I did not choose the path of my life. It just happened. I did not ask to have a Down’s son, and when on his 2nd birthday I was told (!), I just gave up expectations. Over and over he did more than I expected and by 7th birthday he could read (and spell) 3-letter words. Sent to an ESN school with specially qualified teachers, he learned NOTHING for two vital years. Desperate and totally UNtrained (i.e. not mistrained), I started and with common sense led him to the end of the Royal Road (phonics) readers; 18 months later he could read. His teachers had not noticed! This first shook me – the total absence of professional curiosity from his teachers and the LEA (Bromley).
In 1972 we moved to Norfolk, and I followed reports of Sue Lloyd’s Suffolk school, raising literacy every year from 1974 (102) to 1982 (113.8), The county average remained 98-101 – they just ignored Sue’s outstanding achievement!
This is Average reading quotient, of a group, nation average being 100 like I.Q. It is far more instructive than SATs.
I taught strugglers in a Norfolk Middle school for 6 years and again the LEA ignored the improvement.
I retired in 1981 and by 1989 was swamped by parents asking for help. I wanted a simple, cheap workbook so that I could say to them, “Use this. Teach him/her yourself” but there was nothing except the American Writing Road to Reading and again not simple enough. In self-defence I wrote and published Step by step, then £2.50 now £5, quickly recognised by John Clare (Daily Telegraph) as “the best” and his support sold over 20,000 copies – to parents. Teachers do not read the Telegraph!
Also in autumn 1989 I went to Tacoma USA to meet Marion and Paul Hinds, leaders of the Reading Reform Foundation, preparatory to setting up a UK Chapter. I edited its newsletter for 11 years, then handed over, and we were united until 2007 when government issued the muddled “Letters and Sounds” (costing £2.46m) and the RRF urged me to support it “for solidarity”. They and every LEA, every school in the land should have REJECTED it! But there has been no whisper of protest from anybody at any level!
In 1994 I came to Knowsley as it was the bottom in the league tables. Mike Dalton, then head of Southmead primary school, understood my work, and Gill Downey taught Y1 and stayed for Y2 with outstanding results, a 7+ ARQ of 119 – in a school with 70% on free meals and little or no parental help! Why did the LEA not spread this wonderful teaching? Why did she drop it? Again I taught Reception, and the 1999 result was 116 with NO children having reading age below chronological age, compared to other years 100, 102. You would think the LEA would be proud, delighted! Instead they have ignored it and do not share my dream of having Knowsley lead the whole country.
Despite endless approaches, the LEA continues to keep me out. Education (unlike the police, NHS) has no complaints system. It is specifically excluded from the brief of the Ombudsman! Parents, everybody has no idea of the potential that is lost, the potential waiting to blossom, the ladder out of the pit of ?”poverty” that would cut truancy, and delinquency. Schools churning out a cohort at 16, half of whom have poor literacy, is a recipe for resentment leading to violence. Way back in 1990 Peter Dawson (Head of the PAT union) was asking, “What the hell’s going on?” He died in 1995. Despite my M.B.E. in 2008, my local authority continues to fend me off
Parents can each their own child. It is truly enjoyable, and a much needed alternative to TV! In 2010 I am 87 and do not want profit or fame. I just want to end all this needless failure before I die. Will you help me, please? Teach your own child? Talk to teachers?
Mrs Mona McNee, B.A., T.D., P.C.T., M.B.E. 2010