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Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:17 pm
by Susan Godsland
NUT conference round-up
Teachers passed a motion opposing the use of phonics reading testing—which would be carried out on children as young as five.

They voted for a campaign, including a boycott if the Year 1 Phonics Test is used to contribute to league tables.

The national executive member moving the motion said, “I did not come into teaching to label children as failures. I will stop the test at the first sign of a child’s stress as a result.”

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:25 pm
by Elizabeth
I will stop the test at the first sign of a child’s stress as a result.
That's what those who support the check would expect them to do!

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:48 pm
by Susan Godsland
Thinly Spread blog: The Year One Phonics Test – My View ... t-my-view/
The test is made up of a mixture of real words and MADE UP WORDS! This is apparently to assess decoding skills specifically and make sure they can’t guess the word! One of the skills of reading IS guessing what the word might be using your previous knowledge of text. What a stumbling block! If you had put this test in front of my first born who read very early and was pretty fluent by year one he would’ve hesitated, he would’ve been reluctant to have a go, he would’ve doubted himself BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT REAL WORDS! Can you imagine if Mr Gove was in opposition and a Labour Government proposed a test containing the words ‘snemp’ or ‘thazz’ or ‘chom’? I think he’d be shouting about the loony left, teaching our children gibberish!

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Mon May 07, 2012 9:05 am
by Susan Godsland
Now the NAHT spread unwarranted fear about the phonics check: ... exams.html
Activists are also proposing to block a controversial new reading test for all six-year-olds, which is being staged for the first time this summer, if ministers attempt to use the data to rank schools.
Russell Hobby, the union’s general secretary, said: "We fear that the pass rate for the new phonics screening check will be set at an arbitrary high level in order to fuel headlines about children failing to learn to read.

"We don't see the need for this screening check - it is inferior to what most schools do already - but if it is to happen it should be used as a genuine diagnostic test, not a stick to beat schools with. And if it is used to attack rather than assess, that will be the end of the screening check as far as the NAHT is concerned.”
The pass rate was set by about 50 teachers whose schools were involved in the pilot.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:52 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite

The thread from the TES Primary Forum above is dedicated to the advent of the first official phonics screening check June 2012 - comments and observations of Year One teachers.

I thought it was worth flagging up on this thread to show the development of events for the screening check....!

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:20 pm
by Susan Godsland

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 7:41 pm
by Susan Godsland
Thank you Prof. Dorothy Bishop for saying that the principles behind the phonics screening check 'make a lot of sense'

Radio4 All in the mind - approx. 14 minutes in.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:01 am
by Susan Godsland
KS1 and Phonics Screening Check outcomes (updated): ... gland-2013

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:54 pm
by Susan Godsland
Dr. Steven Dykstra, an adolescent psychologist and a founding member of the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, explains why nonsense words are essential for assessing phonics decoding skills.
The biggest argument for nonsense words in assessment (not always in screening, but certainly in diagnostic assessment when indicated) is that it lets us isolate a given skill from other skills which could be used to compensate. When I show you a nonsense word I know you don't have it in your memory because you've never seen it before. You can't rely on anything except phonological decoding skills so I know I'm assessing your phonological decoding skills and nothing else. You can't recognize the word from memory because you've never seen it before and you can't infer it from context because there is no context.

If I want to assess the strength in your right arm I could ask you to lift weights. But I have to make sure you don't use your left arm, or your legs, or your back, or the muscles around your shoulder to lift the weight. If I want to assess the strength of your bicep I have to make sure you can't use other muscles to make up for your weak bicep

Arguing that reading nonsense words doesn't directly mimic to authentic reading is beside the point. If you ever have a careful neurological exam of your cervical spine the doctor will ask you to flex and move your fingers in very specific ways. None of these movements are ever performed in isolation in day-to-day living, and none of them can't be supplemented with other movements to compensate in case there is a problem. But isolating them lets the doctor determine the specific nerves that might be damaged and the exact spot in the spine that might be involved. That's why they do it, not because it mimics actual movements people do in their lives, but because it provides essential information.

I suppose if some doctors practiced "Whole Neurology" or "Balanced Neurology" they would object to those exams, but they'd be wrong and their patients would suffer for it. Of course, that would never happen because the profession wouldn't allow it and malpractice lawsuits would punish it.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Mar 21, 2014 10:07 am
by Susan Godsland
Oh dear, someone (a teacher) doesn't like the phonics check.
For example, in 2012 one of my pupils was two marks short of the passing grade. Due to the way the data is conveyed to the DfE they were classed as equal a failure as their classmate whose score was far, far closer to zero. The same pupil, on re-testing in 2013, remained two marks short of the passing grade, despite having developed as a much more fluent, capable and voracious reader. It wasn’t the pupil that failed the test, but the test that failed the pupil.
Format is the first stumbling block. Words in the test are presented without images or context. The sop of an ‘alien’ picture to indicate a nonsense word is the only apparent recognition that for children in Year 1, text is often accompanied by images to lend context and assist in decoding.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:16 am
by Susan Godsland
Department for Education
Reading: Teaching Methods

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many state-funded primary schools whose phonics check results were below the national average have been judged (a) outstanding and (b) good in their most recent Ofsted inspection.

Answered by: Mr Nick Gibb
Answered on: 17 December 2014

Nationally 74 per cent of year one pupils met the required standard of phonic decoding in the 2013/14 academic year.

Out of 15,658 state-funded primary schools[1] in England, 6,783 had year one phonics checks results that were below the national average. Of these, 780 schools were judged as outstanding and 4,341 were judged as good schools according to their most recent Ofsted inspection [2],[3],[4] on overall effectiveness.

[1] Defined as schools with pupils with highest statutory age below 12.

[2] This covers inspection outcomes of September 2005 to August 2014 published at ... d-outcomes. The school type of an institution is as of 31 August 2014, which means that schools may have received their rating under a different school type.

[3] The inspections have taken place before the 2013/14 phonics results were available to Ofsted (late October 2014). As the phonics check was only introduced in 2011/12, the inspections may have taken place before any phonics results were available to Ofsted.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:39 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
This is very interesting information - and I would like to add some personal experience as it is of direct relevance:

In this training document for Ofsted inspectors, 'Getting them reading early' - Distance learning materials for inspecting reading; Guidance and training for inspectors, October 2011; Revised and updated July 2014, Version 4, the following issue (in red) is raised at least twice:
The material that relates to Key Stage 2 focuses mainly on children who, for whatever reason, are still struggling to learn to read. It may be because previous teaching, in their current or previous school(s), has not been effective. It may also be because they have special educational needs. However, Ofsted said in its review of special educational needs in September 2010:

Schools should stop identifying pupils as having special educational needs when they simply need better teaching and pastoral support.
This training document for Ofsted inspectors is all about reading instruction provided in detail - the Simple View of Reading, phonics (in detail), language comprehension and so on.

In effect, it is making it clear to Ofsted inspectors that quality teaching of the alphabetic code and the phonics skills is essential - not choice - and it needs to be of high-quality - and inspectors need their own professional knowledge about reading instruction to be able to take a view on schools' provision.

A primary school recently, however, was judged to be 'outstanding' in an Ofsted inspection on every count when I know, categorically, that the headteacher and staff were not at all knowledgeable about reading instruction nor did they understand the damaging effects of their mixed methods approach resulting in disaster for at least one child at the school.

I have gone through the complaints against Ofsted judgements and procedures at multiple levels to no effect and no resolution.

I can categorically state that it has proved impossible to hold the Ofsted inspectors' judgements and the policies and procedures to account and that I have faced nothing but stonewalling and obfuscation regarding this issue.

I asked for an explanation for the lead inspector's judgement regarding a long-term, part-time exclusion case and was told by Ofsted to go through the 'Freedom of Information' act. This was done to no avail.

The case is very serious indeed and yet to be resolved and accounted for - and a huge amount of misery, neglect and damage has been caused to at least this one child who ended up on a part-time time-table (not allowed in the school in the mornings) for nearly eight months. How many more children I wonder are affected in this way? In other words, their 'special needs' are not understood, not catered for appropriately, or exacerbated by the fact that they cannot decode well enough as they get older. This particular child had exceptional decoding and encoding skills - but could not apply them because the 'code knowledge' was only at the level of the basic code (Reception level) and because the school was, in reality, a mixed methods school with no true understanding that this was the case.

In other words what I am suggesting is that we cannot properly know whether a school judged to be 'outstanding' is really outstanding or whether, in reality, untold damage may still be caused by the lack of professional knowledge and understanding of not only our teaching profession but of our inspecting profession.

This just goes to show that we are a long, long way from transparency and a long, long way from high-quality professional understanding and ACCOUNTABILITY. :???:

My experience, then, is that it has proved impossible, to date, to hold the school accountable, to hold the Local Authority accountable, and to hold Ofsted accountable - for an appalling state of affairs for at least one child.

But, as I have pointed out to Ofsted, a million children is made up of individual children - and it is simply not good enough to wriggle out of accountability by repeatedly stating that individual children do not have to be taken into account.

This is Double Think and hypocrisy yet again.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 2:33 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I don't think it is adequate to look at the levels of attainment at the end of Key Stage One and Two in the national tests and assessments.

Results in Year 2 and Year 6 are largely based on 'higher-order' ability.

We know that a child with seriously weak levels of reading and writing (technical knowledge and skills) may have their higher-order ability impeded - but, nevertheless, we still have a scenario whereby we check for general decoding ability at the end of Year One -and thereafter we are nationally checking only for higher-order aspects of literacy.

These are dangerous times because of battle-lines drawn.

There will be a number of children who are still slipping through the 'technical net' and being caused to become multi-cueing 'guessing' children because the schools may not persist/continue in ensuring a comprehensive knowledge of alphabetic code (the letter/s-sound correspondences).

I am suggesting that we have a long way to go before we get a consensus and adequacy of how to measure and understand levels of literacy - and a long way to go regarding how to address children slipping through the net - or why some children are slipping through the net.

One thing is for sure, our secondary teacher colleagues are describing that many children are reaching them who are largely unable to access the level of texts for secondary education.

Only recently two sixth form teachers attended our two-day training event describing pupils in sixth form who did not know the alphabetic code well enough and who were impeded in their ability to read and write.

Having spoken to an HMI involved in the Stoke-on-Trent report, the person was keen to draw my attention to the need for phonics in secondary school (I knew this of course).

The picture nationally, then, is about wide variations in knowledge, skills, understanding and provision regarding reading and spelling instruction.

This is the case in the teaching profession, the teacher-training profession and in the inspection profession - and amongst parents.

Who are the sufferers though?

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 7:04 pm
by chew8
I think you asked those sixth-form college teachers if they would run the Schonell spelling test, Debbie. Did you ever hear anything more about that? My own experience over a period of 22 years (1978-2000) was that it was only a small minority of sixth-form college students who showed serious weakness in their knowledge of the alphabetic code, but I would love to know if that is still the case.

Jenny C.

Re: 'Light-touch, phonics-based check' for Y1 children

Posted: Mon Apr 27, 2015 3:33 pm
by Susan Godsland ... story.html (warning: really annoying adverts)

Becky Morris, community liaison manager at the Holgate Academy family of schools in Hucknall, wonders about the wisdom of testing five-year-olds on phonics.
This Phonics Screening Test delivers a series of words to the children, some of them real and some of them made up. The children have to decipher which is which :?:

The head teacher, at the time, was really against the test, stating that she felt that it was almost trickery, and rather than being a fair check of learning, seemed designed to catch them out. And now my son is heading towards this test, I feel inclined to agree.
Rather, I believe that these tests are yet another box-ticking exercise for the government. "Look, we can demonstrably evaluate how well the early years educative system is working, and here are the figures to prove it."

My son will not be six until the end of August, so will still be five when he takes the test. He does his best with phonics, and tries hard to "sound things out", and I can see a massive improvement in him from the start of the year to now.

But, he is five. His retention method is much more hands-on and physical than didactic, and sometimes he will struggle with letters and sounds.

He has spelt 'coffee' as 'coffy' and 'alien' like 'ailyen' because his retention of tricky words isn't quite there yet. So, when faced with nonsense words in the phonics test such as 'misser' and 'corful' (words used in previous years' tests) I'm just not sure if he will see through it or not. And if I know that, and the school know that, then what is the point?

His teacher assures me that they will coach him, and the school has kindly provided extra sessions before school, twice a week, for him, to help him retain these words and non-words. And I have trawled the TES for learning guides and fun ways with words, to do my bit at home.

But why? Surely if he, at five, needs extra intervention for a test that doesn't mean anything in his school career, to the extent where we are adding learning hours to his day, then the only thing that demonstrates is that he is simply not ready to decipher word codes.