“Think beyond phonics,” says education adviser for English

A former Deputy Head Teacher is encouraging primary school teachers to “think beyond phonics” and to consider wider reading strategies.

Emma Mudge, who has been at the forefront of school leadership and improvement in reading and literacy and is Educational Adviser for English at specialist education charity Services For Education, was speaking ahead of a national primary reading conference in November which will examine the changing needs of children across the year groups. Speakers at the conference include Pie Corbett, Kathy Roe, Mat Tobin and Sonia Thompson.

“Phonics is a critical and crucial starting point, but the question for many schools now is – what happens after that? We can easily lose sight of our principal areas of focus, and of how reading and literacy should be taught differently across the year groups. Many English leaders are lost with it – that’s where this conference could support and encourage their thinking on future delivery,” said Emma, who has more than 20 years’ experience working in primary education and supported English coordinators in Birmingham improving the reading attainment in a number of schools in the city.

“We need to give greater thought to wider reading strategies. I don’t believe that schools should be led down the path of only concerning themselves in phonics. Reading is a far more complicated skill than that.”

Emma said that in the recently updated Reading Framework published by the DFE in July 2023, the emphasis upon phonics has widened to include children falling behind in their reading in KS2 and KS3.

“The Framework balances this with an increased sense of importance placed upon fluency and shared understanding of texts, with teachers being encouraged to increase their talk around books, to read aloud and model their own love of reading,” she said.

Mat Tobin, a professor in Children’s Literature at Oxford Brookes University, and the co-author of Understanding and Teaching Primary English, who will discuss the development of a reading culture at the conference, said: “We need to embrace comprehension as a communal experience, where teachers guide discussions and readers inspire each other, creating a richer and more pleasurable journey into the world of words and ideas.”

“Reading comprehension is a major element of becoming a skilled reader, and the English National Curriculum works from this principle. It gives equal emphasis to both word decoding and language comprehension, as it is based upon the Simple View of Reading,” Emma said.

“I believe that as teachers, we need to look beyond phonics and delve into the complex processes which contribute to learning to read which is vital if children are to develop these essential skills for later life,” said Emma – whose presentation at the conference will explore the specifics that need to be taught whilst making links with the curriculum expectations and current guidance, ensuring that key messages and priorities remains relevant.

Services For Education’s Online Reading Conference will include presentations by specialists who will be leading sessions on these wider aspects of reading in all primary school settings.

Other speakers include Pie Corbett, former teacher, headteacher, lecturer, and English inspector; Kathy Roe, Deputy Lead Teaching and Learning Adviser in Primary English at Herts for Learning Education, and Sonia Thompson, Headteacher at St Matthews’s CofE Primary School and Director of St Matthew’s EEF Research School in Birmingham.

Services For Education Reading Conference is on Thursday, 9th November,
9:00 AM – 4:30 PM. Details of are available at https://www.servicesforeducation.co.uk/online-primary-reading-conference/


For further information:

Public and media relations for Services For Education:

David Clarke

E: david-c@clarke-associates.co.uk;

M: 07808 735255

About Services For Education:

An education and training charity based in Birmingham, Services For Education brings music and learning to life. Services For Education employs more than 200 staff delivering music tuition to children, and expert training and development to teaching and school support staff. It has annual income of £7.2m (Y/E August 2021). Part-funded by the Arts Council, England it also has its own fund-raising and subsidised commercial operations.

  • Services For Education’s School Support Service provides expert training and development to teaching and support staff in nearly 600 schools in the West Midlands and increasingly across England, to improve practice and ensure teachers are best equipped to respond to developments in curriculum and policy. As a leading provider of safeguarding education, Services For Education works with 400 schools delivering training in-person and on-line. It also delivers innovative programmes to support the physical and emotional health of children and young people through Health for Life and other community-based activity.
  • Services For Education’s Music Service, one of the largest in the country, works with 93% of Birmingham schools and each year teaches music to nearly 32,000 children – as well as running 112 free ensembles. It provides 27,000 musical instruments free-of-charge so all children have access to playing and enjoying music together and its Youth Proms at Symphony Hall give 4,000 young musicians the opportunity to perform to an audience of more than 10,000. It also runs music schools, has a world music department, provides private music tuition to all ages as well as working with partners to deliver music and choral opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. Its award-winning Online Music Educational Resource was completed and launched free to schools in 2021 to appeal to a young IT-connected audience attracted to learning online and to complement traditional tuition.

Issued on behalf of:

Services For Education

Unit 3 Holt Court

Holt Street

Birmingham Science Park

Aston, Birmingham B7 4AX

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