We are fortunate to have a wide range of expertise and experience on the iRead project team. In a series of blog posts we will introduce each of our partners and find out what motivated them to get involved in the iRead project. Next up is the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education (introduced by Dr Emma Sumner, Liz Herbert and Dr Amelia Roberts).
Introducing UCL Centre for Inclusive Education
Our mission is to develop and implement evidence-informed inclusive practice in education. Teachers and educational practitioners have been working with our centre for over 25 years to grow professionally and develop their careers through collaboration, partnership and taught courses. The UCL Centre for Inclusive Education is part of the Institute of Education, Psychology and Human Development department. Colleagues within the centre, and more broadly in the department, have significantly developed the research literature on language and literacy, and continue to lead the field internationally.
Elisabeth (Liz) Herbert | Lecturer at UCL Centre for Inclusive Education
Liz is the joint programme leader and leads some of the modules on the SpLD (dyslexia) Masters. She is also a facilitator on the MITA (Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants) and PALAC (Promoting the Achievement of Looked after Children) projects and is involved with the new SSLIC (Supporting Spoken Language in the Classroom) project. She works as part of the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education team to support the inclusion and improve outcomes for children and young people with SEN and in care. Her key areas of interest are dyslexia, literacy, language, ICT and the education of children in care.
Dr Emma Sumner | Lecturer at UCL-IOE Psychology and Human Development
Emma is a lecturer in psychology and SEN at UCL, teaching largely on the SpLD (dyslexia) Masters programme and co-leading the Assessment module. She has a keen interest in special educational needs (SEN) and linking research and practice. Specifically, her research has focused on spelling and writing development, and the relationship between cognitive and motor skills. Her research has considered both children and adults with literacy difficulties. Her teaching emphasises the importance of evidence-based practice when working with children experiencing language and literacy difficulties.
Amelia Roberts | Deputy Director at UCL Centre for Inclusive Education
Amelia is a Lecturer in Education and Deputy Director of UCL Centre for Inclusive Education. She is the Research Engagement and Impact Lead for the Psychology and Human Development Department at UCL Institute of Education and is undertaking research in Lesson Study for Special Educational Needs. Amelia is also joint Programme Leader MTeach SEN (Special Educational Needs); Programme Lead on the PG Cert in Inclusive Education and accredited programmes in Research-informed Professional Practice and Module Leader on Psychological Theories of Counselling. Amelia leads on consultancy projects such as ‘Embedding the SEND Code of Practice’ in Enfield and SEN School Development in the Falkland Islands. She is currently working with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in Oman to write a teacher training programme to support inclusive classrooms. Amelia is on an advisory panel for the DfE overseeing SEND Research; the Resident Expert for the Labour Party review on SEND Policy and author of a BETT Award-winning online programme with TES on High Quality Teaching for SEND.
Why did we get involved in iRead?
As a centre, we run various knowledge-exchange projects with practitioners, such as ‘dyslexia-friendly’ approaches, supporting spoken language in the classroom, and promoting the achievement of looked after children. Our team advise on special educational needs and disability in a consultancy capacity. We run a variety of accredited and non-accredited postgraduate courses, one of which is an MA in Specific Learning Difficulties (dyslexia). Further, we are committed to generating discussions around evidence-informed practice – bridging the gap between research and practice. The Centre for Inclusive Education have previously worked with the UCL Knowledge Lab on a related reading-focused project called SafeReads. We are now really excited to be part of the iRead team, as we share their vision to support children in becoming fluent and accurate independent readers.
Pupils that present with literacy difficulties are characterised by poor phonological awareness, which extends to difficulty with decoding written language (reading) and spelling. Such children need increased opportunities to practice and learn the foundational skills in order to become successful readers. Research has shown that children with literacy difficulties learn best through structured and systematic practice of using phonological skills and allowing time for reinforcement (Rose, 2009). The iRead project aligns with school progression in reading and reflects the current research in this area. Moreover, through continued assessment the iRead allows a personalised programme of teaching to be created. This will be invaluable for teachers and learners.
There is a danger that those children that struggle with literacy may avoid reading and rarely engage in reading for pleasure. As qualified teachers and specialist literacy we have seen first-hand how children with literacy difficulties disengage from learning and the impact that this has on their behaviour and emotional health. We believe the iRead programme will offer a new learning experience for such children and subsequently increase motivation to develop the necessary skills. It also provides opportunities for children to practice skills in different contexts, using different mediums.
Our focus is primarily on the UK cohort, but we are really interested in seeing how literacy develops across different orthographies and how technology may be used as a tool to engage struggling readers. We look forward to collaborating with the iRead partners nationally and internationally and seeing how the project unfolds.