School sucks!
School sucks!

Struggling kids punished for teachers’ failings

BRISBANE primary school students who struggle to read are being punished for fidgeting and sent to time-out rooms, a shocking government-funded study shows.

The new study of 118 children in seven primary schools found that many read better in Year 1 than in Year 3.

Lead author Professor Linda Graham, of the Queensland University of Technology, said some children were being punished for misbehaving in class when teachers had failed to teach them to read properly.

"Very often they're fidgeting and distracted," she said.

"They're being put into separate classes, and are getting sent to the 'thinking room' a lot.

"One kid was being sent home at 1.30 every day because he would become so overwhelmed and unhappy in class."

Professor Graham said one Year 4 student had fallen so far behind in reading that teachers had tailored the curriculum to give him Prep-level work.

"He was drawing pictures in a scrapbook," she said.

"By Grade 3, children really need to be hitting their straps. They're not going to catch up.

"If they're coming out of Year 3 not being able to read, it's consigning them to a lifetime of unemployment and poverty."

The study found that one third of children at the Brisbane schools could not read properly by the end of Year 3.
The study found that one third of children at the Brisbane schools could not read properly by the end of Year 3.

Professor Graham said schools must teach children to read using phonics to sound out words, instead of relying on memorising whole words or using pictures to guess them.

"Systemic phonics is about teaching the correspondence between letters and sounds explicitly, and not learning it by chance," she said.

"There are all these other strategies used, like looking at a picture to guess the word.

"When you get into the upper grades of school, there aren't pictures for everything.

"These kids really need to know what sounds the letters make - that decoding skill.

"We cannot have an approach to reading that has such a high failure rate."

The study, funded by the Australian Research Council, involved seven unnamed schools servicing disadvantaged communities in Brisbane.

One third of the primary school students could not read properly by the end of Year 3.

Professor Graham, from QUT's School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, said some teachers wrongly assumed the kids were misbehaving due to problems at home.

"Teachers need to look beneath the surface and not make assumptions about children's family life,'' she said.

"We're seeing misinterpretations on a grand scale."



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