'We're not idiots': Teachers react to reading framework

New DfE guidance, which advises against using mini-whiteboards for writing, is teaching us 'to suck eggs', say teachers

Catherine Lough

Literacy and phonics: New DfE reading framework is 'condescending' and teaching us to 'suck eggs', say teachers

Primary teachers have criticised a "rude and condescending" new government framework for teaching reading, with some commenting that the guidance is "teaching us to suck eggs".

The guidance, published over the weekend with a foreword from schools minister Nick Gibb, emphasises the importance of teaching systematic synthetic phonics to early years pupils. Writing for Tes today, Mr Gibb says the framework is the latest move from the government in the "battle" to end the "vicious circle of reading difficulty and demotivation".

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A number of suggestions in the framework, such as discouraging the use of mini white-boards for learning to write, and cautioning against the use of props in reading corners, have been criticised by teachers, who have described them as "micromanaging", "patronising" and "rude" on social media.

New DfE reading framework 'condescending'

Teacher Craig Birch commented on Twitter that the advice warning against pupils using mini-whiteboards on a carpet – it says pupils should write on paper sitting behind a desk – would "cause the most arguments".

The guidance adds that use of a whiteboard means that there is "no paper record of the work" for pupils, teachers or parents.

Another teacher commented: "Ahhhhh....so learning only happens if written down to prove it! Thank goodness that's been explained!

"All the experiential learning, drama, shared reading, modelling, fine motor work in different materials is all a waste of time as it's not 'recorded'. Unbelievable nonsense!"

Teachers said that the guidance was too prescriptive and felt "patronising".

One primary head, who comments on Twitter under the username "Censored Head", said that it was "teaching us to suck eggs" and that they felt it was "rude and condescending".

Principal Simon Smith agreed, saying: "It shows scant regard for the wealth of expertise in the sector and damages what it does right with a condescending tone and patronising approach".

One retired headteacher and chair of governors said that they found "Appendix 3 on how to read a story [...] particularly patronising".

'Sit in a low chair'

The guidance in Appendix 3 includes suggestions that the teacher "sit in a low chair, so that all children can see the book easily" and adopt  "a neutral voice" for the narrator of the story.

It adds: "Remember, the voices have to be maintained for the whole story. If there are too many, it can be difficult for the children to identify them."

Teacher Trina Huish said of the guidance: "Soon there will be no need for any teaching degree or any experience – you just take somebody and give them the 'how to do it ' book. Micromanaging is becoming the norm."

The guidance also states that children at the end of Reception should be taught phonics for "about an hour a day", with one Reception teacher stating that the research to back this up was "non-existent".

She added "don't try any fun to consolidate learning" in response to part of the guidance that advises against using "activities such as painting, colouring, modelling in the sand and water tray" as "vehicles for practising phonics".

It also states that in reading corners, "the books themselves are the most important aspect" and that it should be "the words of the stories and not the props that transport children to different worlds".

"Time might therefore be better spent on selecting, displaying and promoting the books in the book corner rather than on decorating it," it says.

Primary teacher Mr Allington commented: "Some are already feeling smug that they don’t have a reading corner, like it’s a waste of time. It’s one area I do spend a lot of time and effort on because in my classroom it does have impact. Yes, we promote books above all, but having a comfortable place to read matters to me.

"That’s not to say everyone has to have one, but I don’t need to be told that it’s not a replacement for promoting quality books. I’m not an idiot," he added.

Reading to pupils every day

Some reaction from teachers was more positive about the framework. One primary assistant head said they "loved" the suggestion that pupils should be read to every day.

And Chris Rossiter, chief executive of the Driver Youth Trust, an education charity working to improve outcomes for pupils with SEND and literacy difficulties, praised the framework for "taking a much wider view" of literacy than previous government documents.


The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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