UCL Events


Lunch Hour Lecture | Why Jahmelia Can’t Read or Write: Government Failures and the Reading Wars

30 May 2024, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

An image of a teacher reading to a group of young children

In this talk, Prof Wyse will discuss the importance of teaching reading & the education policies in England that ignited debate globally.

This event is free.

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About the Lecture:

How to teach children to read is an emotive topic because being literate has such an important influence on children’s life chances. The subject has become so emotive that the debates have been called ‘The Reading Wars’. This lecture builds on the landmark study about education policies in England that ignited debate internationally. A new theory of teaching reading and writing based on the metaphor of DNA is unveiled. This theory is linked with a robust analysis of the ‘gold standard’ of research, then illuminated with examples of ground-breaking new practices for teachers. Such research should be reflected in education policies, it is argued, so that more children will succeed in their education and hence lives.

About the Speakers

Dominic Wyse

Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at IOE - UCL's Faculty of Education and Society

Dominic Wyse FAcSS FRSA is Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. He is Founding Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy (0-11 Years) (HHCP), a research centre devoted to improving young children’s education. Dominic was President of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) from 2019 to 2022, and is currently Vice-President. The main focus of Dominic’s research is curriculum and pedagogy which includes a sustained contribution to knowledge about teaching writing, reading and creativity. Dominic has extensive experience of working at the interface of research, policy and practice, particularly in relation to his work on national curricula but also including his work on education as an academic discipline. Dominic’s research on reading, writing and curriculum has attracted widespread media attention. His current research projects include Children’s Agency in the National Curriculum (CHANT funded by The Leverhulme Trust).

Charlotte Hacking

Director at Learning and Programmes at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE)

Charlotte is an experienced teacher and senior leader who has taught across the primary school age range. Before joining CLPE, she held several leadership posts including Assistant Headteacher, Literacy Lead, Early Years Foundation Stage Lead, Key Stage 2 Lead (pupils aged seven to eleven). Charlotte's special interests lie in Early Years, early reading development, the development of writing, and the use of picture books and poetry to raise children's engagement and attainment. In 2022, Charlotte was awarded the Anna Craft Creativities in Education Prize by BERA. She developed and leads the CLPE's ground-breaking Power of Pictures research, investigating the impact visual literacy and illustration can have on children’s reading and writing. Charlotte also led and developed the CLPE's Power of Poetry research project. She is currently working alongside Farrah Serroukh on the development and delivery of CLPE's Reflecting Realities in the Classroom project. Charlotte has co-written The Balancing Act: An Evidence-Based Approach to Teaching Phonics, Reading and Writing, with Professor Dominic Wyse from UCL, due for release in June 2024. The book dismantles polarised debates about the teaching of phonics, and analyses the latest scientific evidence of what really works. It shows, in vivid detail, how phonics, reading and writing should be taught through the creativity of some of the best authors of books for children and proposes new theory and a new  model for literacy: The Double Helix of Reading and Writing.