Nick Gibb's replies to additional questions on reading

20th March 2012 at 12:00

10:13 [handley] -

My son will be tested on phonic reading this year despite being hearing impaired. How does this inform the education of a 6 year old?

Handley - The phonics screening check will show whether your son has reached the expected standard in phonic decoding for the end of Year 1. If your son has not yet reached that level, he should receive extra support from your school - the purpose of this check is to make sure all pupils receive the help they need. Schools are best placed to decide what extra support each child requires based on their teachers' professional judgment. We do understand that some children with special educational needs may be on a different trajectory of progress, and this should be taken into account by schools when deciding what type of support each child needs. However, it is important that we set high expectations for all pupils, including those with special educational needs, so no groups of children will be excluded from the check (although teachers can disapply individual children, after discussion with parents, if the child cannot yet link sounds and letters). There is strong evidence that children with hearing impairments do benefit from phonics teaching when learning how to read, and we will make sure teachers have information about how to administer the check to children with special educational needs.

10:21 [Bill] -

Minister I have successfully taught and inspired Primary aged pupils using Dickens and Shakespeare as well as more recent authors such as Mark Haddon, Neil Gaiman and Louis Sachar but fear that comments attributed to yourself and the Secretary of State belie a suspicion of the use of more modern authors in the Primary classroom. Is this an unfounded fear and if so which children's authors published this century would you recommend children to read?

Bill - I want all pupils to read, study and be inspired by a wide variety of quality books throughout their school career. This includes classic books from our great literary heritage and recent authors. What is important is the range and quality of the books themselves. In terms of recommended children's authors published this century, there are a range of sources of excellent books; from the winners and shortlists of the CILIP Carnegie Medal and the Costa Children's Book Awards, to books recommended by school and local librarians and, of course, teachers.

10:23 [gisela] -

I would like to know how you feel qualified to judge that ALL primary school children should read a novel by Charles Dickens, as I am a primary school teacher and feel strongly that MOST primary age children would not be able to appreciate and understand the often very adult themes contained in his books. Why not let teachers decide which books they feel their pupils should read? After all they know them much better than you do, and have much more experience in terms of encouraging children to engage with literature. Of course, this would demonstrate a respect for the teaching profession and their expertise which is not commonly observed in this country.

Gisela - I'm glad I have a chance to correct this. I have a great respect for the expertise and commitment of those in the teaching profession and believe that it is right that teachers choose the books that their pupils should read. I would like greater expectations for children in reading but my original statement on this was unfortunately misreported. I would like to see all children reading a Dickens novel by the end of their teenage years, not by the end of Primary school. As with my answer to Bill (10.21 above), I believe that through reading a range and quality of books children will go on to develop a lifelong of reading.

10:33 [encompassnow] -

Children that don't learn to read phonetically need a multi sensory approach. Is this something you have explored?

Encompassnow - Research shows that an approach to teaching reading based on systematic phonics is successful with the overwhelming majority of children. However, a good phonics programme will certainly incorporate a multi-sensory approach. The core criteria for systematic synthetic phonics programmes set out by the Government include a criterion which states that such programmes should `use a multi-sensory approach so that children learn variously from simultaneous visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activities which are designed to secure essential phonic knowledge and skills.' All programmes in the catalogue `The Importance of Phonics', through which schools with Key Stage 1 pupils can access match-funding from the Government, meet this criterion.See http:www.pro5.orgennews_press870News-New-Pro5-Phonics-Catalogue for more information.

11:00 [Grace] -

Having lost one-to-one tuition, what are you going to replace it with to support those students who require it?

Grace - Funding previously allocated exclusively to one-to-one tuition is no longer `ring-fenced' and is now incorporated into schools' budgets for them to decide how to spend. Schools can also use money from the Pupil Premium funding to provide tuition for their disadvantaged pupils, if they wish.As you can see from my answer to handley (10.13), from June this year we're introducing a quick and simple phonics screening check for Year 1 children so that teachers can identify those pupils who aren't at the expected reading level and need extra support. To help primary schools deliver high-quality phonics teaching for their pupils we're providing up to pound;3,000 in match-funding to buy phonics products and training from an approved catalogue. The Department is also continuing to support the Every Child a Reader (ECAR) programme, which supports the lowest attaining children in Year 1 who are struggling the most with early literacy.

11:19 [Guest] -

Do you think Shakespeare can be taught well when the pressure to produce results for league tables means that teachers are forced to "teach to the test" and focus on analysing extracts rather than reading the whole play for enjoyment?

Guest - I should like pupils to encounter Shakespeare often in their school careers, both for enjoyment and as a basis for serious study. With good teaching, that should amount to the same thing.I donot accept thatpublishing exam resultsforces a `teaching to the test' approach. Indeed, I am sure that pupils whoread a whole play, andtherefore get the chance to enjoy and understand it properly,will do better overall, and I'm surethat informs the approach of the best schools and teachers. That said, I do think we should lookto makesure that literature examinationsareless predictableandreallyreward the knowledge andscholarship that comes from studying whole texts, rather than the narrowly focuseddrilling that some provide at present.

11:26 [Guest] -

Given your comments on the importance of school libraries, what are you doing to ensure schools have the budget and expertise to provide a wide range of interesting and relevant books?

Guest - It is the Government's policy to allow schools to make their own choices about their school library provision. It is up to schools to decide what level of funding they allocate to buying books and improving the school's (andor school library's) bookstock. Sector organisations such as the School Libraries' Association, Booktrust, the Reading Agency and the National Literacy Trust have online resources and professional expertise to support and enable schools to explore new approaches and access professional support.

11:34 [Guest] -

Hi Nick, you seem to agree with many points and it's clear you see reading as important. Despite that, I'm not seeing many practical strategies or indications of how policy will actually help teachers and parents develop a love of reading in their children. Do you really think a competition is the most government can do in this area?

Guest - I believe that the reading competition will really motivate young people to have a book on the go, but a competition is not enough on its own. Practical strategies and solutions will have the greatest impact when they are developed and implemented by those organisations and people that work in this area on a daily basis. It is for that reason that I am looking to work with the key sector organisations, some of whom I mentioned in the above answer (Guest - 11.26) to develop new ways that the Government can support teachers and parents to encourage their children to read.

11:52 [James] -

If the government is so pro-reading, why did Michael Gove exclude GCSE English Literature from the ENGBACC? I know you will `consider' it and others in the future, but why exclude it in the first place?

James - English literature GCSE is not excluded from the EBacc. Students must have grade A*-C in English GCSE (which covers both literature and language elements), or GCSEs in both English language and English literature, with at least A*-C grade in English language.


When I was in primary school, we chose a book that suited our interest from the bookshelves running the whole length of the corridor (which illustrated reading and literacy as a whole-school approach to reading for pleasure) and were then issued a `reading record' which we took home and asked our parents to read a certain amount of pages or a chapter at least once a week to our parentscarers, and they noted down any positive remarks or any issues that occurred so it helped the teacher and parent work together to combat where the required child needed specific help. (If the parents didn't feel like sitting down and being read to or can't read themselves etc, then the pupil can do this independently and note down any difficultiesbits they enjoyed). Therefore surely more initiatives should be brought into schools like this?

Also as a prospective primary school teacher starting my university course in September, I would like to know in advance if I would be able to introduce a scheme like this in my class if it was not being used in the school that I obtain a post in?

Scott - The approach taken in your own primary school is a great example of the type of excellent practice that is taking place in primary schools throughout the country. We want to encourage more such examples. I wish you every success in your teaching career and I'm sure you will find head teachers very receptive to new ideas to boost a love of reading among pupils.


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