What about school autonomy on phonics?
15 May 2011
As we know this government is strongly committed to the use of systematic phonics in the teaching of reading. We also know that ministers' rhetoric is all about school and teacher autonomy. How compatible are these two aims?
It's come to my attention that the government has now put a list of publishers and their phonics products which meet their core criteria. This contains a short list of 7 full phonics programmes. It can be found at: dfe.gov.uk/b0010235/publishers-and-their-products/a-to-z-of-phonics-publishers-and-their-products
The government does point out that this is not an exclusive list and is neither 'approved' or 'endorsed'. Nevertheless it will be a powerful push for these products.
But that is not all. The government has also awarded a contract to a company - Eastern Shires Purchasing Organisation (ESPO) - to set up a purchasing framework and invitations to tender.
Primary schools can access a match funded grant of £3,000 to spend on such resources. That is big money when multiplied by 16,000 primary schools in England.
As some people are now asking, if the government has already listed a set of resources on its own website, the tender process would appear to be likely to exclude suppliers not listed there. This could effectively establish the results of the tender process before it has even started.
The tender process details can be found here: espo.g2b.info/cgi-gen/profile.pl
Schools may feel they have little choice but to purchase DfE listed resources if they are to access the matched funding of £3,000.
If that is not the case, it would be useful to hear that made clear by the Department and for ministers to reassure schools they can choose the reading programmes they think best for them without losing this money.