Archive for the ‘Reading in primary schools’ Category

Campaign for the Book. West Cheshire Council Staff take Industrial Action.

This blog has developed organically over the course of two and a half years. My daughter is now six and a half. We are acutely aware of the damage that has been done by testing young children too much. And too much too soon, as has been evidenced by the mistakes made with the early versions of the Early Years Foundation Stage (which has now been reformed) – the coalition government’s proposed league tables for five year olds (which we managed as a grass roots campaign) to push back.

As parents we refused mostly wholesale the homework imposed on our child from the age of four – the testing and the tables. Instead we read stories to our daughter consistently and had conversations and followed and engaged with the guidance of fellow co-contributors to the book ‘Early Learning and the Erosion of Childhood’ which was published last year. We were in good company my daughter and I – collaborating with the best of early years educators internationally.

So it was an immense privilege for my daughter and I to stand on a picket line together with Alan Gibbons – children’s author today and founder of the ‘Campaign for the Book’. You see as parents we refused every test and measurement of our child that there was going – it came as no surprise to us that approaching the age of seven – our daughter has not only been awarded a prize for her descriptive writing at school – but is now amongst the VERY top of her class at spelling. How did that happen?

It happened in large part because as a family (and as a community) we love books. And accordingly, we love libraries. Stuff the tests. Libraries are free and have always been an important part of our culture. They are also a cheap, warm, safe and secure place to visit with small children (especially when the weather is cold or in the holidays).

So we supported our libraries today in Chester. West Cheshire Council staff (not just librarians) are currently taking industrial action see this link for video by David Holmes of the Chester Chronicle. It always amazes me how PR people in large organisations are often ignorant of the sheer unstoppable force of word-of-mouth communication. Alan Gibbons remembered how my Other Half campaigned on the miner’s strike twenty years before. There wasn’t much we needed to explain. Alan reminded us of how the U.K is twenty fifth in the Pisa rankings and planning to shut down many of it’s libraries. South Korea on the other hand I recall he said is number five on the Pisa list and they are opening more than one hundred new libraries.

So it seems as has so often been the case throughout history and across the world, those who love books are in the forefront of resistance to the canker that is the coalition. Joined in Cheshire West  by Home Care Workers, Housing Network Staff, Parking Enforcement Officers, Park Rangers, Central Control Officers, CCTV Officers, Streetscene Operatives, Children’s Home Staff, Social Workers and Family Support Workers.

Cameron and co. who on earth do you think you are fooling?

Council Staff are taking Industrial Action – UNISON PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS:

Staff across all Council Services are currently on strike over the Easter holiday period. 100’s of staff have been forced to take strike action following the rejection by the Council of new proposals that would have avoided this disruption to services across the Borough. The Council by rejecting new reasonable proposals from the trade unions that would have avoided this strike – have only made matters worse.

The issue:

This Council, unlike most others in the North West, has decided to remove the pay enhancements staff receive for working weekends, bank holidays and overtime. They are also cutting the rate for working nights.

UNISON believes that paying more for working nights and weekends is fair and proper. It reflects the real cost of working 6 days, missing family life and of higher child care costs.

All major employers make such payments. We are not prepared to see ours taken away because of a financial crisis we did not cause. We are already suffering redundancies and a 3 year pay freeze, which has cut our real pay by over 10 per cent.

In addition to that – the Council have actively sought to undermine the strike action by offering double pay to people who are prepared to undermine their colleague’s action.

Other Councils have all managed to negotiate with the trade unions – no other Council has gone this far; and we believe this is an ideological attack on the workforce.

If the Council had put as much effort into resolving this dispute, as it has into undermining lawful action, we would not be in this position today. We hope you will understand why we are forced to take this action and you will support us in the fight.

SOURCE: west cheshire UNISON.

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On the Free School Primary planned for Chester Cathedral (and shortcomings).

Okay I know, I haven’t written on this blog for a good while. Excuse being writer’s block brought on by various events, some or all of which were highly political. Also, being a bit of a blog perfectionist – posts sometimes appeared disparate and unconnected with each other. It made sense to me – but as far as the readership goes – I’ve got some joining-up to do perhaps?

It all seems to come together when you look at the Free School Primary planned for Chester Cathedral and the questions which no-one seems to be asking (yet).

The first question one might ask is: “How does the planning of such a school impact on other primaries in the area?”. (West Cheshire). Let’s just attempt a draft answer shall we? It seems to be the case that if the plan goes ahead less money will be available for other schools in the area. I have sources which indicate this is the case – so will update this blog post perhaps to include some of these.

The second question – most relevant to an early years blog – is – how will the (flawed) Early Years Foundation Stage be implemented in this school (?). I’m assuming  since the EYFS is ubiquitous and statutory requirement that this will be the case – unless the school plans to apply for an exemption…

Question number three: How did it happen that the front page of our local newspaper featured a report on the Chester Cathedral Free School Plan – which resembled a paid-for advertisement for such a school, rather than a journalistic analysis of whether or not such a school would be a good idea? See the Chester Chronicle’s Ambitious plans for first ever free school in Chester.

And question number five: Bearing in mind that it is Wednesday today – and I have only just got wind of a ‘public consultation event’ – scheduled for next Monday at the Chester Cathedral site –

(University cathedral free school Community Consultation event Monday 6th February 7pm 11 Abbey Square) how can this event apparently arranged at short notice – and the lack of adequate publicity offer the general public a chance for any really democratic consultation?

Question Six: How does the Chester Cathedral free school plan connect with the three-quarters-of-a- million pounds scandalously wasted on a proposed (and botched) – ‘improvement scheme’ described on this site? (See:  Chester Cathedral Free School background and history).

And last but not least: How does the Chester Cathedral Free School proposal connect with Michael Gove’s announcements this week? http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/video/2012/jan/31/michael-gove-education-standards-video

More questions than answers…anyone out there – wish to comment?

Nursery World headline: “Schools bribed to use phonics, M.P’s report says”. Phonics test for five and six year olds.

Nursery World publishes a piece on how schools have been ‘bribed’ to use phonics:

“In a report into overcoming the barriers to literacy, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education says that cash-strapped schools are being pushed into using synthetic phonics, because they are offered matched funding if they buy approved phonics products and training. It says that schools must buy resources from a small range of products from only one source.

The report emphasises that literacy policy should focus on instilling a love of reading to increase children’s motivation, well-being and attainment. The report, which is based on evidence from nearly 600 teachers and educationalists, says that the Government’s focus on synthetic phonics is at odds with the views of schools and education experts, who recommend a broad-ranging approach to literacy. “

Michael Rosen on synthetic phonics and a love of books.

Here is the very sensible Michael Rosen (who signed the international petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds) with his take on synthetic phonics, targets and creating a love of books:

Early Day Motion 1532 launched at Westminster: Rethink Phonics/Reading Test for Young Children

And that all-important Early Day Motion on the Reading/Phonics Test for young children just appeared on the Westminster parliamentary site. Here is the ‘meat’ of it:

That this House endorses the views of many early years experts in calling for a rethink on the introduction of a phonics-based reading test for all 6 year olds; believes that phonics can play a crucial part in reading but that a simplistic exclusive focus on phonics can distort children’s learning and limit the breadth of their experience; believes that reading should be enjoyable and that children need to look for meaning as they read in order to develop fluency and understanding; and further believes that young children need to have highly trained teachers with an understanding of child development and that such teachers are best placed to identify children who are not reading at an appropriate level for their age and level of development through appropriate monitoring and observation.”

and here is the link: Parliamentary Early Day Motion: Phonics based Reading Test for Six (and five) Year Olds.

Please ask your own M.P. to sign it. And consider signing the international petition on the same theme:

International Petition: Say No to Phonics Based Reading Test for Young Children. http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42347.html

Tabling of Early Day Motion 1532: Rethink phonics based reading test for 6 and 5 year olds.

I spent World Book Day yesterday waiting for news of the tabling of an Early Day Motion in parliament to oppose the Reading Test for Six (and Five) Year Olds which the government is planning to introduce, via a pilot scheme in three hundred schools across the country at an initial cost of a quarter of a million pounds.

 My five-and-a-half year old daughter went to school yesterday morning with stretchy snakes in her hair clutching a book of “Monsters” – having written a book mark with the word “Medusa” on it.

The proposed reading test has been much criticised by experts in phonics (see previous posts) and the new Early Day Motion is already gathering support. Not only is it a waste of money and unhelpful to children, but it also diverts resources away from more sensible specialist measures (such as speech therapy) that some children might desperately need. Following the success of the petition to Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds let’s hope we can turn the reading test plan to stone too.

 Here’s the text of Early Day Motion 1532. It’s self-explanatory – and a link to the page where it is to be found on the Westminster site. It should appear in the official list next week, so please get ready to ask your own M.P. to sign it:

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-11/1532

1532 PHONICS-BASED READING TEST FOR SIX YEAR OLDS 3:3:11

 

  Annette Brooke
  Mr Barry Sheerman

 

     That this House endorses the views of many early years experts in calling for a rethink on the introduction of a phonics-based reading test for all 6 year olds; believes that phonics can play a crucial part in reading but that a simplistic exclusive focus on phonics can distort children’s learning and limit the breadth of their experience; believes that reading should be enjoyable and that children need to look for meaning as they read in order to develop fluency and understanding; and further believes that young children need to have highly trained teachers with an understanding of child development and that such teachers are best placed to identify children who are not reading at an appropriate level for their age and level of development through appropriate monitoring and observation.

And at the grass roots, there is also an international petition with further information. See this link:

International Petition: Say no to Phonics Test for young children 

International petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds. Week Three. Early Day Motion 1285 Week Two.

The international petition “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” featured in the Times Educational Supplement this week. In just three weeks we have amassed over a thousand signatures, including those of nursery and head teachers and some very ‘big’ names.

In a time of savage cut backs to nursery services we’ve been asking how much such ill advised measures cost. The government has not yet provided the answer to my Freedom of Information Query of last week on School League Tables for Five Year Olds and the Reading Test for Six Year Olds. 

 However, in the meantime Helen Ward of the Times Educational Supplement had launched a Freedom of Information Act Query of her own on the reading tests for six year olds: 

 Both the reading test scheme and The league table idea features in the Coalition Education Business Plan – details of which came to light in November last year.

The reading test for six year olds has been much criticised by educationalists – amongst them Professor Greg Brooks an expert in synthetic phonics – who criticised it as a ‘waste of money’ (in another TES Helen-Ward-Times-Ed-article a few weeks ago) – you’ll find the article link mentioned in a previous post on this blog. Professor Brooks has signed the petition against “School League Tables for Five Year Olds”.

In response to the Times Ed. Freedom of Information Act Query, the government has refused to provide information about how much the ill-advised reading test would cost. In order to challenge this decision the person who lodged it would need to go through the appeal process – which could take years. National Association of Head Teacher’s General Secretary Russell Hobby commented in the  TES:

“Apparently, it is in the public interest to disclose the salaries of heads and when they’re off sick, but it is not in the public interest to disclose the cost of a test that people are very dubious about”.

Here is the link to that TES article in full: Department for Education  refuses to disclose cost of Year 1 reading test pilots.

The movement to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds” has also sparked Parliamentary Early Day Motion 1285 – with ten Member of Parliament signatures already. See this link:

We really need a debate in parliament on this one. It is time the Department of Education did their homework properly and stopped bullying young children, their parents and their teachers in this way.

  To get a debate in parliament we need to attain a third of M.P’s votes. So we need people at the grass roots to ask their M.P.’s to sign.

To find your M.P’s contact details follow this link:

http://www.parliament.uk/about/contacting/mp/