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proposed reading test

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Ramjam, Apr 3, 2011.

  1. Ramjam

    Ramjam New commenter

    I've just received this email
    >As you may know, the Government plans to introduce a phonics screening check for all pupils at the end of Year 1, as part of its wider policy on using systematic synthetic phonics as the primary means of teaching reading.
    Under the Government's plans, the screening check would:
    • be a 40 word test, with "non sense" words used for up to half of the test;
    • be administered by a teacher during lessons in mid-June, ideally the same teacher for the whole school;
    • have to be re-taken in the autumn term if the pupil did not do well enough; and
    • have its results included in RaiseOnline, to inform Ofsted inspections and local authority monitoring, with use for school league tables not ruled out in the future. <
    I'm not personally worried about the ability of our Y1s reaching the agreed standards. However, I do worry about 3 things.
    • We are already heavily criticised for marking KS1 tests accurately and causing problems for KS2 who have to provide CVA. Heaven help us if we are then having to juggle the marks from the reading test so they make progress in Y2 without compromising KS2.
    • Synthetic phonics is great and has really helped those children who were always slower to read and helped many more children with spelling. It has not necessarily improved children's comprehension - a fact which parents are reluctant to accept.
    • If parents get hold of the words, the children will be drilled until they can read the non sense words as sight vocabulary, nullifying the test.
  2. 1. Why would synthetic phonics improve comprehension? SP is about decoding words, this is an entirely different skill to understanding them. Language comprehension develops orally via social interaction. It is only later that one would expect comprehension to develop through reading. E.g. You wouldn't tell a 5 year-old to go and learn about elephants by reading a book or going on the Internet, they almost certainly wouldn't have this skill as they won't be able to decode well enough.

    2. Call me cynical but many schools will cheat on the reading check.

    3. some parents certainly would try to cheat (teach to the test), but where would they get the words from?
  3. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    the same place they get KS1 SAT papers?
  4. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    I think it would be good to have a similar test every year in primary school.

    Our children are taught phonics pretty well in R and year 1. Then poorly in year 2 and not at all from then on. By the time they get to year 6 almost all have forgotten anything other than basic phonemes and many never reached a phase to learn di and trigraphs. Therefore they cannot spell for toffee!

    Keeping the test every year would mean teachers have to keep up with the phonics and spelling work, however dull they personally think it!

    But I do also agree with many of the points made by the op. Maybe there should be a random no-sense word generator online each year, so no-one knows what the words will be in advance.
  5. Ramjam

    Ramjam New commenter

    I agree - but we have children who come to school already decoding successfully or at least with good visual memories. Parents can't seem to grasp that decoding, although an essential foundation is not the sum total of reading skills. When we started a synthetic phonics program, they expected that it would improve all aspects of reading.
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    surely phonics is only one part of your reading programme and alongside you are teaching comprehension and developing vocabulary and providing for quality language development.
  7. Ramjam

    Ramjam New commenter

    Yes - and we are increasingly teaching speaking and listening to develop basic vocabulary in Y2 because they didn't acquire those skills before school and have had to start from scratch in FS instead of building on existing skills, meaning they start Y1 lower and come to Y2 still behind. We find ourselves increasingly using resources created for use with ESL children to develop vocabulary and understanding for a large number of EFL children in my class.
    That doesn't alter the perceptions of parents about reading levels.
  8. gcf


    Ramjam - I may be on dangerous territory here as I'm no longer in the classroom. When SP is well taught to teachers, there shouldn't be a need for it to occupy much time during the day. Focus, consistency and an understanding of the alphabetic code, rather than 'busy' worksheets, a smattering (or more) of mixed methods - extending the time occupied by 'phonics'. Surely, as MSZ and Teejay state, there should be plenty of time for reading stories, rhymes, drama, comprehension.I don't understand why SP is decimating these vital teaching skills.

    Often, it is not a teachers fault. Training in early reading acquisition is abyssmal and it doesn't help that many LA advisers have a Whole Language background and are as antipathetic to phonics as the TES magazine is. It also helps enormously if the choice of decodable readers for children is absolutely appropriate to the level of code knowledge they have acquired.
  9. GCF - You are spot on about "decodable readers" (or books that match children's current code knowledge). Swathes of our budget goes on Reading Recovery. Our stock of reading books now has a smattering of decodables but most are "look and say" style books that are far too difficult for beginning readers. Our RR teacher and ECaR advisors persuaded our LitCo to buy yet more look and say type books, dissuading her from purchasing the decodables we need. The irony is that without the money spent on the RR teacher and the bureaucracy of the ECaR advisors, we could have binned our entire stock of books and bought more than enough cumulatively decodable books for all the beginning readers and used the cash to improve reading.

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