NAHT response to phonics screening check.
Government response to phonics pilot contains a few nonsense syllables of its own, say school leaders
The introduction of a new phonics screen for six year olds will distort teaching and work against children who learn to read in different ways, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said today (16 September 2011).
In shocking findings, fewer than half of those who piloted the test said it told them anything new about their pupils. The test will cost millions of pounds a year to administer while reading recovery schemes - a proven method - face cut backs across the country.
The test, to judge children’s progress in learning synthetic phonics, is expected to be introduced in summer 2012.
But while the Department for Education is keen to point out that the test is just a progress check, the NAHT believes such a high profile test will strong-arm teachers into over-focusing on phonics at the expense of those who would benefit from other approaches. It's happened time and again: introduce a test and things that aren't tested get neglected.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “It’s astonishing that the government believes the pilot for this test has been a success when around half of the teachers who took part said they believed it discriminated against pupils with special needs and 60 per cent said they believed the pseudo words were confusing.
“Phonics is an important way of helping children to learn to read but it is not universally effective and it is not the only skill required. The distortion of attention through a high profile national test however, will also distort teaching and get in the way of teachers being able to use their professionalism and skill to judge what is best for each child.
“Schools already have more effective and comprehensive processes in place to evaluate early reading and inform parents. For most, this test will be a dumbing down of early literacy in pursuit of a fixation with synthetic phonics. “
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Page Published: 16/09/2011