Scroll free September?

 

scroll free september
The UK media are busily discussing a new campaign by the Royal Society for Public Health – Scroll Free September. It’s a lively idea to encourage us all to think about our relationship with social media and its possible impact on mental health.
The RSPH’s introduction is quick to stress potential benefits of social media in supporting connectivity and wellbeing. But at the same time its 2017 #StatusofMind report examined both the positive and negative effects of social media on people’s health. YouTube came out as particularly positive, but use of Instagram and Snapchat was experienced to some people’s detriment.
The Scroll Free September campaign is not an alarmist suggestion that we all go cold turkey, but rather suggests:
“By taking notice of and learning which elements of social media make you feel good and which make you feel bad, participating in Scroll Free September could help you build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future – a relationship where your use is conscious and mindful, and where you are the one in control.”
There are 5 levels of participation ranging between “cold turkey” and “sleeping dog”. I’m contemplating blending “social butterfly” social butterfly and “night owl” night owl.

Almost inevitably, the media is tending to report the campaign in a relatively extreme and therefore somewhat unfair way: see for example the Independent’s “Why a health charity wants you to go cold turkey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
I know that my colleagues’ project on Academic Writing found that email was experienced as a considerable burden by some participantsbut I’m not sure if the team (Karin Tusting [PI], David Barton, Ibrar Bhatt, Mary Hamilton and Sharon McCulloch) found much evidence of the impact of social media in 2016-17 on academics in HEIs.
I learnt about the campaign from Niamh McDade, the Senior Policy and Communications Executive at RSPH, who is a relative of mine. I think any campaign that gets us thinking about writing and reading in our lives in a balanced way is a good thing, but this seems particularly imaginative. I will decide which level to sign up to by the end of the day!

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Phonics Screening Check – research findings by Margaret M Clark

The Phonics Screening Check involves children of about six years old in England being tested on their ability to read out loud 40 words, half of which are not real words at all.  The Government recently repeated its commitment to the test in England  despite the lack of supportive evidence and despite the irony that the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, urges teachers to take notice of research.

At the recent 54th UK Literacy Association annual conference in Cardiff I met the redoubtable Margaret M Clark OBE, who I first encountered perhaps 20 years’ ago.  Professor Clark has recently published “The Phonics Screening Check 2012-2017: an independent enquiry into the views of head teachers, teachers and parents.”  This report has been made open access and is accompanied by other resources including an article in the Education Journal.

Margaret Clark OBE

Margaret M Clark OBE

Clark explains in the article how the originally described “light touch diagnostic assessment” has become “a high stakes test in the accountability programme, with schools required by DfE and Ofsted to increase their percentage pass each year….it has come to dominate the early years literacy experiences of young children, with many hours devoted to preparing for the check, in particular the alien (pseudo) words which account for twenty of the forty words in the check.” (Clark, 2018: 20). Those who do not meet the pass mark have to take the test again the following year. Yet, as the report explains, “When teachers were asked: “Do you feel the phonics check provides you with information on individual children which you did not already have?” Only 71 of the 1,108 teachers polled answered ‘Yes’. Only 20 of 180 Head Teachers said that they found the Check helpful.” (Clark: 2018: 23).

Disturbingly, the PSC is gaining ground in Australia.  In an appendix to the report Dr Misty Adoniou of the University of Canberra explains how South Australia has made the PSC compulsory, with endeavours to roll it out as Federal policy.  She explains that the policy is driven by supposed benefits to the identification of dyslexia, although this was “never the stated purpose of the PSC,and the developer of the check and subsequent evaluators, acknowledge that the PSC is not nuanced enough to perform diagnoses of literacy difficulties” (p. 42).  She argues that the policy is ideologically driven, as  a “framing of learning to read as a medical neurological condition.” (p. 42).

I admire the continuing work of Clark, which includes a  challenging investigation into the appalling amounts spent on the PSC. This could be spent   very much better in supporting children’s wellbeing and literacy experiences.  In my opinion her research completely justifess her key findings and policy implications:

1. The views expressed indicate that the government should seriously consider either discontinuing the phonics check or making it voluntary.
2. Many of the respondents, teachers and parents, were critical of the inclusion of the pseudo words and of the time taken in practising them
3. The use of the check as a benchmark to measure overall school improvement appeared to be regarded as unhelpful by many.
4. Given the proportion of teachers and parents who disagreed with government policy,the Government should consider a broader repertoire of approaches to teaching children to read.

Clark (2018, p. 24)

Sources:

Clark, M.M. (2018) The views of teachers, parents and children on the Phonics Screening Check: the continuing domination of politics over evidence. Education Journal Issue 347. pp. 20-24 10 July 2018.

Clark, M.M. & Glazzard, J.  (2018) The Phonics Screening Check 2012-2017: an independent enquiry into the views of Head Teachers, teachers and parents. A preliminary report July 2018.  Birmingham: Newman University.

Comment. Education Journal. Issue 347, p. 4.10 July 2018