Attainment gap? What about the teaching gap?
I've been biting my tongue and trying to be patient. I don't want to be the messenger that gets shot. But with all this talk of attainment gaps and challenge funds, I can't keep quiet any longer.
We know that some of our learners, particularly those from a poor background, can arrive at school 18 months behind their peers in terms of vocabulary and cognitive development. To address this, we've established fantastic initiatives and collegiate practices such as the Early Years Collaborative and Play, Talk, Read. In addition, Curriculum for Excellence is groundbreaking in many ways.
But there is something we do not address systematically. Here is a question for you, one that I now ask teachers regularly: when you trained, were you taught how to teach reading? Sadly, despite the fact that we, as practitioners, are all responsible for the teaching and learning of literacy in our classrooms, the answer is usually no.
So how do we ensure that all our learners develop core skills in reading? That's just the problem - we don't. Through no fault of our own, we lack the required pedagogical subject knowledge when it comes to the most effective way to teach reading.
Our practice is often based on what scheme is in the cupboard, or advice from well-intentioned colleagues (most of whom weren't taught how to teach reading either) rather than on evidence-based methodologies. The real truth is that, when it comes to the teaching of reading in Scotland, we are resource-led rather than research-led. The problem is that these approaches are frequently outdated, resulting in a situation where most children can read but not all. And who is left behind? It's the children who started with a gap in the first place. We continue to fail the very pupils who need the transformational power of education the most.
Until we address this "teaching gap" when it comes to acquiring basic literacy skills, no matter what we try the attainment gap will be here for good.
Primary teacher and literacy consultant
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