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Phonics research supports Phonics Stars ™ initiative – providing all the King’s horses and all the King’s men are not summoned as the next step.

Writing here in May 2016, it is more than two years since our Founder Samantha Baldwin recognised a fundamental unmet need at the primary education level, and formed Phonics Stars ™ to address that need. Sam was then an Early Years Educator working in a London Primary School. There, she experienced, first hand and at the coal face, how many Children were entering school unable to participate in the learning she was required to deliver because they were far from ready for school.

In addition, Sam noticed the negative impact this had on her stretched colleagues around her and on the outcomes the school were expecting of their Pupils. Moreover, the need to divert time and resources to deal with this issue limited the chances of all the Children in the class.

article_1At this point Sam chose to do something about it. She left her full time employment and Founded Phonics Stars™ to help Families to prepare their Children to make the best of their formal education by getting off to a head start. It is well recorded that the initial years of formal education, known as Key Stage One in the UK, is a vital period. Whatever learning trajectory Children achieve in KS1 almost always continues for the rest of their education; whether good or bad. For more information about this, see this report by Dame Clare Tickell on the UK Government website.

Now, academia is catching up with the work Sam started and that Phonics Stars™ has gone on to build upon. This month, the State of Education survey, carried out by schools support service The Key, has been published. It surveyed 1,100 Primary School Leaders and produced firm evidence that many Children entering education exhibit poor social skills, delayed speech and lower-than-expected literacy and numeracy skills.

Those surveyed indicated that just over 30% of Reception Children were arriving at school at this level. That one third equates to a statistical 194,003 Children out of 636,761.

article_2One theory offered is that mobile technology is in part to blame. One Head Teacher is quoted as saying “Four-year-olds know how to swipe a phone but haven’t a clue about conversations.” You can read the full State of Education Survey Report here and about it in Nursery World here and a piece exploring the impacts of mobile phone use on Children in The Daily Telegraph here.

Phonics Stars™’ Founder Sam Baldwin comments “This comes as no surprise and it is useful to have some additional evidence to help drive change. However, I empathise with Authorities trying to cope with this issue – because, as Parents and Early Learning operatives know too well, it is complex. All kinds of circumstantial matters impact upon the early years from simply being born in the summer, to the availability of places in Schools where Parents live.

I have certainly read similar Government-backed reports and experienced the Government-backed initiatives that have followed them. Of course they are perfectly well intentioned and produced by people who are far cleverer than me; but they can seem like a sledge-hammer to crack a nut and I have certainly not noticed any change-for-the-better where it really matters – in people’s lives.

“It can feel a bit like when the King summoned up all of his wisdom and decided that he would command all of his horses and all of his men to put a broken egg back together again! Men on horses to mend an egg? He’d have been much better off calling for a couple of experienced Teachers, TAs or Primary Carers.”

Putting it into an Early Learning context, some perfectly well meaning plans can feel a bit like when the King summoned up his wisdom and decided that he would command all of his horses and all of his men to put a broken egg back together again! Men on horses to mend an egg? Perhaps he should have called for a couple of experienced Teachers, TAs or Primary Carers who have the passion, the experience and the tools needed to gently mend and reassure the egg. Using well chosen words and actions based on tried and tested theory, plus some tweezers and glue readily available in their bags, they would surely have given Humpty Dumpty a brighter future than the cavalry could have achieved?

And in many ways, this is how Phonics Stars™ has achieved our success; from the ground up, not the top down. We are not a charity, we have no government funding, and when I left my full time employment in school to follow this Cause, I had to get a loan and provide everything the business needed; and with no guarantee that it would earn a single penny.”

But it has worked; because what we do really makes a real and tangible difference to Children, to Families and even to Communities and Schools where we are active. Clearly many Parents believe what we believe – and that success is enabling us to spread the Phonics Stars ™ happiness and advantages across the UK. Of course we are grateful for the validation that this report confers, but what really matters is the inspiration, reassurance and support we provide to Children, Families and Communities day in, day out”.