Phonics results identify 235,000 pupils for extra support

Written by: HTU | Published:

Six in 10 six-year-olds have reached the expected standard in the new phonics reading check, it has been revealed.

Six in 10 six-year-olds have reached the expected standard in the new phonics reading check, it has been revealed.

A total of 32 out of every 40 pupils were considered to be at the right standard after taking the test.

It also means that a total of 235,000 pupils have now been identified for additional support from their schools.

However, the results come after year 1 teachers this month rejected the new test as confusing for pupils and a waste of time.

A survey of professionals carried out jointly by three education unions found that they believed the phonics checks did not test children's reading ability.Almost 1,700 year 1 teachers responded to the survey, with 86 per cent saying the tests should be scrapped with 91 per cent saying that the tests did not tell them anything new about their pupils.

However, the government said this week that 43 per cent of pilot schools had been able to identify "pupils with reading problems of which they were not already aware".

The statutory year 1 phonics check has been introduced in a bid to identify children who need extra help with their reading. The test is controversial because the government has directed schools to use synthetic phonics which focus on sounds rather than children recognising whole words. As such, the test requires children to read both real and made-up words to their teachers.

More than 88 per cent of the teachers in the unions' survey said they practised reading “nonsense" words such as “spron", “geck", “fape" and “thazz" with pupils before the tests.

One year 1 teacher told the study: “Many children made mistakes trying to turn pseudo words into real words – 'strom' became 'storm'. The lack of context meant many children made mistakes they would not have made if the word was in a sentence – read 'shine' as 'shin'."

The three unions – the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and National Union of Teachers (NUT) – say they are not against synthetic phonics but argue that the method is just one tool in the teachers' arsenal.

Another year 1 teacher added: “Some able readers failed and some non-fluent, less able readers passed! What does that prove? It proves synthetic phonics is only part of a variety of strategies used in learning to read. Teaching phonics alone will not make fluent readers who enjoy the experience."

The government, however, argued that the test took between four and nine minutes to take per child and said that an evaluation of the pilot by the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research reported that 74 per cent of teachers thought the non-words were suitable.

Education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said: “The reading check helps teachers identify those pupils who need extra help in learning to read. Many thousands of children will now receive the extra support they need to develop a love of reading."

However, ATL chief Dr Mary Bousted said: “We fear the harm they will do to fluent readers who fail the tests because they assume the nonsense words are misprints, and to children with SEN and English as an additional language who get confused by them. The government risks doing long-term damage to children's reading if it persists with the checks and its mistaken determination to make synthetic phonics the only method used to teach children to read."

Her counterpart at the NAHT, Russell Hobby, added: “Synthetic phonics is an essential contribution to helping most children learn to read, which is why most schools already make heavy use of it. This test, however, is another matter. It is inaccurate and unnecessary. It distorts the teaching and measurement of reading."

Also published this week are the numbers of pupils reaching Level 2 across all areas of the teacher-assessed key stage 1 subjects.

In reading, 87 per cent achieved the benchmark, up two per cent from last year; in writing, 83 per cent hit Level 2 compared to 81 per cent in 2011; speaking and listening saw a rise of one per cent to 88 per cent this year; maths also saw a one per cent rise to 91 per cent; science stayed the same as last year wit 89 per cent achieving Level 2.

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