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Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Consultation

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by Msz, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I though this may be of interest
    Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Consultation

    Launch Date:
    Monday 22 November 2010

    Closing Date:
    Monday 14 February 2011

    The Government is committed to raising children's achievement in
    reading, and has expressed the intention to establish a phonics
    screening check for children in Year 1. This will be a short,
    light-touch screening check designed to confirm that children have
    grasped the basics of phonic decoding and to identify those pupils who
    need extra help at an early stage, so that schools can provide support.
    The results of the screening check will provide valuable information to
    parents. The screening check will be part of the arrangements for the
    statutory assessment of children in respect of the first Key Stage.

    This consultation seeks views on proposals around the purpose, structure and administration of the screening check.
  2. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I though this may be of interest
    Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Consultation

    Launch Date:
    Monday 22 November 2010

    Closing Date:
    Monday 14 February 2011

    The Government is committed to raising children's achievement in
    reading, and has expressed the intention to establish a phonics
    screening check for children in Year 1. This will be a short,
    light-touch screening check designed to confirm that children have
    grasped the basics of phonic decoding and to identify those pupils who
    need extra help at an early stage, so that schools can provide support.
    The results of the screening check will provide valuable information to
    parents. The screening check will be part of the arrangements for the
    statutory assessment of children in respect of the first Key Stage.

    This consultation seeks views on proposals around the purpose, structure and administration of the screening check.
  3. Thank you for flagging this up. There's an important discussion developing on the Reading Reform Foundation message forum for anyone who is interested in this.


  4. Normal




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    by Hans U. Grundin, PhD

    Past President, Swedish Reading Association,

    Past Member, Board of Directors, International Reading Association
    We are invited to respond to the question: “Do you agree that this
    screening check should be focused on phonic decoding as described in paragraph

    The answer to this question must be a clear and emphatic ‘No’.

    The UK Literacy Association has already submitted a careful
    analysis of a wide range of problems with such a screening, calling “on government and all MPs to reject plans for such
    a narrow, uninformative and unnecessary test”
    (Statement on the proposed ‘light touch’
    ‘reading’ test for 6 year olds
    , UKLA, 2010).

    Each of the UKLA
    concerns is a good reason for not going ahead with this project, but the most
    compelling argument is put forward in their point 5:

    “A compulsory test taken by all children
    will surely become a ‘high stakes’ test. There will be pressure on schools to
    achieve high pass rates. Understandably, this is likely to steer very many teachers
    to teach to the test, leaving less time to teach:

    other word attack skills,

    essential business of making meaning from connected text

    children’s engagement in reading, widely seen
    as the most significant contributor to reading standards.

    The consultation document acknowledges that there are other
    reading skills which are “important for
    children to acquire by the end of Year 1”
    (para 3.4), but no attempt is
    made to address the widespread tendency to teach to the test, which in turn
    often means that a disproportionate share of the teaching effort is devoted
    solely to the tested skills. At the very least, the consultation should be
    extended to deal with this problem.

    Before a screening test with potentially very far-reaching
    effects on the teaching of beginning reading is introduced all over England, it
    should be confirmed through carefully controlled, comparative studies that an approach
    to initial reading instruction dominated by phonics-first has significant
    long-term positive effects – not just on children’s ability to sound out
    grapheme combinations, but on their general reading ability and their enjoyment
    of reading, without unintended, negative
    effects. To the best of my knowledge – after several decades of extensive
    reading research and development work in, among other countries, the UK, USA,
    Canada and Australia – such studies have not yet been undertaken in any
    English-speaking country.

    The extremely brief account of the evidence supporting the
    screening proposal asserts categorically
    that “international evidence shows that
    systematic synthetic phonics is the
    best way to teach children how to read.”
    (1.4; my emphasis). However, in
    the next paragraph we are told that the DfE team’s own evidence only supports
    the much weaker conclusion that
    “systematic phonics is the most effective way of teaching children to read”
    The important question of what kind
    of phonics (analytic, eclectic, synthetic etc) works best remains – by their
    own admission - unanswered by the ‘international evidence’.

    In fact, the reviews cited in para 1.5 does not even, as the
    Consultation Document claims, “agree that
    systematic phonics is the most effective way of teaching children to read”
    At the most, they agree that some form of systematic phonics is often an
    effective way quickly to teach large numbers of children to sound out printed
    letter combinations, so called ‘word
    (more accurately – albeit unkindly – called ‘barking at print’). There is, however, little agreement regarding
    the details of phonics instruction, e g:

    What grapheme-phoneme correspondences should be
    introduced, and in what order, and in what time frame?

    How should the phonics instruction be
    coordinated/integrated with the other important elements of reading

    And – most importantly - what are the crucial
    first steps needed to help all children understand what reading is for and thus
    want to learn: in other words, to give them
    intrinsic motivation

    Curiously, the DfE team cites no specific evidence from
    England, the only part of the UK which would be affected by the proposed
    screening. The only UK study cited is the well-known Clackmannanshire study,
    which showed some long-term positive effects. But this effect was – according
    to their own interpretation of results - limited only to the ability to
    pronounce words in isolation, not the ability to read and comprehend text,
    which is after all the goal of all reading instruction. Nor did this study
    assess the effects on children’s attitudes to reading or their understanding of
    how reading can enrich their lives.

    The Clackmannanshire study was carried out in Scotland,
    where the phonology of the language differs in many important respects from that
    of all varieties of English spoken in England (see Scobbie, J M, Gordeeva. O B,
    & Matthews, B, Acquisition of
    Scottish English Phonology: An Overview
    . Queen Mary University College,
    SSRC, 2006). Even if the Clackmannanshire study were a carefully designed
    comparative study of different forms of beginning reading instruction – which
    it definitely is not – it could not legitimately be used as the basis for any
    important curriculum decision regarding phonics instruction in England, unless
    it could be replicated there in a large, representative sample of early years
    classrooms in different parts of the country.

    Apart from a footnote in Annex B, which recognises that the
    pronunciation of ‘fast’ can vary from
    region to region, the Consultation Document contains no discussion of the implications
    accent and dialect differences may have for teaching and testing of phonic skills.
    The examples of phoneme-grapheme correspondences proposed for the screening
    test are based on what is usually called Southern Standard British English
    (SSBE), which in turn is based on the pronunciation of educated middle and
    upper class people in southern England, codified in Daniel Jones’s ‘English Pronouncing Dictionary’ (13th
    Ed., J M Dent & Sons, London, 1967). I am not aware of any study of the
    correlation between spoken language accent/dialect and problems with learning
    ‘letter-sounds’ , but we can take it that the large majority of children who
    have such problems do not come from home where English is spoken with the
    Received Pronunciation.

    Finally, like most advocates of early synthetic phonics
    teaching, the DfE team behind this consultation document make no reference to
    the issue of ‘phonemic acquisition’ during childhood. It is well established in
    language development research, that phonemic acquisition which normally starts
    in the first 6 months, is not completed in the average child until after the
    age of 6 years (See House, L I, Introductory Phonetics and Phonology: A Workbook Approach. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ,1998).

    To introduce any form of phonics decoding test at an age
    when many children have not yet acquired all the speech sounds of their own
    form of English – let alone those of SSBE - is bound to lead to a situation
    where problems of spoken language development and problems of early literacy
    learning are confounded. This, in turn, can have a clear negative effect on the
    early literacy curriculum – particularly if early phonics teaching is seen as a
    cure-all for any slower than expected progress in reading ability in the Early
    Years Foundation Stage.

    If – in spite of the clear risk of negative effects - any
    form of phonics screening is still to be introduced, the DfE should first carry
    studies of how the phonology of the children’s own language influences the
    effectiveness of various forms of phonics teaching.

    In the preamble to Question 15 in the response form, it is proposed
    that, when looking at letters that spell an English word, children shouldnot
    get credit for any response that is phonologically plausible, although it would
    be evidence of phonics learning. They will only get credit for the “correct” pronunciation (unless the test
    item is a non-word). This suggests that implicit in this whole exercise is an
    ambition to teach young children the “accepted
    pronunciation of words".
    The DfE team does not state it explicitly,
    but it can be assumed that correctness is judged according to the conventions
    of SSBE.

    This is unfair in two ways: First, if the child knows how to
    sound out a letter combination, but does not know the word the letters spell,
    this phonologically acceptable pronunciation will be judged wrong and the
    child’s demonstrated phonics knowledge will not be recognised.

    Second, if the child knows the word but pronounces it in a non-standard way,
    his clearly demonstrated reading ability may not be recognised, because the
    pronunciation is not ‘accepted’.

    By not accepting non-standard pronunciations of English
    words, the DfE team believes this will ensure that children "learn accepted pronunciation of
    . But children who hardly ever hear SSBE spoken are very
    unlikely to learn it in the phonics lessons. So some children may fail the
    phonics test, because they don't speak with the right accent.

    In summary, the proposed screening instrument is far more
    likely to do harm than good in the national effort to improve early literacy
    teaching and learning. Rather than putting too many eggs in the phonics-first
    basket, the DfE could usefully consider assessing approaches to early literacy
    learning that focus more on ensuring that young children have developed their
    spoken language sufficiently before being asked to tackle the complexities of
    English phoneme-grapheme correspondence.

    The rationale for these more age-appropriate approaches was set
    out at length and in detail by the Bullock Report in 1975. Such approaches have
    decades ago been shown to be highly beneficial in early reading (see, for
    example, Hunter-Grundin, E, Literacy – A
    Systematic Start
    , Harper & Row, London, 1979).
  5. If it is indeed the author of this piece who has posted it I would be interested to know if he will be joining in debate on the content of his posting or if it is a 'post your propaganda and run' post?

  6. About time year one teachers had as much paperwork as year R and year two teachers do!
  7. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    They do if your school uses APP
  8. Leapyearbaby64

    Leapyearbaby64 New commenter

    In my experience, children love learning phonics.
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    So they take teachers out of the classroom for half a day in order to do paperwork instead of teaching ...madness!
  10. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    But it isn't about learning phonics it's about a national test for six year olds
  11. I think, as I understand it, it is intended to be more of a national test for schools. It could be expected that a very small number of children in any school might still be struggling when tested, but if a significant number struggle with the 'test' it would indicate that something is wrong with the phonics teaching. Teaching to the test sems to me to be eminently desirable if it achieves the outcome of children who are good decoders and blenders.
    I think that the 'age' debate is a red herring. The phonics resistors, as exemplified by the United Kingdom Literacy Association and the International Reading Association, would object to this 'test' at any age.

  12. But it will really be mainly a national test of parents, including grandparents, and it will, like all other literacy initiatives over the past 5 decades do no good at all.
    While trying to have a good clear-out, I happened to look through my 17-year collection of articles about literacy last night. What I found again and again was research reports suggesting that the biggest determinants of a child's educational performance, especially in the early years, were parents. The mother's educational attainment had the clearest effect of all.
    When I see how well my grandchildren are doing in that respect (and doing correspondingly well at school), I weep for those who don't have their advantages.
    The children who do well nearly all have parents who are aware of the importance of speech development, of talking, of reading and of having fun with words; who put alphabet charts with 'A for apple' up on their bedroom wall as soon as they are born, who buy them books and take them to the library, who play Mozart to their babies and do every darn thing that anybody suggests as being potentially helpful.
    With learning to read and write English being so exceptionally difficult, such pre-school nurture makes a huge difference, although even that does not always guarantee success. Kids who don't get it, start school years behind and are pretty much doomed to stay there. Schools have to work on making them literacy-ready, while the others are already learning to read and write and leave the rest further and further behind. And they keep getting help from their parents during their school years too.
    That's why I would like to see at least learning to read English made easier, but I know that quite a few people think I am nuts.
    If u havn't heard of me yet, google my name: Masha Bell.
  13. yohanalicante - normally I agree with your sentiments - but on this issue I don't agree with you.
    It's a simple decoding test which, if teachers are teaching the alphabetic code and blending in a sensible way should be really straightforward.
    To me, it is extraordinary that there should be an 'issue' about whether children are taught the alphabetic code of the English language. Why is it, indeed, an issue at all.
    Why should it be an issue that, at last, we have a government who is supporting the teaching of the alphabetic code in a systematic way - and the skills of blending for reading, and segmenting for spelling, and then putting in place a national test of simple word reading test - before anyone bangs on about higher order testing of comprehension skills - expected in the form of a written comprehension test.
    For too long there has not been a simple, national word-level test - and rather than being up in arms about this, perhaps people need to think about the very, very long-standing reading debate where we HAVE had to fight for the need to teach the alphabetic code because there has been no guarantee of student teachers being training well in reading instruction, or the advent of an alphabetic code, and no guarantee that the children themselves should be taught an alphabetic code.
    Then we can look at the age that this alphabetic code test has been focused upon - six years of age. You could argue that this is too early an expectation, but there are now many schools where six year olds, in the main, have no difficulty reading words which are way beyond the kind of words that are likely to be in this test.
    If the age was later, would teachers/schools be complacent about addressing the need for systematic phonics teaching? Would there be an emphasis on mixed methods teaching rather than a new emphasis, as suggested, of synthetic phonics teaching?
    The government is trialling these tests with no foregone conclusions about them. Many of us who have taught synthetic phonics for some time describe amazing results - across the board - for infants. Many of us have seen extraordinary success for four, five and six year olds.
    One could suggest that it is negligent not to teach the children to read.
    Regarding Masha's comments that children learn to read at home with parents and grandparents - yes they have. But it is not right that schools rely on parents and grandparents and it is the duty of teachers to teach children the alphabetic code and blending, well, and not to rely on parents and grandparents. In many cases, parents and grandparents may not even speak our English language, or speak it well enough to be as supportive as they would like. They NEED the teachers to do a good job.
    How can it be that it has been acceptable, for years, for teachers in Year Two to test children with higher order literacy skills, requiring written comprehension tests, discussions about reading books and reading content AND WRITING IN SPECIFIC GENRES by the time the children are seven - indeed summer borns may still be six when they undergo this testing or assessment.
    Surely such higher-order national testing was miles above the expectation of six year olds being able to decode some words?
    Also, when children are taught to read as infants, this opens up so many wonderful fiction and non-fiction worlds to them. We have such fabulous books available in schools nowadays - and if you want to raise children's imaginations, increase their knowledge, bring a bigger world into their smaller world - then helping them to read is a powerful way to do this.
    It is not a punishment to teach infants to read, it is not cruel, it is not drill and kill - these are myths. If phonics teaching looks like this in people's classrooms, then they are not getting it right somewhere and they need to look around and see what is being achieved and what knock-on happiness this achieves.
    It is to fail to teach children to read which brings about untold unhappiness - and we should, for once, applaud our government for pursuing the child's right to learn about our alphabetic code and blending.
  14. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    maizie I think most schools already assess children on phonic knowledge (those that use L&S seems so fixated on phases they test to destruction) either as contnuous assessment, termly or end of reception beginning of Y1 ...so it is the idea that this will be formally reported that people dislike.
  15. What worries people is not the teaching but the testing, and even more, to what use the test results get put, when we know that how pupils perform is hardly ever down to just to what teachers do.
    As Msz said, teachers are already keeping a very close eye on children's progress with phonics. They could do with more help for those who are not keeping up, but more testing won't do any good at all - unless it is accompanied by more help for those who need it, and in the current economic circumstances that is very unlikely.
  16. Oh, Msz. You read mumsnet. Do you really think that 'most schools' teach anything like half decent phonics?
    I realise that some schools will be doing phonics assessments, but I wonder how many actually are?
    I also realise that another test to be reported nationally is not an attractive proposition but how else can a govt, which has sworn to be rigorous about the implementation of good synthetic phonics teaching, monitor practice in schools?
    I don't see that the results of the testing should be made public. They should surely just inform the appropriate authority as to which schools need more support in changing their practice?
    I am very definitely against the idea of testing which produces yet another stick to beat schools with. We're still smarting from that ruddy 'English Bacc'....[​IMG]
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Perhaps it is the optomist in me but I hope MN isn't representative ... it certainly isn't what I see in neighbouring schools.
    I think reception staff are probably more clued up about phonics than other year group teachers (in general) simply because phonics was taught in reception long before L&S. So perhaps Y1 isn't the place to check it is happening.
  18. I have always had the impression that many Reception teachers were doing a reasonable job of introducing phonics teaching, but I don't get the impression that key stage one, or year one teachers necessarily build on the phonics teaching systematically enough.
    So, is it the Reception teachers that should administer the test on five year olds? I really don't think so. Many children are only at the beginning of their phonics journey whereas at the end of year one, presumably they should have started a systematic phonics programme and be well on their way through the programme - especially for reading.
    You could also look upon it as a safeguard for children. We don't know what results will look like, but we do need to know if there are some children who are struggling or whether some schools are doing much worse than others - or better than others.
    I don' think phonics teaching should be a race and have actually suggested a slower pace but a longer, steadier pace, than some other programme writers - but I would like to see more continuity from class to class and from infants to juniors.
    I also agree that it is a responsible act for a government that heavily promotes reading instruction to want to know what is happening as a result, for example, of new guidance - and there should also be government funding for resourcing schools with programmes and training. All of these things surely need accounting for.
    In any event, if teachers are already undertaking programme specific testing, reading some word lists when aged 6 will not be a new experience - and children should be 'reading' something every day - so is it really such a big deal?
  19. Perhaps not, but totally unnecessary.
    So have I. So why does anyone need the extra hassle?
    That would be a disaster. Children get really bored with taking too long over learning to read. They want to get on and be able to do it, not keep having to learn how to do it.
    That's the main inherent disadvantage in English spelling: it makes learning to read exceptionally slow. Catching up takes much longer too, with huge disadvantages for illiterate adults who want to do so.
    This government probably means well, as Labour did with its Literacy Strategy and SATs, but it did not take long for things to turn nasty.
  20. DebbeiHep I don't disagree with children learning to read nor do I (as Maizie suggsts) have low expectations of children. However I do have low expectations of schools and combined with the mindset of name and shame using uncertain statistical data with inbuilt, intrinsic variations being denied and with the culture of overmanaging, overassessing and overcontrolling of teachers and curriculum then I do fear the things I express. How could I be against learning to read, it is the key to our treasure trove of language, the key to our being and growth? My point generally is in opposition to those such as Maizie who seem to be very happy to knock schools and want them to be brought into line and accountable but for one thing only- their teaching of phonics. My own impassioned waffle stems from the feeling that schools actually do a lot more damage to children than not teach them phonics before five. Of course they do a lot of good also, an inestimable good. However as the debate seems to focus on what schools are not doing, rather than focus on the phonics I would rather question other agenda; how school often infantilises children - by taking away the opportunities to do what they may already be able to do at home- dress/undress, decide on what they wish to do and the order, snack and play times, the little opportunity children have to make informed decisions (which
    is what play is a rehearsal gound for) due to the rigid ordering of time etc. (I recognise the compromises necessary organisationally but we seem to forget this sometimes). How schools now extend this into families by limiting or not permitting decision making around such themes as homework. uniform, home-school agreements etc. Nor is there much liberty nor individualisation (personalisation) in the curriculum despite the buzzwords of today. I rather agree with you also in that the assesment at seven of higher order skills is perhaps superficial and certainly is being manipulated in order to fit the hand of the masters who set it rather than the real needs of young children to sense their own achievement.
    I think phonics teaching is essential in all the ways you say, I think it important that we give this awareness to teachers and we share the best methods for doing this, but across the whole continuity of primary. So that not only nursery, reception and year 1 teachers have it in their armoury but all teachers in primary build it into their language work. It is a fundamental building block, the cement which stabilises the edifice of language. Give us teachers also measuring sticks, the new government check that propmpted this discussion board being one. Hoevever give all that to teachers and LET THEM GET ON with it. Let them get on with using this cement in their own building work. What we do however is plan to insist that it is done in a certain way, by a certain age,and I think it will be that very insistence which brings about the same reduction of teaching to what is acceptable and safe and seems to pass the average inspection. What I suppose I really want to see is less high stakes language as though our children and teachers are not to be trusted. We are micro-managing everything which gives us a sense that we cannot allow creative teaching, excellence beyond par which has no script beyond the gifts of teachers to tap into the fantastic learning capacity of children. That is not predictable on paper, it is not labouring under someone else's architectural drawing but including children in the process of what and why we teach and where it connects to them. Using the keys of language to help them make sense of their life experiences. Which is perhaps where the whole language school of thought and methodoligies arise from. The need for learning to be relevant, interesting, and shaped dynamically between teachers and learners. So I don't disagree with the teaching I just disagree with being manipulated by a '1 in five can't read well enough' statistic that is then used to force-feed everyone a prescription, rather than saying good health is built up this way using a natural occuring cement to consolidate connections between oral and written language. A cement that is mineable and distillable from our most elementary raw-materials- experience, language and the logic of pattern and sequence. Set this at the heart of teaching and give it time to build cathedrals of language in whcih the spirit of each child can be lifted to its own heights. It is the conforming and reducing agenda however which still prevails, we seem to be pretending to look for alternatives eg from Sweden and Finland etc but only in so much as it offers ways of saving money but which has nothing really to do with the schoolification of education, the narrowing, conforming home-school controlling agendas which devalue and dismiss so much of the real l ives being lived by many of the people in our country. We only need to see today's report (numbering children from birth )to hear again a perfunctory dismissal of life in many of the previously great working districts of our country. What has happened to break down the bonds of comunity, aspiration and joy of language. Or has it broken down? Or is it just that school isn't keeping pace with life on the edge and so insists on recipes. So I would say give our children phonics as we give them air to breathe and opportunities to play, but not instead of that. My fear is that those arguing for phonics and testing and obligations for schools are going to narrow down and alienate many teachers who are trying to educate as well as teach. Teachers who will welcome new, simplified tools that prove to help them do the more complicated parts of the job - a better mix of sand and cement in easier to use packets or even a small concrete mixer- however they then need to get on and do it. They do not need to be held accountable because in truth they can't be, there is no grand accountant and ledger book in whch all the figures add up neatly to an educated child. They are accountable to their own professional conscience -comprised of their sincere beliefs, the skills they nurture, refine and evolve into tools for understanding more deeply into the heart of things and the inspiration they feel in their hearts when they join with children in learning. Where that conscience may have been corrupted by the compromise to schooling then some other means of restoring it needs to be found other than creating an even greater sense of failure, shame and compliance, which is my fear about another statutory, publish-able test. Oops. A little long here again. Sorry, and thanks for your patience whomsoever might be bothered to read it.

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