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:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/ ... 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: