales' professional standards contain nothing requiring teachers to know how to teach reading. Let’s compare this to England’s teaching standards:

Demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject.
If teaching early reading, demonstrate a clear understanding of systematic synthetic phonics

Our Literacy Framework within the aspect of reading strategies for Y1 requires learners to be able to:

apply the following reading strategies with increasing independence:

– phonic strategies to decode words
– recognition of high-frequency words
– context clues, e.g. prior knowledge
– graphic and syntactic clues
– self-correction, including re-reading and reading ahead

It is unclear whether they are referring to decoding or language comprehension with these strategies. However, because this list begins with the use of phonic strategies, it is likely that they intend the strategies below should also be used for word recognition. Yet these strategies just aren’t supported by the science of reading, and they will actually cause harm to some children struggling to learn to read.

But tragically, the Welsh Government’s guidance on reading instruction contains no SSP programmes. That’s right, not one! Instead they get more mixed approaches and balanced literacy programmes that exacerbate and compound their misunderstandings. These children then start secondary school with serious reading complications. Below is the list of ineffective balanced literacy programmes that the Welsh Government recommend in their document, ‘Guidance for literacy and numeracy catch-up programmes’:

Better Reading Partnership
Catch Up® Literacy
Fischer Family Trust Wave 3
Reading Recovery
Talking Partners

To wrap this up, I recommend that every school in Wales evaluate their current practice when it comes to reading instruction. Do this by using the Phonics Screening Check from England. It is free to download from their Department for Education site. If you have 100% of your learners passing this test in Year 1 then you are doing great. These children won’t need intervention in Key Stage 2 and attention can now focus on the morphology and etymology of words, building knowledge, analysing an author’s craft, and giving children a real love of our languages and writing system. However, if some children don’t pass the check, they don’t need something different. They need more SSP teaching, more practice, more time, and the continued use of decodable books. I recommend that parents whose children are struggling to learn to read look carefully into what practices their child’s school is using, and consult Susan Godsland’s informative website,, for advice. With many high quality synthetic phonics programmes and training out there, such as Phonics International, Sounds-Write, Jolly Phonics, Sound Discovery, Read Write Inc., Floppy's Phonics, there really are no excuses for children to reach the upper years of key stage 2, and head into secondary school without being able to decode text fluently. And if they are, I seriously hope this blog raises awareness of this problematic situation, and encourages all stakeholders to take responsibility and address the concerns expressed.

Does #CurriculumforWales leave reading to chance? I believe it does.

Rob Randel

The greatest problem is how on earth do those teachers and parents who understand these issues in Wales challenge this very flawed official guidance, and hold those in authority in Wales to account?

I know from long experience in this field how very difficult this can be. That is precisely why England is the stand-out country when it comes to developments over the past 20 years or so leading to the official guidance which, currently, really does reflect the research findings and best classroom practice.

We have a similar situation in Scotland where, as followers of the IFERI are aware, IFERI committee member Anne Glennie has being doing her utmost, with support from other IFERI members, to hold the authorities in Scotland to account. This has been dragging on for years:

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Re: Wales, UK: Outstanding post by teacher Rob Randel - laying bare flawed official guidance

Postby Geoff Vaughan » Fri May 01, 2020 3:10 pm

It is a great blog post by Rob who seems to be the pioneer in Wales for the need for real change for the CfW in terms of reading based on the science of reading. Rob's voice is certain to become increasingly important. Young learners need this level of professional advocacy for effective reading instruction as so clearly articulated by Rob!
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Re: Wales, UK: Outstanding post by teacher Rob Randel - laying bare flawed official guidance

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Dec 04, 2021 3:15 pm

Here is another, measured and sensible (but worrying) post by literacy specialist Rob Randel:

Putting Welsh Children at a Disadvantage ... welsh.html

Putting Welsh Children at a Disadvantage:

the Estyn Report compared with The reading framework

As a primary school teacher in Wales, I am concerned that our children are at a disadvantage compared with those in England, because of the way they are taught to read. I would like to thank those who commented and made suggestions for this blog: a blog that asks you to examine the evidence and to consider the guidance given to teachers in Wales about the teaching of reading.

In March 2021, Estyn published their report: English language and literacy in settings and primary schools. Following this, in July 2021, the Department for Education in England published their policy paper: ​​The reading framework: teaching the foundations of literacy.

Education in Wales is devolved. Our curriculum is different from the national curriculum for England and we do not follow the Department for Education’s guidance. This raises an important question: Why should early reading instruction be different for children in Wales from that for children in England?

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