Ironically, the answer may lie in resistance theory. Systematic synthetic phonics was introduced as government policy. The Department for Education sought to embed it nationally using the three principal policy drivers at its disposal: curriculum, accountability and assessment. Thus it was woven intrinsically into the new National Curriculum of , included in OFSTED inspection criteria and training and formed a cornerstone of KS1 statutory assessment in the form of the phonics screening check. At a time when teacher pay was frozen, and a new curriculum was being introduced by an unpopular Secretary of State it was perhaps not surprising that the teaching unions, who exist primarily to defend and improve the pay and conditions of their members Compton and Weiner, resisted the institution of an ideological and politically motivated pedagogical initiative that appeared counterintuitive to generally accepted thinking and increased teacher workload.
The advocates of resistance theory would thus argue that teachers were exhibiting oppositional behaviour Apple et al. Rather than being manipulated by and complicit with the dominant elite they were resisting, undermining and destabilising them.
Paradoxically, although not acting maliciously, teachers were acting wholly to the detriment of their pupils. The issue of inconsistent adoption is either one of strategy or cultural ideology. If it is the culture of a dominant elite resisting the introduction on grounds of ideology and the maintenance of clearly defined social classification that sustains their power, with schools and teachers consenting through reciprocal approval and reward that is the barrier to acceptance, then there is almost no hope for universal adoption and universal literacy.
Marxists would argue that it is only the dismantling of a capitalist economic structure that would liberate the ideology, change the culture and liberate this oppression. If, as the post-structuralists and neo-Marxists argue, structures are not only defined by their architects but by the influences working on them, then it was the strategy of implementation that has created the resistance from teachers. Seen as the imposition of an illogical, counterintuitive, traditionalist pedagogy, teachers have taken a cynical post-modernist view of phonics and resisted the policy implementation with suspicion and disengagement, which has resulted in an incoherent, inconsistent and ineffective implementation.
Coercive and non-rational influences had led to an irrational and illogical outcome. However, with the overwhelming and deeply entrenched hostility to synthetic phonics from practitioners currently within the profession the chances of a rational dialogue seem remote. This leaves one effective strategy for the policymakers: they must win the hearts and minds of new entrants to teaching. This places the Initial Teacher Training providers at the heart of any strategy. With all new entrants to the profession not only highly trained at delivery but, more importantly, fully cognisant of the fundamental pedagogical philosophy and rationale of the strategy, there is the smallest chance that universal literacy may not be the white rabbit Carol, of education in England.
Nonetheless, with the inevitable further fracturing of teacher training provision after the Carter Review , the chances of a coherent and consistent approach to the teaching of any subject, let alone the reading of English seems remote. That leaves only one true way to ensure systematic synthetic phonics is taught consistently in England….
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Centre For Policy Studies, November Carol, L. Alice's adventures in Wonderland. Carter, A. Carter review of initial teacher training - GOV. Chomsky, N. Chomsky on Mis-education. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Clark, C. Cohen, L. Research methods in education. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Dehaene, S. Reading in the brain. New York: Penguin Books. Narrative of the life of frederick douglass. Eaglestone, R. Doing English. Johanneshov: TPB.
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