My Old Reading Scheme

We had to change our books
‘Cos of Ofsted’s scathing looks.
They were based on stories, not decoding text.
There was “James and the Giant Peach”
But that’s not one we can teach
To children in Year 3 – whatever next?!
We packed all we could pack
In our reading sessions, that’s a fact.
And the children read for pleasure, everyone.

Now we have to follow rules
Using phonics in all schools
Till there isn’t any room for reading just for fun.

The Ofsted report said: “Phonics ain’t taught,
Children are using bad old ways”.
Off went the van with the old schemes in it.
If you find a new Bible,* will you please just bin it! (Note: *The King James version provided by Mr Gove is unlikely to be matched to early readers’ capabilities, and is not phonetically decodable throughout)

We dillied and dallied,
Dallied and dillied;
Lost our way and got an RI grade.
And you can’t trust your instincts
On the old-time methods –
So they’ll read out “said” as “sayed” …

Q. Aye aye! What’s all this about, then?
A. The new curriculum states that phonics must be the primary (ie sole) method of teaching reading. Ofsted will expect to see this being used routinely for all emergent readers, rather than employing strategies which rely, for instance, on picture cues. Reading material should be at a level that is appropriate for the children (ie. matched to their reading age scores), and be decodable using a phonics approach. Teachers who do not subscribe whole-heartedly to the phonics approach may be penalised (ie criticised in inspection reports) for non-compliance, as schools are expected to adopt this method to the exclusion of other techniques. See  an Ofsted report on a junior school, which gives an insight into the importance of phonics in inspections.

A 2014 Ofsted report on how reading was taught in a twelve schools in one LA flagged up the expectations around the teaching of reading. Within the report – led by Angela Westington HMI, I believe – was this commentary (Page 15)  on a child’s attempts to decode an unfamiliar word:

Jane reading ‘Dick and his Hat’
The book was given to Jane on the day of the inspector’s visit. She could not read the title and had no strategy for decoding the word ‘Dick’. When asked what her teacher had told her to do if she could not read a word, she said ‘look at the picture’. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the picture that would allow Jane to know that the word said ‘Dick’.

(As an aside:
When I was a primary teacher, in the bad old days before this new improved evidence-based approach to literacy had been introduced, we would probably have punctuated that second sentence as:
When asked what her teacher had told her to do if she could not read a word, she said,Look at the picture.’  (Comma, capital, full-stop)

However, who I am to correct an Ofsted inspector’s English? Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis …..)

June 2015. The DfE published their Phonics screening check evaluation: final report. Read it here.

Disclaimer:  No children or stories were harmed in the making of this song, which has been created purely for comic effect. “James and the Giant Peach” has NOT been banned by Ofsted, and I recognise that it is entirely possible to have fun using books based on decodable text (eg the Bangers and Mash series) . Please do not eat the daisies …..

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