Month: September 2014

Headline Measures?

If some can’t read, the school is failing. In many secondary schools, the highest priorities are the headline performance tables, such as the 5ACEM and the new ‘Progress 8’. This is understandable, given the relentless pressure on schools to improve results. Remarkably, there is little pressure by the government to improve children’s reading. Progress in this area is presumably meant to be implied by the headline measures. In reality, it is possible for a school to have good 5 A* – C including English and Maths and still have scores of students in the same cohort unable to read and write properly. It is a reality I have witnessed. The American Federation of Teachers makes an explicit statement about priorities: “Teaching children to read is the most fundamental responsibility of schools.” Although health and safety might be seen as even more fundamental, schools do not exist in order to provide health and safety. They provide health and safety because children are entrusted to them to learn – and the most important skill they need for learning …

Are all students screened for reading?

A couple of weeks ago, I watched Last Chance Academy, a Panorama documentary about an academy which has set up its own alternative programme for students who are regularly in trouble. The academy not only refuses to exclude students but also aims to get them at least five GCSEs. What struck me was the prominence of reading problems amongst these students. In particular, Chelsea exhibited very stressed behaviours in her exams: it turned out she couldn’t read the paper, but the school hadn’t known. How could such a thing happen? The head’s comment said it all: “She was so good at masking her problem that it never occurred to me that she couldn’t read.” A tweet from @MrDavies_Leap suggested that she had missed the screening tests, and this highlights the importance of screening all students. It is important to bear in mind that the students who are often away are also often the ones who need the most help. They avoid school because they find it so aversive, and because they are away often they …