Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

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Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Apr 30, 2013 1:02 pm

For those without a copy of the latest Teach Primary magazine, here's the debate on the phonics screening check:

'Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?'
Debbie Hepplewhite v David Reedy UKLA

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/screener_debate.pdf

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by john walker » Tue Apr 30, 2013 4:50 pm

Congratulations to Debbie on a fine exposition of the case for a screening check!
Debbie is absolutely correct when she says that
Foundational literacy skills are so fundamentally important that they affect not only academic potential and future livelihood but also the very core of well being and health.
Furthermore, there is ample evidence on the courses on which I and our band of trainers teach that 'the teaching profession has yet to share a common understanding of teaching reading, a full grasp of the desirable processes required for long-term reading'.
Frankly, whenever I read anything that Reedy or the UKLA put out, my mind turns back to good old Donald Rumsfeld and the last line of his three-part list, i.e. that there unknown unknowns - there are things that many teachers and David Reedy et al do not know they don't know. Well, OK, I paraphrased it.
At least the Ofsted inspector who visited our course in Wigan a few months ago understood entirely how important the insertion of non-words is in the test. In his opinion, those pupils who read 'strom' as 'storm' simply couldn't decode accurately and therefore can't read properly. What's more, he claimed that, although these same pupils might self-correct when reading illustrated texts in the primary school, the moment they could no longer rely on picture clues and other 'searchlights', they begin to fall apart.
He was right!
John Walker
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Susan Godsland » Thu May 02, 2013 9:49 am

John Walker has started to take apart UKLA rep. David Reedy's arguments in the debate:

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013 ... -word.html

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by geraldinecarter » Thu May 02, 2013 10:07 am

A truly elegant reply to UKLA and David Reedy - thank you John, and Debbie too for her excellent article.

Does anyone remember the questionaire that UKLA produced after the 2006 Rose Report? Basically it asked 'do you disagree with the implementation of synthetic phonics?' 'do you agree...?' When it became apparent that more people agreed with the implementation of synthetic phonics than disagreed, the questionaire was promptly pulled. If anyone can remember the exact wording of the questionaire, I'd be grateful.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by chew8 » Thu May 02, 2013 11:50 am

I don't know whether Debbie and David Reedy were asked in so many words to address the question 'Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?' Maybe this was added as a heading only after they had written their articles.

My own answer would be that we need to allow at least enough time to see whether (a) decoding standards improve as teachers get more used to preparing children for the screening check and (b) any improvement in decoding leads to an improvement in the things that the UKLA and others think are important – e.g. fluency, reading for meaning and pleasure etc. I’m sure that most RRFers would expect improvements in both these areas, but objective evidence would be very useful for the purpose of convincing critics, and it won’t be possible to get this unless the check is administered for several years. Perhaps this is why the evaluation by the National Foundation for Educational Research is scheduled to last for 3 years.

John mentions David Reedy’s use of the term ‘pseudo-words’ rather than ‘non-words’. I don’t think Reedy can be accused of being deliberately pejorative as the DfE uses ‘pseudo-words’ in its own documents (e.g. the ‘Framework’ for the check).

Jenny C.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Thu May 02, 2013 12:37 pm

I don't know whether Debbie and David Reedy were asked in so many words to address the question 'Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?' Maybe this was added as a heading only after they had written their articles.
I don't know what was said to David Reedy but nothing was mentioned to me about my article supporting a 'debate' theme and there was no mention of the title beforehand.

I had written to the editor of 'Teach Primary' to complain about a short, negative piece in a former issue which had no authorship and which did not provide a balanced argument.

I suppose the 'debate' theme was an opportunity to provide that 'balance' but I wrote my piece blindly.

Thankfully, I know of the issues as I follow developments and responses as closely as I can so coincidentally my piece did address some of the issues raised in Reedy's piece.

Shortly, however, I shall be able to provide some of my direct responses to the issues Reedy raises in his article.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri May 03, 2013 5:16 pm

Here's part 2 of John Walker's dismantling of David Reedy's arguments in favour of ''ditching the Y1 phonics screening check''

Is it time to ditch David Reedy?

http://literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013 ... reedy.html

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Susan Godsland » Fri May 03, 2013 5:48 pm

Here's Debbie's response to the issues raised by David Reedy in his article:

http://www.phonicsinternational.com/reedy_response.pdf

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by john walker » Fri May 03, 2013 7:59 pm

Well, I'm appalled that you weren't told that your views on the screening check would be presented as part of a 'debate', Debbie, but, nevertheless, I thought you acquitted yourself very well by anticipating some of the usual nonsense a spokesperson from UKLA would come up with.
I do agree with you about teachers needing a 'common understanding' of what phonics teaching is about and, as you'll see from the last posting I'm going to put up tomorrow on the exchange, I agree with much of what you've said.
This is an excellent and measured response to the kinds of arguments UKLA, Rosen et al churn out.
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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Fri May 03, 2013 9:27 pm

I think what's important to note, as you know John, is that teachers don't share a common understanding for many reasons:

You will probably have found the same thing I have during talks and training, that many teachers have not heard of the 'multi-cueing' approach to teaching reading (named as the 'searchlights strategies' when the National Literacy Strategy was rolled out in 1998) - and neither have they heard of the 'Simple View of Reading' model which was promoted with the Rose review in 2005/6..

It is a very chequered picture, in other words, as to the general understanding and previous and current training of the teaching profession - bear in mind that our training teams work in both the state and public sector.

So, teachers don't fall neatly into any kind of camp or follow any particular philosophy necessarily.

Thus, there are teachers who stick doggedly to 'multi-cueing strategies' (also called a 'range of reading strategies' by many) because they don't believe in what they refer to as 'pure' synthetic phonics teaching (and by that, I include your linguistic phonics teaching).

Then, there are teachers who teach a 'range of strategies' to children because they have had repetitive and predictable reading scheme books for a long time - thus in these kind of books where the words are not designed to be restricted to the alphabetic code taught to date, there is inevitably the need to 'tell' children to guess the words from picture cues, initial letter cues and context cues.

In other words, the practice of 'guessing' sets in by book design and by default - because teachers, parents and children have to resort to 'guessing' their way through the books if the books are not designed to avoid the guessing.

The government match funding for promoting systematic synthetic phonics has raised the profile of the notion of 'cumulative decodable reading books'. As you know, however, not every school has taken advantage of this initiative and we still encounter schools where teachers have not even heard of the initiative.

In addition, the inclusion of all the bits of phonics paraphernalia in the match funded catalogue was a serious mistake in my view, as many schools have simply filled their classrooms with bits and pieces to make phonics into a 'fun games and activities' approach (usually to supplement their 'Letters and Sounds' planning) - raher than acquiring a core programme, and training and cumulative, decodable reading books.

Furthermore, the training providers included in the match funded catalogue were inspected after their inclusion rather than before their inclusion! So that was no guarantee of the knowledge and understanding of the trainers themselves.

We know that there is a long way to go to raise the levels of understanding amongst the whole teaching profession (and by 'whole', I include the secondary sector and the special needs sector - and the teacher-training sector!!!) - but what is most upsetting is the amount of exposure of the 'anti phonics' camp in the media and the total absence (as far as I am aware) of the pro-phonics camp and pro-the phonics screening check folk. :neutral:

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat May 04, 2013 1:00 am

By the way, I encourage the independent schools, the international schools and the bi-lingual schools to conduct the Year One Phonics Screening Check with their pupils.

What a wonderful way to compare their results with the schools in England.

All they would have to do is to wait until the schools in England have undertaken the check officially, and then when the 40 words are out in the public domain, quickly conduct the check with their own pupils!

A growing number of schools internationally are paying regard to what we are doing in England.

Many of the schools are using 'Letters and Sounds'. I encourage them to look at the mainstream programmes mentioned in the match funded catalogue which will provide the systematic teaching and learning resources they really need - and the rigour and routine that they really need.

Can you imagine teachers all over the world trying their best to turn 'Letters and Sounds' in to a practical mainstream programme? That is no easy task.

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat May 04, 2013 1:06 am

This is my message to any schools internationally that are teaching English!

I really encourage any schools teaching phonics to use the official Year One Phonics Screening Check words to see how their pupils are faring.

If this idea is of interest, please do share your interest.

It would be very ironic indeed if many schools, even countries, volunteered to do this - whilst at the same time there are many people in England who are doing their best to have this check withdrawn.

I urge people to support this check even if you are not in England.

Imagine if we could compare results not just in English schools but in schools which teach English, or teach in English, all around the world!

Now - that is truly visionary.

Show the English detractors that you are not afraid of checking how your pupils are doing with a simple 40 word check!!!!

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Derrie Clark » Sat May 04, 2013 12:47 pm

I think the information gathered for the research quoted by Reedy is quite useful if used objectively, particularly information about why schools are concerned.

As John says
Furthermore, there is ample evidence on the courses on which I and our band of trainers teach that 'the teaching profession has yet to share a common understanding of teaching reading, a full grasp of the desirable processes required for long-term reading'.
The research points to gaps in teachers and SLT's understanding. Wouldn't it be great to carry out some follow-up research by revisiting these schools, providing training and then repeating the questionnaire?

A related point ... can an Ofsted be triggered by poor phonic check results (where a school has previously been identified as 'good')?

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by volunteer » Sat May 04, 2013 1:52 pm

I don't think so as I think it might have done so at our school. It did not though and we had the letter saying we would not be inspected for a further 2 years several months after the phonics check.

I do wonder though if someone wrote in with a qualifying complaint about both the results and the teaching if it might be a trigger. The notion of a qualifying complaint is not spelled out on their website. I think I have one but I am not brave enough!

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Re: Debate: Is it time to ditch the Y1 phonics screening test?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat May 04, 2013 2:01 pm

I think I have one but I am not brave enough!
LOL!

To be honest, volunteer, if you are not brave enough with your level of knowledge and interest, then it's doubtful that any other parents would be!!!

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