Is Spellwise in a school near you?

At last I have updated the map to show where Spellwise has been bought and is being used in schools in the UK.  The map certainly shows how the news about Spellwise is spreading across the country.

It’s a chance for everyone to check out schools in their area and see what they have to say about Spellwise.  There’s no better recommendation than a school that has used the Spellwise Programme.

I was really excited last month to know that a school in Northern Ireland had recently purchased the Box.  I wish the staff and their children success with the Programme.

So Spellwise has officially travelled abroad!

A huge thank you to all you schools who are using Spellwise.  Keep shouting its praises as the viewings and recommendations are certainly growing and I am sending out my free DVD on a daily basis .

I’m off to another school in Birmingham on Monday to present the Spellwise Box.  It’s another chance to keep contact with the ‘workers at the chalk face’; those who put the creative nuts and bolts of the curriculum together to support their SEND children.  It is always a joy and a pleasure.

BRILLIANT NEWS: Validation of Spellwise

From the beginning March 2016, my Spellwise Programme can now be found on-line in Professor Greg Brook’s newly compiled book:
‘The Effectiveness of Intervention Schemes – Fifth Edition’, published by the Dyslexia – SpLD Trust.

Professor Greg Brooks is the Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield.

To explore further, go to:-

(Spellwise index entry: Chapter 3.26, pg. 114)

The process began last year when I submitted my Spellwise Programme, along with supportive data from my 2011-12, 2014-15 research, to show the extent of progress children made using my Spellwise Programme.

Its validation and the fact that Professor Greg Brooks has felt it worthy of inclusion in his book has given Spellwise the status and recognition it deserves.   It is a great honour and I feel very proud that Spellwise has been validated and valued as a successful intervention programme for SEND children.


Assessment for SEND Interventions; Can anyone help?

Living without levels has been a major concern for all authorities, schools and teachers across the country.  Authorities have had to devise their own systems of assessment to measure children’s progress in English and Maths which has created a mix-match of systems being used.  Publishing companies have jumped on the band wagon to create their own ‘Progress Tests’, adding to the mix.

The lack of uniformity of any one system is going to have a massive impact on my Spellwise Synthetic Phonic  Programme because I will not be working from a level assessment playing field.  The Data I have collected over the years has relied upon consistent testing, using the Salford Sentence Reading Test and National Curriculum levels and sub-levels (increments) in reading, writing and spelling.

Now, schools are looking at a variety of systems that include 3 level; 6 level; 9 level stages of progression through each strand of the new reading, writing, speaking and listening curriculum.  Or a child will be either ’emerging’, ‘expected’, ‘exceeding’ or ‘below average’, ‘average’, ‘above average’.   I have already had a parent show me her SEND child’s end of term report where every subject indicated he was ‘below average’.  How soul destroying is that for the child and concerning for the parents?  And how does it celebrate the small stages of progress that are real milestones for many SEND children when, at the end of the day, they are always ‘below average’ or ’emerging’?

These new assessment procedures will also impact upon my Spellwise results.  The children who need Spellwise are those still struggling with phonological processing, auditory, visual sequencing and memory.  Their results, though impressive, will still be judged as ‘below average’.

This is not just a concern for Spellwise.  It is for all other intervention Programmes out there that support children’s learning.

What is the answer?   What assessment structure should we begin using that validates our intervention programmes and retains our credibility in the field of SEND Education?

I will be visiting a Birmingham School tomorrow to discuss this very same question.  Birmingham have brought out a 16 Band Assessment Toolkit that gives expected Bands to be reached by Yr 6 e.g. Band 5 is the expected Band at the end of Reception; Band 8 at the end of Yr 1; Band 16 at the end of Yr 6.

It looks interesting and I am curious to see if it will deliver enough Data to be used as a measure of progress for SEND Spellwise children.  I will definitely feed back with my thoughts.

I the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions for an assessment programme to be used in conjunction with my Spellwise Programme AND for other intervention programmes out there, then I’m sure we would all be grateful of your ideas and support.

Evolve National Conference – A New Era

The Evolve National Conference on Thursday 27th August was a success and a triumph for John Bishop and Graham, the Directors of Evolve.

I presented my Spellwise Programme to three groups of Evolve Health Mentors. Health Mentors are a team of young people employed to deliver intervention programmes in schools. They were so full of enthusiasm and commitment, they were a delight to be around.

During the Conference, I had the privilege sharing the success and achievements of some Health Mentors brave enough to stand up in front of their peers to deliver their teaching stories. They certainly had the audience reduced to laughter and tears as each individual gave moving and reflective accounts of work and experiences they felt had impacted upon the children they supported. It was definitely ‘A Special Moment’.

Another star performer was the distinguished ‘guest speaker’, Professor Sir Al Aynsley – Green. His message; the need to develop healthy, educated, creative and resilient, children questioned our approach to education and our educational system. Compared to countries such as Finland, we have a long way to go to bring back child centred learning and an holistic approach of teaching that values the child rather than their results and performances. Even though we are obsessed with performances and league table, England is down at the bottom of the PISA table, in 22nd position out of 24 countries for Literacy.

His analogy, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, based on an African Proverb, made us all think that we have lost that sense of nurturing that families and communities bring when working together. It certainly has huge implications for schools and their outreach programmes.

The Conference finished with a gathering of all involved; the invited presenters; educationalists and Head Teachers; the Evolve staff and the team of Health Mentors. The meal and the company were excellent and a perfect ending to an inspiring day. I came away with a sense of pride that the youth (in the guise of Health Mentors) have so much to offer children in schools. Their professionalism and dedication to each placement is a credit to Evolve and all it stands for – the betterment of education for all children.

Teachers – sit up and take heed!

This website article was sent by a friend who has always known that she could not visualise.  At last she can say that she has the condition Aphantasia.;

Copy this website into Google and read this article to find out what Aphantasia is.

I hope it will make all teachers sit up and take heed.

I have always said we should not presume that all children have the ability to visualise.

I had a pupil some years ago who could not visualise.  Ask him to describe a winter’s day; a walk in the park or what he had just eaten for lunch and his face would go blank.  I called it his ‘black look’ because you could see the frustration it created inside him.  But give him a picture to describe and he was able to discuss and produce a good piece of creative writing.

So we must not presume.  Ask a question: e.g. ‘Can you visualise your own bedroom?’  If they can’t bring their bedroom images in their mind’s eye, then you know you need to adapt teaching strategies to support visualisation.

Give pictures or sketch on a white board the subject matter.

Select 5 -8 objects, themes, linked to the picture, discussing suitable sentences to describe ‘the tree’, ‘the robin’; the frozen lake’ etc.

Use a Dictaphone to capture the images in words that they create – so that they are not lost when the next idea is discussed.

They then can go away and write up a beautiful piece of creative writing.

It just needs teaching adapted to thinking outside the box.

Treading new waters – A New Era

These are exciting times. I’m off to Nottingham on Thursday 27th September to meet up with 10 other companies who have come together under the umbrella company – Evolve.
I shall be attending their National Conference at the National College for Teaching and Leadership and will be presenting Spellwise to some of the Evolve Health Mentors who work in schools across the country.
It will be a great opportunity to showcase Spellwise. It will also be a privilege to meet like minded educationalists whose sole intent is to support children with intervention programmes that stimulate and improve children’s learning.
More news to follow.

The first time this year

It was the first time this year that ‘The Spellwise Stand’ came out of mothballs and travelled to the South Gloucestershire SENCO Conference in Filton, Bristol yesterday (Thurs 5th Feb).
Thank you to all those SENCO’s and teachers who came over for a chat; it was lovely to meet and talk.
It was also an opportunity to share alternative ideas with both primary and secondary colleagues. I hope the ‘Sentence Blue-prints’ and the spelling ‘Story Boards’ helped those Junior and Secondary colleagues to see a different and more visual alternative approach to teaching spelling and writing.
It has certainly galvanised my thinking and resolve to put the ideas on paper and have them printed as a resource for everyone. My next project!

A worthwhile site: teaching tips for busy teachers

I was sent this site which I thought was worth sharing. Teachers have placed short YouTube videos of teaching tips that have worked for them. There were some good ideas. I particularly liked the ‘Frog Pond’ set up in an Infant classroom and the way of teaching number bonds to 10.

The site is:
This is what it promotes:-

Looking for inspirational teaching ideas?
Do you have a tip to pass onto other teachers? – a place for busy teachers to share ideas for use in the classroom
Throw a Fish is a metaphor for throwing a good idea which others will catch.
Start catching your fish

I hope you find some useful tips or even have time to add some of your own.

The thorny issue of ‘life without levels’

How is your school tackling ASSESSMENT?

Over the past few weeks I have been to 3 separate Counties and asked the thorny question; ‘How are you addressing assessment without levels for September 2015?’

Each County seems to have devised their own take on this.

One said that they were using a 6 point progress scale for each year band, starting in Reception. Each point within that band would have to be married with the new performance descriptors being brought out by the Government this Autumn. Children work their way through these points and then move onto the next set of 6 points in the following year band. These 6 points will link to the favoured DFE model of the 3 ‘E’s’ – ‘Emerging’, ‘Expected’ and ‘Exceeding’; terms used in the Foundation Stage.

Another County were using a similar sort of 6 point scale to measure progress through the year groups but it was still being worked upon. Already they were voicing the problems faced by schools receiving children from other Counties. It had caused quite a problem with a recent child as the results from one school did not marry with the assessment results carried out by them.

A cluster group in another County were in the process of developing a 3 ‘level’ system linked to the 3 ‘E’s’. If children reached ‘Exceeding’ then they should be given extended, more challenging work but not moving into the next year’s curriculum.

The lack of uniformity across the country is concerning. I know that all schools, clusters and Authorities are working really hard to put assessment packages together that will show a true reflection of a child’s progress in the school. But the end result is going to be an ad-hoc miss-match of results delivered by a variety of ‘systems’. It poses a huge problem for OFSTED Inspectors who have been told to look at books across the whole school as there will be no tracking evidence!

I am curious to know how other schools, cluster groups and Authorities are tackling this very worrying situation.

What is your ‘Assessment Plan?’

It needs to be out there in the public domain to allow everyone to have the best ‘format’ that can be used across the board by all schools.

Your views and feedback are vital.