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Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Mon Jun 17, 2013 9:37 pm
by Derrie Clark
Just wondering if anyone has had any feedback on the phonic check. Just heard it was 'trickier than before'. I haven't had a chance to find out why?

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:51 pm
by chew8
I haven't heard any feedback specifically on this year's check. 18 different versions were used in the 2011 pilot, and the 360-odd items were then categorised according to difficulty - in theory, this should enable the compilers of the check to ensure that the level of difficulty is the same from year to year, but I don't know whether it works out exactly this way in practice.

Jenny C.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 5:30 pm
by Lesley Drake
Looks like the national pass rate has gone up by a huge amount this year to 70%

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:45 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Hi Lesley,

If that is indeed the case, then it just shows how the screening check must have focused minds on the quality of phonics teaching!

That can only be to the good.

Let's hope the results are based on good, honest, objective assessment. :roll:

This will also sharpen minds regarding schools and local authorities where results are weak.

I hope it encourages the government, or any future government, to hang on in there and keep the check as an annual check.

I've heard of a few results - all 90%+ - which is very exciting and shows what can be done - and this is helpful to indicate to schools not achieving such results what is possible when following content-rich and systematic phonics programmes - preferably as the authors suggest to maximise the results!

Thank you for the info! :grin:

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:49 pm
by Debbie Hepplewhite
I haven't found the results via Google yet, Lesley, so do you have a link for us please?

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2013 7:11 am
by chew8
What I hope will be shown in due course is that an improvement in decoding at the end of Year 1 leads to an improvement in the results of any tests done from then on – Key Stage 1, standardised tests involving irregular as well as regular words, Key Stage 2 etc. If that happens, it will be hard for people to go on arguing against an early emphasis on decoding.

Jenny C.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Thu Jul 04, 2013 9:32 pm
by geraldinecarter
I agree, Jenny. I'm also thinking that when the Screening Check has bedded in after a couple more years it should be possible to ask that results are made public. I don't know how this could be achieved without putting the wrong sort of pressure on schools - there is some anecdotal evidence that teachers without a secure grasp of SP are causing stress to children by trying to 'cram' them for the Check.

Even if there were breakdowns by ed. authorities, that would be very helpful.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:04 am
by kenm
What I would like to see is an anonymous list of results paired with the reading scheme (or schemes, if, e.g., they use a different one for remedial purposes) the school claims to use, together with any comments from the schools that might indicate the fidelity with which they implement the scheme (e.g. "supplemented by word lists"). I suppose the socio-economic nature of the catchment area would have to be included also to enable fair comparisons.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2013 12:15 am
by geraldinecarter
Lots of advantages of the Check being anonymous, of course. One advantage of matching schools to Screening Check results is that in 5 years one can look at comparison with SATs 2 results.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2013 9:22 am
by chew8
Re. Geraldine’s posting about ‘Sats 2’ (Key Stage 2) results:

Even without school-by-school results for the screening check, there will be some value in being able to see whether national results at KS2 improve from 2017 onwards as children who have taken the screening check reach the end of primary school. And as far as Key Stage 1 is concerned, it should be possible to see the impact from this year, as the first national Year 1 cohort did the screening check in 2012 and will have done the KS1 assessment in May 2013.

Ofsted showed in 2010 that both KS1 and KS2 results were good in schools where early phonics teaching was good – see ... ools-do-it. So there has been some official relating of early teaching methods to outcomes on existing government tests even before the screening check. The difference, from now on, will be that there is national evidence specifically on Year 1 decoding which can be related to later outcomes.

Jenny C.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2013 11:31 am
by Debbie Hepplewhite
Perhaps noteworthy, I've had some reports in from a handful of schools where I have been told the phonics teaching in Reception was not thorough or ambitious - but that an emphasis on phonics in Year One has still led to great results and a great improvement in results from having no systematic programme in Reception to adopting a rigorous, approved programme in Year One. The short comments next to the results below are not my interpretations of events:

2012 results: 21% 2013 results: 88% (adoption of a programme in Year One this last year)

2012 results: 90% 2013 results: 90% (rigorous use of a programme in Year One)

2012 results: 39% 2012 results: 66% (adoption of a programme two months before the check)

2012 results: 70% (adoption of a programme six months before the check) 2013 results: 88% (the programme had now been used for 18 months)

2012 results: 84% (was 87% but 'new child' dropped results at last minute) 2013 results: 80% (strong Reception teacher and adoption of a programme in 2012)

In listening to some teachers and headteachers, they consider a lot can be achieved by great Year One teaching, but also strong Reception teaching needs to be built on well by the Year One teacher.

What we may also think about is the number of teachers reporting surprise that some of their 'able' readers did not do so well on the screening check last year which suggested to many people that the phonics check was flawed or that the children had 'gone beyond' phonics decoding in their reading.

This illustrated considerable lack of understanding about the field of reading instruction and the role of phonics in lifelong reading and spelling.

It could well be that Reception teachers give children a good phonics start which gets them onto reading book schemes and then, in some schools, the teaching emphasis switches too much to 'Well they can read now so they don't need so much phonics' leading to lower than might be expected results on the phonics screening check simply because not enough blending practice was promoted in the Year One class - replaced in part by multi-cueing 'guessing' reading strategies.

One comment that was made to me, however, has been backed up by other reports I have heard about actual practice in Year One classes. Someone wrote to me, "So many schools hide behind this 'Letters and Sounds' smoke screen but don't really do it because it is practically undoable. I actually blame letters and sounds with its fudged messages, over complex time scales, lack of learning routines (it is activity based, not learning focused) and general lack of 'stuff' for many of these schools problems now."

Now this sounds very harsh about 'Letters and Sounds' so it needs some further thoughts:

First of all, the advent of 'Letters and Sounds' in our schools (because, at the time of roll-out in 2006, it was the 'official' publication) definitely brought many schools on board with a systematic approach to phonics - or even to actually 'do' phonics where they had not had a phonics approach before.

We know from the Sheffield Hallam University review of the pilot check, however, that nearly three-quarters of the teachers taking part in the pilot screening check in 2011 still used the 'Searchlights' or multi-cueing reading strategies which amount to a lot of guessing words from cues (and this then led to a lot of teachers' surprise at 'able' readers being weaker at the 2012 national phonics screening check). This undermines the central SP teaching principles in 'Letters and Sounds'.

Arguably, 'Letters and Sounds' should never have been described as a 'programme of choice' because it has no resources for teaching or learning (as is mentioned in the teacher's comments above).

This has meant that teachers and assistants in every school 'using' Letters and Sounds have, in effect, had to resource the ideas in Letters and Sounds to turn it into a programme.

Now, this may look different in every school in the land. Resourcing a guidance document and turning it into a body of work for effective teaching and learning for up to 30 children of every description is no mean feat.

This suggests that there is not necessarily much uniformity from one school to the next when they claim to be a 'Letters and Sounds' school. Some are excellent and have resourced and managed their phonics provision very well - and others not so well.

And others will be underpinning their practice with something close to the systematic synthetic phonics teaching principles - and others will provide phonics teaching alongside multi-cueing reading strategies - but they will all 'claim' to be 'doing' 'Letters and Sounds'. In reality, what these schools provide daily may look very different from one another.

Here is the other difficulty:

Universities work with their surrounding infant and primary schools. Many of these 'do' Letters and Sounds. So, whatever version this looks like in the schools becomes part and parcel of the student-teachers' experience - good, poor, muddled or indifferent!

So, what are the Letters and Sounds schools most likely to have in common:

1) You would hope to see a 'teaching and learning cycle' as this is put across well in Letters and Sounds.

I see this in Reception classes and Year One classes but not necessarily well done or well understood.

2) Schools have a clear notion about the 'order' of introducing letter/s-sound correspondences linked to the 'phases' - but this tends to disintegrate somewhat at the Phase Five level (complex code) and teachers are a bit bemuddled about the contents of Phase Six and how and when to do this with their children (I suggest Phase Six is a flawed notion anyway and its content should be dripped into the curriculum from Reception).

3) Many schools do the basic code teaching reasonably well, but they find it very challenging at the Phase Five or extended code level.

And yet it could well be that the Year One teaching (extended code and the need to continue lots of blending practice) is really key to results.

4) Many schools still plan to do their phonics teaching in 15 or 20 minutes a day slot. This is unrealistic. Combine this with introducing letter/s-sound correspondences daily to begin with (Phase Two) and many children get left behind at the outset.

Then, complicated grouping kicks in requiring a lot of organisation and planning. The organising of the grouping can be a nightmare (moving children from one place to another, staffing smaller groups, teacher loses touch of the class pupils, sheer complication of what to 'use' for the teaching and learning).

5) Add to this that the match funded catalogue included lots of games and manipulatives. Some 'Letters and Sounds' schools have spent the entire £6,000 on phonics bits and pieces and teachers do not have a pre-made systematic synthetic phonics programme at their finger tips. Their practice may be 'good' but it may also be all over the place.

So, I suggest that when we talk about 'Letters and Sounds' schools, this has become tantamount to 'how long is a piece of string'.

The devil is in the detail of what every single school actually provides for its pupils on a day to day basis.

It is ONLY this national Year One Phonics Screening Check which is sharpening teachers' minds about the effectiveness of their provision - thank goodness we have it.

But, what we are also getting indications of is that it does not need to take long at all to make significant improvements in effective teaching and learning.

However, the pink and fluffy Ofsted videos do not help, and the lack of shared professional understanding in the wider domain does not help - and certainly pink and fluffy things in the match funded catalogue did not help.

I just want to add one more comment at this point:

It is very helpful for teachers to have a body of work - a programme - with well-designed and content rich resources to support the teaching and learning over a sufficiently sustained period. Good resources available in a school will help to an extent.

It is imperative, however, to also have great PRACTICE.

This means both the teaching 'practice' and great 'learning opportunities'. The short phonics lessons often mean in reality that the children are getting no individual practice with their own paper-based resources. Teachers in the early years and infants often turn away from paper-based material and sitting at desks.

Teachers who are good at phonics teaching can achieve good results with or without a specific body of work - but they leave the school and standards can slip back.

The synthetic phonics teaching PRINCIPLES, the PROGRAMME and the PRACTICE needs to 'belong to the school'.

The match funded catalogue promoted the need for programmes and training and the need for cumulative, decodable books -but undermined the central message by providing the many bits and pieces.

A school can have a good programme - but with weak practice - and the results will not be what they could be.

We need the synthetic phonics teaching principles, the programmes belonging to the school, and efficient and effective practice to get the very best results for every child's lifelong reading and spelling.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 6:15 pm
by pjay
I know this is old news but I have just discovered this site and found some fascinating posts!
The phonics check was a strange beast this year in my opinion. I carried it out myself for both of my Y1 classes and hoped that it would provide some kind of diagnostic test (as well as a check on what had been taught!) I found the choice of GPCs within the test quite puzzling- many common GPCs not included at all and several others repeated several times. How is it devised and by whom?? It told us nothing we didn't already know as we regularly carry out phase checks and the Y2s who 'failed' last year all 'passed' this year- summer born boys in the main. A very crude test really- a properly standardised test including comprehension and reading rate (similar to YARC) at the end of Y2 would be more useful I feel.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:07 pm
by maizie
pjay wrote: How is it devised and by whom??
This is the technical report on the Pilot Check, which is very informative. ... TA/12/5791

Other Phonics Check documents can be found here: ... heck+pilot

BTW. Welcome to the RRF message board, pjay :grin:

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:23 pm
by chew8
pjay wrote:A very crude test really- a properly standardised test including comprehension and reading rate (similar to YARC) at the end of Y2 would be more useful I feel.
I heard quite recently, however, that researchers had found a very high correlation between the Y1 screening check and YARC.

Jenny C.

Re: Feedback on Phonic Check

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:26 pm
by Anna
Does anyone have a list of the words used in this year's phonics test. I would be interested to see them, especially now Pjay has highlighted the absence of many P/G correspondences. Many thanks.