The new Y1 phonics screening check

(565 Posts)
SoundsWrite Sat 18-Feb-12 09:34:13

The government's new phonics screening check is to be launched in England in June.
The results of the test will be given to the parents of each individual child but each individual school's results will not be made public.
What is the view on Mumsnet? Do you think the results should be made public or not? Either way, why or why not?
You can find out more about this test by going to the DfE site:

LackaDAISYcal Sat 18-Feb-12 09:36:42
mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 09:44:02

I'm torn between the worry that tests will become yet more teacher bashing and allowing schools that are only paying lip service to government guidance on teaching phonics to hide.

TheCunningStunt Sat 18-Feb-12 09:46:51

There is a sample test on that website. We are in Scotland so it means nothing to us really, but DS is in p1 just turned five and got 39/40. What is the point of testing so young? Is it to spot problems and fox them? Either way they should be made public no?

TheCunningStunt Sat 18-Feb-12 09:50:05


mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 09:57:47

The idea is the test will identify children who are struggling and provide extra support but good schools do that already. A national test shouldn't be necessary.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:02:22

I think that this exercise is a fabulous opportunity to raise awareness among schools and parents as to what phonics is, and at what age it is reasonable to expect children to have acquired simple decoding skills.

And I say this living in a country where the teaching of reading via synthetic phonics has a lot more ground to cover than in the UK - I can just see how such a test would be an amazing boost to the development of the teaching of reading via synthetic phonics in France.

Miomio Sat 18-Feb-12 10:03:23

why does the sample sheet have lots of uncommon or (ignorant) non words- tazz?

DilysPrice Sat 18-Feb-12 10:07:26

It's to check whether the child understands phonic principles rather than having memorised word shapes miomio. IMO it's crucial.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 10:08:59

the idea is that children actually have to decode these test words rather than present them with familiar words they may have learnt.

bradbourne Sat 18-Feb-12 10:19:20

"good schools do that already"

That's all very well if your child happens to go to a truly good school. Mine doesn't and only learned to read when I decided to take matters into my own hands. The school plays lip service to teaching phonics, but phonics was treated as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end - i.e. the children were taught the soujnds, but not shown how to blend them and are still sent home with lists of HFWs to memorise.

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:27:05

My ds's school is the same - they 'do' phonics twice a week and plonked Y1 ds on ORT at Stage 3 which completely threw him. Any gains he makes and anything he achieves in the screening tests will not be down to the school.

I agree with you mrz - I want schools like ds's to be flagged up somehow, but the last thing we need are new performance tables, etc. More LEA moderation of the process would help perhaps - but LEA staff have been cut drastically, so I'm struggling to see how they can do the 10% KS1 assessment/ Y1 phonics screening moderation completed anyway.

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:28:02

get the moderation completed. I clearly need more coffee this morning {blush}

whathaveiforgottentoday Sat 18-Feb-12 10:28:22

To be used as a tool for the primary school staff as another tool to assess and identify children who are struggling is a good thing. However, I totally disagree with the publication of the results and not even sure there is a need to report to all parents in yr 1, unless requested. Let the professionals use them to improve teaching.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 10:29:13

I think there are schools out there who say they teach phonics but haven't invested in training staff or in providing appropriate resources. Some teachers are muddling through and then sending home Look & Say books because that is all they have. Then there are teachers who are resistant to teaching phonics and continue to use the searchlight method, encouraging children the work out the words from the illustration of the initial letter and sending home lists of words to learn by sight.
It's sad that a test is necessary and hopefully it will identify these schools hmm

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:31:16

I am not sure some of the 'professional' would though. Certainly ds's Y1 teacher wasn't very interested when I told her ds didn't know many of the sounds at phase 3 letters and sounds. And any questions regarding the choice of texts where just met with a smile and 'no money'. She didn't know about the match funding confused

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:34:27

Feenie - surely the test, which has the merit of being a very clear communication of national expectations of what schools should achieve with their pupils, will help make your DC's teacher's reaction impossible to justify?

DilysPrice Sat 18-Feb-12 10:36:00

And the problem is, mrz, that there's a veneer of respectability given to that practice by a lot of well meant people, including writers who may never have taught a child to read, and who are of course fluent readers themselves who have forgotten what it meant to have to learn to decipher the inkblots on the paper. So they come up with "reading should be fun, not just a joyless mechanical skill to be taught, children need real books, testing children on made-up words has nothing to do with reading" etc etc - all of which sounds lovely but just undermines important strategies.

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:36:33

Why? What difference would it make to them?

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 10:36:58

You describe the school my son goes to mrz - it is graded outstanding. It is a very good school in many respects, but it does indeed only pay lip service to the teaching of phonics.

It is particularly galling as I teach in a school with a very well implemented phonics programme. sad

Sadly Wales has not introduced this test, so it is not applicable to my son's school.

I would be in favour of making results public in order to highlight problems and force a solution.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:37:32

Thinking about this... the UK, back in the 1980s, had one of the most successful Aids-awareness campaigns in the world and the much lower than average prevalence of Aids in the UK, compared to similar countries (eg France), is directly attributable to that awareness campaign.

Maybe there should be a national awareness campaign for phonics? It seems to me to be of huge national importance?

DilysPrice Sat 18-Feb-12 10:39:05

Because primary school teachers and parents read this stuff Feenie.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:39:31

And MN would be a fantastic starting-point for setting off an awareness campaign smile - a great demonstration of the social power of mothers of young children, who, by virtue of MN, have a collective voice...

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:40:47

I can just see an amazing Government-financed awareness campaign for phonics, with MN endorsement


DilysPrice Sat 18-Feb-12 10:42:03

Possibly bonsoir. I think part of the problem is that the Dept of Education has lost so much credibility over the years that however much they push phonics many people will just dismiss it as another one of Gove's little obsessions.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:42:58

Which is where MN, which is politically-neutral and covers a broad spectrum of social interests, comes into play!

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:47:25

At the moment, when the school gets very low scores on the screening test, (and they will) I can't see there being any consequence for the school. All they have to prove is that the strugglers continue to receive support in Y2 until they 'pass'. They've only just had Ofsted and were 'good', although with concerns about KS1 teaching hmm and attainment.

If the phonics screening test bothered them in any way at the moment, there would be plans to purchase phonic schemes and the teaching of phonics would be upped to a daily session. Neither of theses things have happened. They don't care.

If the results were made public, they would be far more bothered about their status in a public table as a good leafy lane school. As far as I can see, they don't give a stuff atm. However, publishing the results would bring its own problems.

So, Dilys and Bonsoir, what is it about the screening check in its current format that would make you think the school will change? Because I can't see that it will make any difference whatsoever, for the reasons SoundsWrite outline in his OP.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 10:50:41

It's called lobbying, Feenie, and it is one of the major ways you get large institutions to change their tack. What you rarely get are instant major changes - it's a long, slow, drip feed process.

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 10:54:13

But it doesn't answer the OP's question, which I was answering - should the results be made public or not?

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 11:03:54

Yes, I would be pro making the results public as the lobbying effect will be more powerful.

SoundsWrite Sat 18-Feb-12 11:16:58

Thanks for sharing your views on this. There is a thread on the Reading Reform Foundation ( discussing the same issue and I thought that it would be useful for parents on MN to voice their opinions and to know what's going on.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 11:44:17

I think the results should be published in some shape or form - for the same reasons Feenie says

1. Schools are more likely to care if the results are public

2. If parents are MNers very knowledgeable they can tell if a school is teaching reading well or not

3. A parent can see whether '20' (or whatever) is a good mark or a bad mark - otherwise the school can tell them it's all fine even when they get a bad mark.

AugustDays Sat 18-Feb-12 11:46:04

Whether schools should or should not publish the results of the phonic screening check, I'm assuming Ofsted will be picking out schools with children who do not perform well on it and paying them an unexpected visit.

It's surely not the fault of the teachers if children underperform but rather the responsibility of the Head Teacher who should make it his/her duty to understand reading and spelling and ensure that school staff do too. Afterall, isn't that what school is about??

This link was posted earlier and I have found the document really useful:

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 11:54:25

My head has spent a huge amount of the school budget on phonics training (over the last 5/6 years not just because of the test) and on high quality phonics reading schemes (we had Ginn 360 as our main scheme under the previous Lit coord) and yet we still have a Y1 teacher who simply "doesn't get it". I've had to resort to hiding books because she won't use the new books!!! I'm frustrated and so is the head.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 11:56:27

mrz - sad But how can this happen?

How can a HT be unhappy with how his staff are teaching, and it still continue?

Teachers are very sensitive about 'teacher bashing' - but really and truly, working hard and caring isn't the same as being effective.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 12:01:19

Ofsted have rated this teacher as "good"

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 12:03:12

mrz - surely a Y1 teacher who "doesn't get" phonics in a school as patently knowledgeable and supportive as your own just doesn't have enough brains to be a teacher?

Feenie Sat 18-Feb-12 12:07:09

Some teachers still firmly believe that a mix of approaches is best - a more individualised approach to suit the child. They don't understand that it can actually damage children - you see it from teachers on MN threads all the time; we've had some right old ding dongs. smile

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 12:09:07

Resistant teachers need to be forced to read This fantastic book

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 12:13:06

Some of the teachers in my school are pro mixed approach teaching. They don't get to indulge themselves as my HT started Read, Write, Inc. and they have no real choice to ignore the scheme. All the schools in Monmouthshire use this scheme except my son's school.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 12:14:47

yes you only have to read TES to see that many teachers still cling to mixed methods

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 12:18:50

At my DD's bilingual school, the children get taught to read in French using a (slightly shaky, not very up-to-date but not too dreadful really) French synthetic phonics method in CP (Y2), and then are expected to "transfer" their reading skills to English in CE1 (Y3) using old ORT with some very vague and haphazard teaching of spellings through a sort of phonics (nothing recognisable).

Unsurprisingly, the children who are not EMT pronounce English graphemes as if they were French phonemes and all the children are totally crap at spelling.

I think this gives a whole new perspective to potential harm done by mixed methods!

(my DD was taught to read in English with a proper synthetic phonics method as of MS (YR), btw, with a private tutor).

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 12:19:21

It is so frustrating! All the evidence is there.

AugustDays Sat 18-Feb-12 12:21:20


yet we still have a Y1 teacher who simply "doesn't get it"

I know what you mean Mrz!

It needs to be asked: What doesn't she get? How is she being encouraged to 'get it'? Does she need to work with a different age group or take up another profession? (Although it is difficult with a 'good' Ofsted rating - was this under the old framework?)

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 12:21:22
Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 12:28:38

Indeed, mrz. I try to get DD to read as much as possible in both languages in order for her to imprint the right spellings in her head.

There are mad, bad and dangerous teachers of English here in France who go as far as saying that Anglophone children in bilingual schools should be prevented from even seeing English text until they are fluent readers in French ie that parents should cover text when reading stories to their children.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 12:36:15

I can add another anecdote to the horrors of the English teaching at DD's school: in the year in which reading in English is started, the children are asked to write a description of their weekend every Monday.

Obviously, for my DD, who could read in English quite fluently and had done a fair amount of writing exercises while being taught phonics, this wasn't impossible. She is now up to two A5 pages of writing, slightly misspelled but nothing drastic. However, many of the children have no clue about how to write in English as their parents weren't anal prescient enough to have them taught within a normal-for-MT time frame and they make the same terrible spelling mistakes week in, week out.

I did email DD's teacher recently to ask, politely, when she was going to be teaching the children about past participles so that they knew to write -ed and not -t at the end of verbs. You would think, given that the children have to write in the past and the past alone, every week, that she might have done some work on this...

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 12:40:20
camicaze Sat 18-Feb-12 18:16:10

I think that sadly its better not to publish this year as the anti phonics lobby would be able to have a field day. The government can then release details about the vast differences between comparable schools (which there inevitably will be) and justify doing so next year.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 18:19:49

What do you mean by that camicaze? Why would the anti phonics lobby have a field day?

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 18:27:43
camicaze Sat 18-Feb-12 18:30:50

The government are very carefully marketing this test as a 'check' to highlight children that need help. This is because the anti phonics lobby are presenting it as yet another test that will put pressure on children in early years when children develop at different rates, so they argue the test is inappropriate and will mean children are pressurised. They say (amusingly) that if results are public this will lead to 'teaching to test' (oh no!) rather than children getting a mix of methods which is appropriate to them. There was a thread started a while back on mumsnet by a campaigner against the phonics check. They link up with those like Sue Palmer campaigning against too much pressur eon children in the early years.

camicaze Sat 18-Feb-12 18:34:21

This is the mumsnet thread. Sorry I can't post it properly.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 18:38:27
mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 18:39:07

oh I had!

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 18:44:13

Lots of teachers hate children being evaluated because they think that they are being evaluated (which is of course very true in this instance) by stealth.

Rosebud05 Sat 18-Feb-12 19:31:04

On the whole, I would say that making test results public hasn't done wonders for the UK education system.

There's only a point in testing if there will be targeted intervention with those who are 'struggling' - is it envisaged that this will be funded? If not, then the tests are by and large another tactic of teacher bashing, I'd say.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 19:34:00

Rosebud - interventions don't need to be funded. Teaching children to read doesn't cost anything besides time.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 19:35:56

Each school already receives an SEN budget which they need to use to fund all the interventions in the school.

Most schools employ TAs who run various interventions.

Some schools divide kids up into streamed phonic groups, and all the teachers and TAs in the school take groups.......

So basically, an adult in the school has to teach the children to read. You wouldn't employ somebody extra for this.....

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 19:35:56

No, IndigoBell. Teaching children to read requires skill (which costs money to acquire, as well as time) and it does also require appropriate teaching materials (more money).

Tiggles Sat 18-Feb-12 19:41:37

In general I am anti 'over' testing and publishing of results in primary schools, we live in Wales so although the children do SATS they tend to be marked internally (or by other local schools) and not published in league tables so good to get idea of how your child is doing, but not loads of 'teaching just to pass a test'.
However, I think publishing the results of the phonic test would be a good idea, as it has to be one test that 'being taught to pass the test' would presumably actually be beneficial to children. If they all were taught all the phonics for the test well, they would have a big help in any reading they then go on to do.
I was initially slightly confused about whether having non-words would be an issue - would children guess to the nearest word they no, but as they are told their are made up words it shouldn't be a problem. I gave DS (reception) the practice test and he had no problem with the non-words, and said after every word if it was a non-word or a real word. DS has been taught phonics well by his school.
I then gave him the Burt reading test to do, he came out with a score about 2.5 years ahead, I wouldn't give him a reading age that high per se, but his knowledge of phonics stood him in very good stead, even for sounding out the harder words. Did have to laugh when he worked out nourishment, and then asked what it meant. When I explained he said, is that in Welsh then, my dinner lady never uses that word grin.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 19:44:47

I think part of the issue is that TAs are being left to run interventions when perhaps these are the very children who require more teacher input.,3746,en_2649_39263231_49477290_1_1_1_1,00.html

as for eye tracking problems at this stage I was considering minor problems like strabismus which would be helped by glasses of course there are more serious issues but isn't it better to rule out the straightforward first.

mrz Sat 18-Feb-12 19:49:23

ignore me I'm replying on the wrong thread hmm

theDevilHasTheBestMNNames Sat 18-Feb-12 20:04:27

Teaching children to read requires skill

Depends what the issues are I guess. I'm managing to teach DS, when school isn't/hasn't, because I can read and have the ability to buy books from sound foundation and phonics based home reading books.

Schools seachlight method and biff and chip books weren't helping him at all and think caused avoidable issues for DD1.

I'd love to think that publishing the phonics test results would make more parents question how reading is taught in my DC school. It probably wouldn't though as many parents feel it's all the schools business and nothing to do with them.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 20:04:57

Bonsoir - teaching reading doesn't require any more resources than a school already has. If all you had was pen and paper you can teach children to read.

Teachers and TAs have to be trained how to teach reading - it doesn't cost any more to train them how to teach kids who have failed the phonics test - because there is nothing different that needs to be done for the intervention - besides teach them to read.

Cost is not an issue with teaching kids to read. Skill is part of the problem - but only one of many factors. ( teachers and HTs attitudes provide a much bigger part)

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 20:07:00

If only that were true. But it's not. We have this very issue at DD's school. Until we have the right books and the teachers have been trained, they will only be taught reading in a very haphazard manner.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 20:10:21

Sure, it's easier to teach reading if you have lots of money to throw at it. But it's absolutely not necessary, only a nice to have.

What I'm saying is that school can't claim they can't do a reading intervention because they can't afford materials for it.

If your child's teacher knew what they were doing, they wouldn't need the right books. They could teach with pen and paper or whatever they did have.

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 20:10:33

But surely that is because the money has been spent on the wrong books and something other than training phonics, rather than there not being enough money in schools.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 20:11:36

Schools absolutely should be held accountable for teaching all kids to read. And starting with accountability at the end of Y1 seems totally fair.

Rosebud05 Sat 18-Feb-12 20:13:12

Interventions, be they additional staff time, additional training, additional resources, do cost money. Not to mention any assessments and SEN support that children may need.

If this could all be done in existing budgets with no problems, there wouldn't be any need for a test, as children would all be reading by yr 1, but we all know that's not the case.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 20:16:30

Rosebad - the reasons most kids don't learn to read is because they're not taught very well.

The reason they're not taught very well is because teachers are allowed to do whatever they want in the classroom and don't have to follow 'best practice'.

All schools are already expected to teach all kids to read. Any kid who is behind by the end of Y1 should already be on an intervention.

There is nothing new in this - besides the govt asking for the data.

No extra money is required - because this is all stuff they should already be doing.

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 20:17:05

They cost money of course, but schools DO have money for these things.

The attitude of the HT and the staff is the most important thing.

IndigoBell Sat 18-Feb-12 20:17:18

Not to mention how much money the school would save by teaching all kids to read in the infants. Then you wouldn't need to fund endless reading interventions in KS2.......

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 20:22:39

IndigoBell - "The reason they're not taught very well is because teachers are allowed to do whatever they want in the classroom and don't have to follow 'best practice'."

You are absolutely spot on there, and it's just the same in France and I cannot for the life of me understand how and why this situation is allowed to persist. Other industries don't allow individual employees to make up their mind as to how to go about their jobs like this.

Rosebud05 Sat 18-Feb-12 20:41:39

But, for whatever reasons, schools aren't all teaching children to read effectively.

Clearly, there are reasons as to why this doesn't happen and just telling teachers that they should be following 'good practice' obviously isn't sufficient.

It's also not true to say that it's the teacher's fault that children struggle to learn to read. There are many developmental/educational reasons that children have difficulties in reading.

Children do also learn at different rates and have different learning styles, just the same as adults. In schools where there is a lot of mobility (about 10% of our Y1 child at our school have been in at least one other school already), there will definitely be gaps in children's learning.

Bonsoir Sat 18-Feb-12 20:44:38

If phonics were used well and systematically according to best practice across the country, there would be fewer issues of gaps in learning when children move schools (which they do and always have done).

HumphreyCobbler Sat 18-Feb-12 21:25:33

different rates of learning and differing learning styles (if they exist) are not an excuse for offering poor quality teaching of reading.

In a school with lots of mobility it is even more important to ensure best practice, no?

mrz Sun 19-Feb-12 08:09:37

I think they need to start with universities and ITT
I very rarely speak to a teacher who has had adequate phonics training as part of their course. Many say they had one lecture. Others say they were taught then go on to demonstrate mixed methods!

Bonsoir Sun 19-Feb-12 08:17:17

I find it extraordinary that there isn't more time devoted on ITT courses to the underpinnings of basic skills.

IndigoBell Sun 19-Feb-12 08:17:33

There is something very weird about teaching in this country.

'Creativity' is valued above all else. They are expected to re-invent the wheel every lesson rather than follow anybody else's plans.

I don't know why this culture exists. I presume it's just the pendulum swinging too far in one direction.

However, what it means, is that every teacher up and down the country is inventing their own lesson every day for teaching kids to read. Their main (but not only) complaint about schemes like Read, Write, Inc is they tell them what to do!

While teachers believe 'following plans' is bad and 'making it up myself' is good, you have the situation we're in now where there are many, many, many effective schemes, including free govt ones explaining how to teach kids to read - and the teachers just won't follow them.

So, yes ITT needs to improve. Dramatically. (Not only for phonics, but also for SEN smile ) - but also the attitude they are teaching needs to change. Their needs to be more of a balance between coming up with ideas which will suit your individual class - and following proven methods.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Feb-12 08:19:05

Also for maths, IndigoBell. There are ways of teaching children basic maths skills that are so much more effective than others.

Bonsoir Sun 19-Feb-12 08:21:42

I am also quite shock at the amount of work English teachers seem to do as compared with the French teachers at my DD's school. I certainly don't think the French teachers are perfect, but they don't think that they have to spend time inventing lessons and, to a large extent, they are right! Teachers here arrive at school with the pupils at 9am and leave with the pupils at 4.30pm and go out to lunch with their colleagues for 1.5 hours in the middle of the day.

Rosebud05 Sun 19-Feb-12 10:00:16

Umm, sounds like mrz's concerns about teacher bashing were quite accurate.

It makes absolute sense that university is the correct place to start. Though this doesn't address the difficulties amongst teachers who have already qualified.

Did anyone see Ruth Miskin's 'Last Chance Kids' about synthetic phonics at a school in Barking, I think, a few years ago? If nothing else, it was a fascinating insight into all the - very real - block to effective teaching in some schools. It's daft to say that teachers only need pen and paper - many children don't have books at home or parents/carers who can read. They clearly need more from school that those who have these.

PastSellByDate Sun 19-Feb-12 10:00:28

My DDs are both too old for this test - so possibly I'm viewing it differently.

DD1 didn't have much in the way of phonics teaching - more searchlight method mrz described. Wasn't very successful really adn still struggles (now Y4). DD2 definitely had phonics training and all sorts of actions for words as well from a very dynamic new YR teacher fresh out of a University PGCE training and successful NQT year. DD2 absolutely thrived on this method and was definitely reading by the end of YR (better that DD1 by end of Y1). Unfortuantely with 2 different teachers/ methods and 2 different children I can't be certain if the difference in attainment is down to method or down to different abilities of my two DDs.

My feeling about this test is that parents should know the results. I agree with those posting that detecting problems early and working on that (in school and at home) would be beneficial.

Wider publication of results is difficult - mainly because it seems to me every year is different and this could potentially disadvantage schools from poorer catchments or areas with larger non-English speaking parent populations. I'm not certain it will change anything to have these results widely circulated. However, schools performing poorly could be held accountable by DfE/ OFSTED to show how they have addressed poor performance and required to provide evidence of intervention to support reading in Y2, Y3, etc...

In our case the primary waited until Y4 to assist DD1 with reading. It's working and DD1 is making good, steady progress. Interestingly this support is being handled by a TA, not a teacher. The TA is fantastically good at this (I'd say she's the best teacher DD1 has had so far out of all staff) - the TA encourages a spirit of competition and carefully guides weak readers to better decoding of words (individual and group work), help with reading out loud (a real issue for DD1) and stearing them to appropriate book selections. I can't help but wonder where DD1 would be if this had started in Y2.

Feenie Sun 19-Feb-12 10:40:33

I think that any teacher bashing on this thread is actually by teachers, rosebud05 - and I think the comments are justified.

IndigoBell Sun 19-Feb-12 10:50:14

RoseBud - hundreds or thousands of schools are using Ruth Miskin's program Read, Write, Inc - certainly the 3 schools my kids attend all use it.

And most schools which use RWI are teaching about 95 - 98% of kids to read within 2 years - regardless of student mobility and EAL etc.

(in my DDs year she was the only kid that didn't learn to read)

RWI is fairly expensive. But what is more important for a school to spend their budget on than reading?

You don't have to buy RWI though to teach phonics properly. Although a pack of 10 black and white RWI books only cost about £8.00 from amazon. We are not talking a lot of money to get phonics books into schools.

And you can download any number of free phonics books.

mrz's school doesn't use any commercial scheme at all.

A lot of schools just don't prioritise teaching reading.

You can have as many excuses as you like. Teaching 95% of kids to read is easily attainable for any school that wants to. Teaching 100% of kids is incredibly hard - although some schools do still manage it.

faintpinkline Sun 19-Feb-12 12:55:10

Just found sample test and got DD (year 1) to read them. She read them through correctly and then said it was the silliest list of words she'd ever seen and whoever wrote it can't spell and if she gave a list like that to her teacher she'd get lots of crosses and an extra spelling lesson

She's not going to be happy to be confronted by the actual test grin

IndigoBell Sun 19-Feb-12 13:10:30

The teacher however would have told her to expect some nonsense words.....

faintpinkline Sun 19-Feb-12 16:05:10

So did I Indigo but it didn't convice her that the person who wrote the list could spell

Rosebud05 Sun 19-Feb-12 16:06:44

Indigo, I'm not 'making excuses'.

My point is that unless there are resources to intervene with children who 'fail' phonics tests, they serve a political rather than educational purpose.

Rosebud05 Sun 19-Feb-12 16:12:39

Okay, just did the test with reception aged dd. She read through them easily, though asked why there were words that didn't mean anything.

In conjunction with teacher assessment, I think this will be useful but I fail to see the benefit of publishing results.

Feenie Sun 19-Feb-12 16:47:31

Am confused by the dcs who haven't ever come across the nonsense words - it's a standard strategy to check decoding skills. They are 'alien' words in our school.

If children are not picking up phonics by Y2 (and I would say much, much earlier - Reception, ideally) then someone needs to be picking this up - this is an absolute priority for resources.

SoundsWrite Sun 19-Feb-12 18:42:52

I'm puzzled too , Feenie. I mean it's not as if children understand every word they read, is it? I'd never heard of a Grinch until I read Dr Seuss and children's literature is peppered with the names of things and people that children have never heard of or seen before.
As you say, it's a good check on skills and code knowledge.
It's also heartening to hear that a number of people have tried out the check on their own children and found that they could do it - it seems, mostly, with ease. I wonder if this says quite a lot about the dedication of contributors to the forum to their DD/DS's education because, out of 8,963 children from 300 schools who took part in the pilot, only 32% passed.

mrz Sun 19-Feb-12 19:03:33

I agree, I would also expect most children to have played the trash or treasure game from Letters & Sounds in some form
we use which are very Dr Seuss like.

Rosebud05 Tue 21-Feb-12 07:35:52

I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but I do love Michael Rosen.

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 08:42:12

See, I don't think that Michael Rosen post is funny at all. He just sounds like someone who doesn't understand what he talking about.

SoundsWrite Tue 21-Feb-12 08:43:16

I like Rosen's 'Word of Mouth' prog on the BBC very much. I've also long used his books to read to my own children for pleasure and to teach children to read (usually for fluency, as well as for pleasure - mustn't forget the pleasure part of it!). The trouble is that when it comes to understanding what phonics is all about, he hasn't got the first clue. That's a real shame because he's a bright boy and he's been told many times how poor his understanding of phonics; yet he still doesn't bother to educate himself and keeps coming out with the same rubbish he's once again spouting in the blog posting Rosebud linked to. He needs to go on a phonics hunt.

maverick Tue 21-Feb-12 09:12:15

Michael Rosen makes a habit of denigrating synthetic phonics without actually understanding it.

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 09:17:37

It's odd that people like Michael Rosen are prepared to display their ignorance in public.

Cortina Tue 21-Feb-12 09:51:48

Out of interest is it possible to be a very fluent reader in Y1 and fail the phonic test when it came to the made up words? In other words if you hadn't really grasped phonics but could read (at 100% accuracy) a chapter of James and the Giant Peach or any other chapter in a given book pitched at a similar level? If you had learned via mixed or other Look & Say type methods?

IndigoBell Tue 21-Feb-12 10:10:16

Cortina - if a child can't read a made up word how could they read roald dahl with 100% accuracy? His fiction is full of made up words.

It is possible for adults to believe a child reads well and for them to not get 100% on the phonics test - that'll be because they don't really read as well as the adult believes.

Cortina Tue 21-Feb-12 10:28:11

Perhaps that's what I was really asking, Indigo. You are right re: Roald Dahl, but that said the context will help - a child will anticipate that a slew of nonsense words are probably on the cards if they've read similar before. I suppose I am also asking can you read quite fluently through memory and guess work and working things out in context?

For example, as a young child I was a fluent reader completely unfamiliar with phonics, would I have been able to read the nonsense words in this test I wonder?

IndigoBell Tue 21-Feb-12 10:49:09

The nonsense words are things like 'tazz' - so yes, I assume you would have been able to read them.

Cortina Tue 21-Feb-12 10:51:17

Right, ok. smile I took a quick look and a few looked more complex but it was only a brief look. Hope all is good with you, haven't been around that much lately.

IndigoBell Tue 21-Feb-12 11:16:13

Cortina -

a) the point of the test is not to get 100%, but to assess your phonics knowledge.

b) most people learn phonics through reading (if they weren't taught it) and so still would pass the test.

c) a very few people, like my son who has ASD, don't learn phonics through reading - and they never become good at reading. He appears to be very good he reads lots and lots and enjoys reading. But if you listened to him read aloud (which noone at school does!) you would notice he reads very badly.

He's in Y6 and is a rubbish speller and can't read out loud. He will however get a L5 on his SATs.

I regret not teaching him phonics when he was in the infants. But I knew nothing about it then.

arghmyear Tue 21-Feb-12 11:39:45

I worry about my DS on this test. He has tried very very hard to get up to ORT level 6 (he is in y1 and also has SN). He has learnt that if he sounds out a word and it sound nonsensical, then you think about the context/pictures and what you might need to adjust, sound wise.

eg the word "word". Phonics tells you w-or-d (as in ward)
but you may adjust to "wurd" if you can see the context.

I don't really understand why there are so many nonsence words. When Y1 children have learnt that nonsense sound outs need adjusting somehow.

It just seems a bit heavy handed to me.

SoundsWrite Tue 21-Feb-12 11:57:48

But, Arghmyear, if you teach children that the sounds in English can be spelt in different ways, your approach to the word 'word' will be quite different.
In the case of 'word', for example, the sound 'er' is spelt <or>. This is one of the patterns in the language: w or l d, w or k, w or m. I often say to young learners that, after the sound, 'w', we often spell the sound 'er' in this way <or>.
Last week I was teaching a child who had fallen behind the principal ways of spelling the sound 'er'. They are <er> (her), <ur> (fur), <ir> (shirt), <or> (word), and <ear> (learn).
If you teach these and give lots of practice in reading and spelling words with these spellings of 'er' in them, it doesn't take long for most children to recognise them when they're reading. In regard to spelling, in the first instance, they should start spelling words with the sound 'er' in them with one of the common spellings and then, in the second instance, spelling these words with the correct spelling.
And, if your child reads 'work' as 'w' 'or' 'k' (i.e. to rhyme with 'fork'), you point to the <or> and remind them by saying, 'This can be 'or', but in this word it's 'er', say 'er' here.

CrashLanded Tue 21-Feb-12 12:05:55

I disagree with this. I'm not good at explaining myself on these matters, but I will attempt.
IMO, there is something fundamentally wrong when the government believes it needs to intervene in such a way. Teachers should already know who is struggling with reading. Moreover, whose business is it? Learning to read is a personal issue concerning the child, teacher and parents. Why on earth would I want to know whether another child in my son's class knows his/her phonics? Or a random child at any other school for that matter?

Also, phonics is useful to a degree but it is not the be all and end all of reading. Some words do not follow the phonics route. Common words like are, was, they, she, the, my, me. Learning Phonemes, Graphemes and split digraph are just as important. Those are the principles which seem to be overlooked in primary schools, as oppose to the phonics of m-a-t, g-e-t, c-u-p etc.
The following link explains matters better:

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 12:14:30

No, you are not good at explaining yourself, CrashLanded, because you haven't got a good grasp of all the issues and arguments.

arghmyear Tue 21-Feb-12 12:22:56

SoundsWrite - I take your explanation, but think that my DS is not quite at the level to know a good amount of the variant spellings. He knows simple ones like ee could be ea. Or that ai could be a-e or ay. So I suppose that because of how (not) far he is through the phonics, he will still want to be adjusting some soundings out a bit more randomly to find a word that makes sense. I just worry that he will fail the test when he shouldn't really.

pickledsiblings Tue 21-Feb-12 12:25:40

Crashlanded, I think you make an important point that this Phonics Check will, because of its timing, not address. Another more sophisticated check at the end of Y2 should ensure that schools have gone beyond simple phoneme-grapheme correspondences [this is still phonics however CrashLanded].

SoundsWrite Tue 21-Feb-12 12:38:32

My concern, Crashlanded, is that parents, such as, for example, one of my daughters, who is about to send her four-year-old to a local primary, want to have a very clear idea of how schools are doing. If the information isn't available, they can't do that.
However, painful it might be for some schools, I am strongly in favour of transparency.

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 12:50:51

pickledsiblings - I thought that there already was another test, SATS, that measured reading ability?

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 12:53:43

"However, painful it might be for some schools, I am strongly in favour of transparency."

I agree that transparency is the moral course.

Quite apart from an issue of skills or compliance, I think that the phonics revolution has demystified the teaching of reading and that of itself is quite destabilising for teachers. Their professional expertise and credentials can very easily be questioned now, in a way that was harder in the past.

SoundsWrite Tue 21-Feb-12 12:59:06

Arghmyear, you said: 'I take your explanation, but think that my DS is not quite at the level to know a good amount of the variant spellings. He knows simple ones like ee could be ea. Or that ai could be a-e or ay.'
I and my colleagues have trained over eight thousand teachers and TAs in England over the past nine years and we know that you can teach at least three or four spelling alternatives to children in YR/Y1, if their segmenting and blending skills are good (i.e. they can segment four- and five-sound words like 'crab' or 'twist').
I'd start with three or four different spellings of each sound. When he has covered all the sounds, you can go back and teach more spellings.
The pupil I was talking about is eight years old, which is why I taught her five spellings of 'er'. For your DS, I'd teach, perhaps, three <er>, <ur> and <ir> and add in others as you cover them in his reading.
The problem with teaching one spelling of a sound, as advocated in Letters and Sounds, is that you teach one sound and one spelling, followed by another sound and another spelling. Pretty soon, you lose the connection between sounds, which children learn naturally, and the spellings we have invented to represent them. In the meantime, children see in their reading lots of other spellings of sounds, which they can't work out because they've not been taught them and then they think that the the 'system' is madly chaotic. It isn't if it's taught properly.
There are only forty-four sounds (forty-five if you're a Scot) in English. If they are always your anchor, after the one-to-ones (the sounds represented by a, b, c, d, e, etc, plus ff, ll, ss, zz, and sh, ch, etc.), you then teach all the rest of the vowel sounds/spellings and the consonant sounds/spellings, a few at a time for littlies and more for older children.
And then, whenever you come across a sound/spelling combination not yet introduced, just point to the spelling and say, 'This (whatever it is) is X. Say X here.'

Rosebud05 Tue 21-Feb-12 13:16:06

I think it's a bit unfair to call someone who has a different viewpoint 'ignorant', Bonsoir.

Rosebud05 Tue 21-Feb-12 13:18:50

SoundsWrite, yes, I've been stunned how easily reception dd and others have just picked up that different letters make the same sound, and just apply it immediately.

Bonsoir Tue 21-Feb-12 13:20:11

Where did I do that, Rosebud?

IndigoBell Tue 21-Feb-12 13:43:32

Crash - do you think it's acceptable that some schools teach 60% of kids to read while others teach 100% of kids?

It will be stats that are published - not personal data. So you will learn that your school is or isn't good at teaching kids to read.

If they were to use the same criteria as they use in KS2 sats, ie only publish the data if their is over so many kids in the class and only publishing data for kids who have been in the school for 2 years, it seems totally fair.

If a child doesn't learn to read, it's not just the child whi is failed - it's society.

Teachers have hidden behind excuses for far too long. Publishing the results of this test will improve reading in this country. I am 100% sure more kids will pass the phonics test this year than last year, and more again next year.

There is no reason not to teach 90% + of kids to read within 2 years (in a MS school)

this phonics test is hardly war and peace. It's only checking that the children have aquifer the basics appropriately.

arghmyear Tue 21-Feb-12 14:51:13

SoundsWrite - I accept what you have written. In my DS's school, when he was in reception, they sent home the 42 Jolly Phonics sounds. They were learning 4 or 5 a week and we were supposed to practise them. All fine. In Y1, we have only had a few variants home (a-e for example) and that's it. I am quite sure you are correct that you can teach many variants to Y1 children but it seems that the school are not doing this very much. So...I will do it myself!

pickledsiblings Tue 21-Feb-12 16:55:41

Bonsoir, the KS1 SATs reading assessment is not designed to 'check' whether or not phonics have been systematically taught in phases or even if SSP have been taught at all.

Feenie Tue 21-Feb-12 18:02:11

The stats aren't going to be reported to parents though, Indigo - only individual results. Sorry if I've misunderstood you and you know this. confused

Also, phonics is useful to a degree but it is not the be all and end all of reading. Some words do not follow the phonics route. Common words like are, was, they, she, the, my, me. Learning Phonemes, Graphemes and split digraph are just as important. Those are the principles which seem to be overlooked in primary schools, as oppose to the phonics of m-a-t, g-e-t, c-u-p etc.

Crashlanded, all the words you mention are at least partially decodable although some have a 'tricky' bit. And even phonics in Reception goes beyond initial letter sounds. Phonemes, graphemes and split diagraphs ARE included in phonics teaching - that's phonics!

mrz Tue 21-Feb-12 20:18:16
MerryMarigold Tue 21-Feb-12 22:38:15

Sorry. I haven't read all the comments. I am infuriated really that the results will be reported individually to parents, when the point of the test is to see how well the school is teaching phonics as a whole. I entirely expect my ds1 to do badly as he just doesn't 'get' 'phonics'. But another person may blame the school, when actually the school's results overall are brilliant.

So anyway, what I'm saying is. What's the point of telling the parents their child's individual result? So they can be mortified, or over the moon at how brilliant their child is? Or blame the school if their kid gets a bad result?

Rosebud05 Tue 21-Feb-12 23:21:26

It's odd that people like Michael Rosen are prepared to display their ignorance in public.

Here, Bonsoir.

LilyBolero Tue 21-Feb-12 23:25:11

My incredibly able dd would have done badly in this test, purely because she is a perfectionist and would not have allowed herself to answer a word that was not a real word. She was and is a fantastic reader, 'got' phonics at age 3, to the extent she could read fluently, and also deconstruct words to get the spelling. But a test with made up words would have reduced her to tears, even though she would have KNOWN the answer.

This is her character. She is not a child whose reading needs flagging up.

mrz Wed 22-Feb-12 06:50:15

no MerryMarigold the purpose of the test is to identif stugglingy childrenso that they can be helped to catch up in Y2.

Feenie Wed 22-Feb-12 07:00:27

How does she tackle a new word though, Lily - it's the same thing. I'm sure that doesn't reduce her to tears? confused

Bonsoir Wed 22-Feb-12 07:20:07

But Rosebud, Michael Rosen wasn't defending a different opinion to mine!

mrz Wed 22-Feb-12 07:25:04

How would she cope with Lewis Carroll Lily

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

or even Milligan

On the Ning Nang Nong

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say BOO!
There's a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mice go Clang
What a noisy place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

or good old Dr Seuss?

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 07:32:07

MM - you are being very generous. Why shouldn't parents get mad at school if their child isn't learning to read?

If the parent already knows the child is behind, and they're happy that school are doing everything they can, then they won't be cross.

Otherwise they have every reason to be cross.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Feb-12 07:35:42

My DD learned to read in French with a (old) French synthetic phonics method, Bien Lire et Aimer Lire. It is much harder to write fully decodable books in French than in English (making the early part of learning to read harder, IMO) because there aren't many short phonetic words to start off with.

Hence the French synthetic phonics method that DD used had quite a few made up words in it (unlike the Jelly & Bean series she used for learning to read in English) in order to provide practice.

I would say that her tolerance for made up words was quite low, and that the emphasis on phonics via made-up words was not particularly helpful - the transition from phonetically plausible incorrect spelling to correct spelling (and French has an awful lot of homonyms for children to get to grips with) is harder for her in French than in English, and I can only attribute it to the teaching method.

LilyBolero Wed 22-Feb-12 09:01:54

With Dr Seuss/Lewis Caroll etc, it is not given as a 'list of 40 words to read as a test', so it is a different scenario. And actually, it might have made her cry.

New words - if they are 'real' words, she would have tended to know the word anyway (she always had a vocabulary way beyond her reading age, which was way beyond her real age).

I was talking about this with her Y1 teacher (she's now Y4), and she agreed that she would have struggled. This is the child who cried about choosing a picture to go on her 'My World' book, because she couldn't work out if there was a 'right choice' or not. She has worked very very hard to overcome the unhelpful aspects of being a total perfectionist, she is now much better than she was, but still it sometimes 'gets' her.

Just pointing out that whilst this test may be all well and good in practice, it may be very distressing to some children, who are not necessarily the ones who need extra help in reading!

LilyBolero Wed 22-Feb-12 09:03:48

I had a look down the reading test example, and it does seem total insanity - 20 made up words, 20 'real' words. And English is not a language that has set 'phonic' rules.

For example, one word is something like Chort. Is that CH as in Child or Ch as in Chord? For any child beyond the basic phonics, as ds2 (currently Y1) is, that will be impossible to know.

Feenie Wed 22-Feb-12 09:31:58

Either would be acceptable answers, Lily, since Y1 children know that 'ch' makes more than one sound.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 09:49:37

MM - you are being very generous. Why shouldn't parents get mad at school if their child isn't learning to read?

Well, if they really don't know their child is struggling to read by the end of Y1 they are unlikely to be parents who care very much.

And because the phonics test, as pointed out before, is not a test of reading (which apparently happens at the Y2 SAT). It is a test of phonic decoding. So the school may be excellent at teaching phonics overall and have fantastic marks overall, but some kids just struggle with it and they DO need different strategies. I haven't worked it out, but I know my ds1 is intelligent yet really struggles with phonic decoding - maybe it is an auditory thing, and my dsis who is a teacher herself and fluent reader says the same thing about the way she reads, she just 'sees' whole words unlike me. I decode all the time. I have a different kind of brain and that's ok. This way the kid feels bad, the parent feels bad, the school is in trouble when actually they may have fantastic strategies to help a child who doesn't 'get' phonics, but this won't show up in the test.

pickledsiblings Wed 22-Feb-12 09:52:54

Lily, AFAIU there would be a context for the non words that would be explained to the DC eg these are words that an alien might use on another planet where they have the same rules as we do about how to sound out words etc.

pickledsiblings Wed 22-Feb-12 09:56:56

MM, early exposure to books means that learning how to read will always be via mixed methods. I have this theory that DC who have had less exposure to the written word before they are taught to read via SSP actually stand a better chance of 'getting it' from the off.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 10:05:15

Maybe pickled. Ds1 certainly has had plenty of exposure to books though a lot of other kids who are doing fine also have. I can already see how 'different' his learning methods are from ds2. I think (not there yet) that ds2 will have no problem with phonics. Ds1 is extremely visual, very arty but struggles with verbal maths problems, anything more basic than 1 instruction, though his hearing is fine. I'm sure if your brain struggles with auditory processing somehow then phonics is very hard for you because it's all about what it sounds like, and you have to 'break down' what it looks like. If your brain sees things in 'wholes' it's much harder, of course not impossible, but it is a lot harder. I actually heard of a teacher (through my sister) who has a kid like this in her class and is helping him by different methods (don't know what), but has to also teach the phonics so she needs 2 plans for him all the time - her plan, which she knows is working, and the 'official' plan which is not working, but has to be shown that it is being done. It's ridiculous!

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 10:08:05

Well, if they really don't know their child is struggling to read by the end of Y1 they are unlikely to be parents who care very much. - or they know that their child is struggling, but they don't realise that the other children aren't struggling, and that most other children have picked it up by now.

And school keep telling them not to worry, so they don't.

Loads and loads of worried parents come on here where school tell them not to worry, and they should be worrying.

specialgun Wed 22-Feb-12 10:09:19

I don't agree with this test. I've done a practice with my children and the results were quite interesting. I have a girl in my class who is a very able reader. She is also excellent at writing. She and another child are some way ahead of all the other children in the class. She came 7th in the class in our practice test.

It makes me sad to hear people talking about the test being a test of reading. It is not. It's a test of phonic knowledge and a way of teaching bashing.

As someone rightly said earlier, I know full well who the children with problems are in my class and they are already receiving as much support as we can give them. Why doesn't the government spend money on supporting the children rather than wasting it on a meaningless test?

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 10:18:44

Why didn't the girl do better in the test?

specialgun Wed 22-Feb-12 10:22:45

She didn't bother to sound out all of the non words - just skim read them. I asked her to try again and she got the words right but we are not allowed to say that in the actual test.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 11:11:00

Yes, specialgun, I was wondering myself why it would take a simple test at the end of Y1 to show a teacher that a child is struggling in phonics shock! What kind of teacher doesn't know that already? Maybe invest in some better training for teachers in alternative methods, rather than trying to force every child into a phonics box.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 11:14:22

Indigo, the test won't change that. The school will still be able to say, "Don't worry, it's not really a test of reading..." whatever the score.

pickledsiblings Wed 22-Feb-12 11:22:05

The purpose of the test is to make sure teachers are doing what they are supposed to be - if they are then there really shouldn't be any problems for anyone. The minority of DC for whom SSP is not the right method will be flagged up and the necessary steps can then be taken to ensure progress with those individuals.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 11:46:22

If it's purely to test the teacher then results should be internal surely. And it shouldn't be done with so much fuss. Getting a child's individual score is going to mean nothing to a parent unless it's comparitive.

Feenie Wed 22-Feb-12 12:18:24

MerryMarigold - research shows that alternative methods, including mixed methds, have been failing 20% of children. Phonics - taught properly and exclusively - only fails a couple of percent of children, who will have specific difficulties which need addressing.

pickledsiblings Wed 22-Feb-12 12:30:34

Getting your child's individual score will either mean that you as a parent can rest assured that everything is progressing as it should be wrt your DC learning to read or that other steps need to be put in place for your DC to continue or indeed begin to make progress in reading.

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 13:15:02

Why doesn't the government spend money on supporting the children - the govt is providing money to all infant schools to spend on new phonics books.

They have also provided a free phonics program (Letters & Sounds)

They have also paid for loads of research finding out what is the most effective way to teach reading.

I don't really see what else the govt could do.

This isn't about teacher bashing. Any teacher who is teaching their kids to read has nothing to be worried about. Any teacher who is struggling to teach more than a very small handful - needs to change what they do.

I don't see why it matters if your best reader doesn't do get the best result in the phonics test. That's not the point of the test.

The point is to force teachers to teach using phonics - because some teachers have spent so long resisting all the other govt directives that this is the most effective way.

If you're already doing a good job you've got nothing to worry about.

Very, very, very few kids can't learn using phonics but can learn using a different method. And they mostly have ASD or APD.

Once a school is routinely teaching the 98% of kids who can learn using phonics, then they'll have more time and money left to spend on the last few percent of kids who have SN like ASD or APD and who need more intense support.

Most kids like my DD who can't learn to read using phonics - also couldn't learn to read using any other method.

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 13:18:17

why it would take a simple test at the end of Y1 to show a teacher that a child is struggling in phonics ! What kind of teacher doesn't know that already? - any teacher that doesn't teach phonics.

Teachers can do anything they want. And some of them do not want to teach phonics.

Certainly my DS and DD (who are now in Y6 and Y4) weren't taught phonics in reception. DS was never taught phonics. The school brought phonics in when DD was in Y1.

But there are still schools that don't teach phonics - and certainly many, many schools that don't teach it very well.

Bonsoir Wed 22-Feb-12 15:52:14

IndigoBell - "The point is to force teachers to teach using phonics - because some teachers have spent so long resisting all the other govt directives that this is the most effective way."

I agree! And since this is the aim, surely publishing the results to as wide an audience as possible will go the furthest in promoting it.

mrz Wed 22-Feb-12 17:56:06
The phonics screening check is a new, statutory assessment for all children in Year 1.
The phonics screening check will take place during the week commencing 18 June 2012.
The phonics screening check is designed to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. Children who do not achieve the appropriate standard should receive support from their school to ensure they can improve their phonic decoding skills. These children will then be expected to retake the phonics screening check the following year.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 18:57:42

Thanks mrz. That link is what I was expecting. But I still can't imagine a teacher that is unaware of what the result of the phonics test will be for kids in their class. Perhaps we have really great teachers in our school (I think they're pretty average though ds1's teacher this year is great), but they do hear the children read at least once a week and I can't see even the worst of them saying, "Oh my goodness, littlemarigold has failed the phonics test, we need to give him some extra support!" I think it would/ should have come in before that and if it hasn't then it is more to do with funding/ other kids with greater needs who come first etc. etc.

mrz Wed 22-Feb-12 19:22:01

I agree it would a very poor teacher who isn't aware that a child is struggling at this level.

IndigoBell Wed 22-Feb-12 19:33:55

My DS would have failed the test, and he has never had any extra help for literacy.

I think he started and finished Y1 on level 4 ORT and no-one was concerned. They were happy with his progress.

Has things changed so much in the last 5 years that this no longer happens?

mrz Wed 22-Feb-12 19:37:13

No it still happens sad

LilyBolero Wed 22-Feb-12 21:00:42

Ds1 didn't learn to read using phonics - he really struggled with the idea of blending, but learned to read using more of a look and say method, he limped through the Jolly Phonics books, didn't really 'get' phonics until Y2 or 3, by which time he was a very well read boy with a love of reading. His brain is just wired up a bit differently.

And his spelling is much better than his sister's , who learned much more by the phonics method.

blackeyedsusan Wed 22-Feb-12 23:05:18

to be fair mrz I didn't get it at first but having been taken round the back of the bike sheds and been duffed up by feenie and mrz read some of the links posted in various threads, i now get it.

MerryMarigold Wed 22-Feb-12 23:09:05

Indigo, I don't think the test would change that. If it's clear that level 4 ORT is low comparitively (I don't know as we don't use that system) and he still didn't receive extra help, then I'm not sure the test will make a difference. Why would it? What do you decide is a low score. Does it depend on how many people got even lower in the class? The school must have been aware of your ds's struggles, but for whatever reason they weren't on the case. Don't see how this test would change that.

IndigoBell Thu 23-Feb-12 06:07:12

MM - level 4 wasn't particularly bad.

The point was he was being taught via whole words rather than via phonics. He was never taught phonics at all. So there's no reason to believe his teacher knew which phonics he did or didn't know.

The test would have changed that. Because of this test he would have been taught phonics.

He still doesn't get phonics. If he sees a new word he has no idea at all how to read it. He's moving up to secondary school next year with huge gaps in his reading ability, which will hurt him more and more as he moves through school and university and is exposed to more and more complicated vocabulary.

Bonsoir Thu 23-Feb-12 06:50:43

IndigoBell - surely, though, if your son is a fluent reader, taking him back over the concepts of phonics wouldn't be that difficult or laborious (providing you, or someone you paid, had the patience to do so - I can well understand that school has other priorities if your son can read)?

I learned to read a very long time ago, and pretty much taught myself at home, before reading had been tackled at school (so jumped a class at school aged 4). I am a very good reader and have pursued an awful lot of education. Nonetheless, when it came to teaching my DD to read in English, I needed to get a grip on how to do so as I was going to be employing a tutor and buying a reading scheme. I must admit that I learned things about phoneme-grapheme correspondences that I did not know; I am also in awe at how quickly my DD can read, correctly, a very long word (in both French and English) that she has not previously encountered and I know that is down to the fact that she has been taught phonics and blending.

Feenie Thu 23-Feb-12 06:53:06

grin @ blackeyedsusan

IndigoBell Thu 23-Feb-12 07:31:06

Bonsoir - I would not get DSs co-operation to teach him phonics and therefore it would be very difficult to teach him.

DSs problems with phonics does not make it into his top 3 list of problems.

It doesn't even make it to his top 3 list of academic problems.

He already does vision therapy once a day and a neuro development therapy 3 times a day.

Therefore I can't find time to teach him his phonics and he'll have to take his chances.

And when he can't tell the difference between 'photosynthese' and 'photosensitive' I don't know what will happen - I guess then it might make it into his top 3 list of problems.

Bonsoir Thu 23-Feb-12 07:35:19

Yes, he may well get there himself... all I'm saying is that teaching phonics to a a child who can already read (or an adult who can already read) isn't that much work - providing you have cooperation, of course.

MerryMarigold Thu 23-Feb-12 09:32:24

Indigo, my sister is the same. I'm not sure if she was taught phonics or not. I'm not sure if I was. I don't think so. (This was the 70's and early 80's for her). My brain is naturally more able to break things down, so my spelling is good. However, she has done really well. She loves reading! She got 3A's at A level. She got a 2:1 from St Andrews in psychology and she's a teacher. She still struggles with spelling (compared to me, but not other people) and reading new words - some of her names from Lord of the Rings were quite funny as she just takes a look at whole word and has a guess - still! But if it were important to get it right I think she'd try harder. She is a hard worker, probably because she had to work a bit harder than I did, but that's done her favours in the long run.

lou231179 Thu 23-Feb-12 12:28:40

I am shocked to hear some teachers do not teach phonics - how on earth can a child learn to read. If a child knows the basic letter sounds they should be able to blend them to read any phonetically spelt word - surely this is better than just learning whole words.

I think you are all right to say that the test shouldn't really make any difference to those good teachers/schools as they will already know what level their children are at!!

lou231179 Thu 23-Feb-12 12:35:28

I also should say I have really a positive experience of the use of phonics with DS1, he learnt his phonics at pre-school so he could read any phonetically spelt word, it was then easy to teach him the odd rules like silent 'e' etc once he knew the basics. There are very few words without rules to learn so he never really had to 'learn' many words.

On the other hand my niece who was 18 months older than DS1 struggled early on to grasp reading throughout year R as my sister-in-law tried to help her by using letter names rather than sounds so her progress was much slower as she guessed words or had to learn them rather than blending the sounds. She is in year 2 and can now read to an average level so all worked out ok.

At the pre-school I help out at we are starting to introduce parents nights where we can teach the parents what we do with 'Letters and Sounds' so they understand how they can help them at home when the DC are ready.

crazygracieuk Thu 23-Feb-12 21:43:45

My son is Y1 would not pass the phonics test.
He would probably get all of Section 1 right but only half or so of section 2.
He's on blue books which I thought was "average" so how comes he'd not pass?

Should I be asking the school for intervention?

IndigoBell Thu 23-Feb-12 21:48:10

Blue ORT books? Or blue band books?

Are the books phonic readers? Or look and guess?

crazygracieuk Thu 23-Feb-12 22:19:58

Blue band- Look and Say and phonic readers.

IndigoBell Thu 23-Feb-12 22:36:26

Blue band phonics books at this stage in Y1 is fine.

I don't think the pass mark for the phonics test is 100%

And he will improve between now and June. He Should go up another book band....

crazygracieuk Thu 23-Feb-12 23:00:13

I think the pass mark is 34/40 which he wouldn't get right now as he doesn't know all of the sounds.
I guess he might learn some new sounds by summer but that's only 3 or so months away including the Easter holidays.

Bonsoir Fri 24-Feb-12 10:55:17

He'll make huge progress between now and then! Don't worry!

LilyBolero Sat 25-Feb-12 18:01:48

I just tried ds2 on the sample test, he got 2 wrong - one of which was 'jound' - and he did something interesting which was to try and make it into a 'real' word - so he said 'joined'. And tbh this is what an intelligent child will do, because so many words in English are not 'phonic', so they are used to working it out, but then using their knowledge of language to find the word.

In fact Jound could be J-ow-ned (as in hound) or could be J-oo-ned (as in Wound). Joined is clearly wrong, but is also a plausible guess I think, as it is pretty close.

mrz Sat 25-Feb-12 18:08:34

All words in any language are phonic Lily but English is more complicated than some other languages. We do work it out but by using our knowledge of our language so you know that ow can represent ou in cow and oa in snow ...joined isn't plausible because ow doesn't represent the oi sound

Feenie Sat 25-Feb-12 18:09:50

And tbh this is what an intelligent child will do

Not if they have been taught made up words as a commonplace check of phonic skills, Lily.

And you are right about 'jound' - either jownd or jooned would receive a mark but not joined because it's not right.

SoundsWrite Sat 25-Feb-12 19:23:25

Whew! You are a couple of toughies, Mrz and Feenie! smile But you're also right!
Still, Lilybolero, your ds won't be having much trouble with the test with only two wrong. So, no worries there! However, <ou> is almost certain to be 'ow' in the test, even though on page 136 of L&S (Phase 5) it suggests: <ou> 'out', 'shoulder', 'could' confused and 'you'. 'Could', imho, is bonkers. In 'out', the <ou> is 'ow'; in 'shoulder' it's 'oe' (as in 'toe'); in 'you' it's 'oo'. And, they seem to have left out 'touch', where the <ou> is 'u'. A few pages back, it suggests only <ou> as 'ow' in 'out'. Anyway, it's not clear from Section 2 of the test, as they only list the spellings, not the sounds they represent.

Feenie Sat 25-Feb-12 19:29:01

Toughies....! grin

mrz Sat 25-Feb-12 19:38:14


maizieD Sat 25-Feb-12 20:09:41


However, <ou> is almost certain to be 'ow' in the test, even though on page 136 of L&S (Phase 5) it suggests: <ou> 'out', 'shoulder', 'could' confused and 'you'. 'Could', imho, is bonkers. In 'out', the <ou> is 'ow'; in 'shoulder' it's 'oe' (as in 'toe'); in 'you' it's 'oo'. And, they seem to have left out 'touch', where the <ou> is 'u'. A few pages back, it suggests only <ou> as 'ow' in 'out'. Anyway, it's not clear from Section 2 of the test

Have you read the technical report (yes, I'm sure you have). The graphemes used were ones which would have been taught by the end of Y1 by all, or most, of the programmes they studied in order to compile the test items. I don't know, of course, but is it likely that many children would have encountered 'rough' or 'tough' by the end of Y1? If they have, is it likely that they would offer a relatively rare correspondence for 'ou'?

If they did, surely they would be marked as 'correct'? Unless, of course, the teacher administering the test didn't know it themselves.

LilyBolero Sat 25-Feb-12 21:46:42

But even if they shouldn't have been 'taught it' by end of Year 1, a bright reader may easily have encountered other phonic sounds just by reading.

I do know 'joined' isn't correct, but faced with a word that makes no sense, and knowing that often words don't behave exactly as you expect, (rough, bough, ought being a good example), if reading a passage of text, it is normal to make a bit of a guess. And if you are used to reading texts with difficult, non-rule-obeying words in, you are more likely to do the same in a test with made-up words in. You can't just 'switch off' your reading knowledge in order to do a phonics test, and especially not when you're 5 or 6....

maizieD Sat 25-Feb-12 22:00:07

I do know 'joined' isn't correct, but faced with a word that makes no sense,

The children are told that the nonsense words aren't going to 'make sense'. They are, it seems, told that they are the names of aliens.

An awful lot of bona fide words make no sense if you have never encountered them before (I'm talking of people of any age here). That doesn't mean that you have to somehow turn them into words you 'know'.

I would wonder if children who are desparate to 'make sense' of every word they encounter have been taught by a teacher whose primary focus is on 'making meaning' right from the word go.

If 5 -6 y olds are 'thrown' by words they don't know how on earth are they going to extend their vocabularies, reading or oral? Because surely no child of that age has mastered the entire English lexicon?

Feenie Sat 25-Feb-12 22:01:53

if reading a passage of text, it is normal to make a bit of a guess.

But that's just it, Lily - children who have been taught to work words out, not 'guess' (i.e. have been taught to read well using SP) will try to read the word instead. Guessing would most definitely not be 'normal' to them.

Which is most beneficial?

LilyBolero Sat 25-Feb-12 23:27:36

yes yes, I understand what you're saying. Try and hear what I'm saying - I'm not saying that that is how a child should be 'taught' - what I'm saying is that if a child is reading lots for fun, as my ds2 is, they will be used to seeing words that are unfamiliar, and may well be non-standard in spelling, and working out what they are. That's also part of learning to read, believe it or not, using the context, and your awareness of vocabulary. And faced with a test like that, I could easily imagine a child who reads widely, making a made up word into a real word.

Even if they're not taught to do that, and have excellent phonics knowledge, at age 5 you can't necessarily turn off the awareness and intelligence you use when reading a book in order to complete a phonics test.

That's all. Honestly, you should hear my 5 yo read, he reads all sorts of words that shouldn't be 'taught' in Y1 - just because he works them out, using a mixture of phonics, context and deduction. And that's all good imo, using a variety of tactics, and learning to love reading. It would be pretty limiting if he was confined to texts that only used the particular phonics they have been taught, he is reading anything and everything he can get his hands on.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 08:20:43

he reads all sorts of words that shouldn't be 'taught' in Y1

I am shock at this - there are no words he shouldn't be taught, where do you get this idea?

I am sure that your 5 year old reads very well - 80% do using mixed methods, so it's a fair bet that your ds may fall into this category. My Y1 ds is one of the 20% who have been thoroughly confused by a mix of strategies - I have had to step in and use Reading Chest to teach him phonics properly, instead of the twice a week lip service that his school pays it in Y1.

What I'm saying is that the fact your ds can't read the alien words with confidence, and keeps trying to make them into real words, shows me that he hasn't been taught phonics exclusively. He uses a range of methods, and happily he isn't one of the 20% they damage. That's lovely for you and your ds, but not great for the 20% whose reading is confused and damaged by mixed methods - and there's no way of knowing which category your ds has fallen into until after it fails them.

My ds will be ok - I am a Literacy coordinator after all, I know what to do. I regret leaving it up to his school and wish I hadn't taken such a gamble on my ds being someone who can learn to read using mixed methods. The phonics is easily sorted out, and in 6 weeks he has already made more progress than in the 6 months before. It's the damage to his confidence and enthusiasm as a reader which may take longer to fix. hmm

SharonGless Sun 26-Feb-12 08:45:18

What advice can you give to a parent whose child is being taught mixed methods? We have a parents meeting this week so that school can explain the screening test to us and confirm their teaching methods

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 08:47:27

I agree with LilyBolero here. The natural inclination of a child who is a fluent speaker and reader of a language when he/she encounters an unknown written word form for the first time is to assume that that word is real word they know from their mastery of the spoken language. Which is why it is quite normal and healthy for a child to pronounce "jound" as "joined".

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 08:53:06

Feenie - why are you shocked? It was in response to the comment;

"The graphemes used were ones which would have been taught by the end of Y1 by all, or most, of the programmes they studied in order to compile the test items. I don't know, of course, but is it likely that many children would have encountered 'rough' or 'tough' by the end of Y1? If they have, is it likely that they would offer a relatively rare correspondence for 'ou'?"

It makes total sense to me that there are certain sounds etc that are not necessarily taught in Y1, and so for some children, the phonics is the only tool at their disposal, which makes the "alien words" much easier, but a child who is reading for pleasure is encountering 'off-curriculum' words, and will need to use a variety of methods.

"What I'm saying is that the fact your ds can't read the alien words with confidence, and keeps trying to make them into real words, shows me that he hasn't been taught phonics exclusively."

Did I say that? What I said was he got 38/40 correct, and the 2 he didn't get right were because he made them into 'real' words - bear in mind the sample test didn't say "This is a real Word". "This is an alien Word", so a child who is used to encountering unknown real words that may or may not be decodable by a purely phonics method may well try a close real word - and it's obvious to me that this will overlap into the test a bit.

I didn't say he 'couldn't read them with confidence' - most of them he was fine on.

What's more, he hasn't been taught using mixed methods - he's been taught purely using phonics. But he uses a variety of methods to read - because we all do as we read - mostly we all use memory. Doesn't mean he's been taught in that way, just that this is the way he has developed when he's reading.

His phonics knowledge is excellent. This is why I dislike this test so much - perhaps it should only be for struggling readers - because once you get past a certain point the phonics becomes less significant in reading, and I reckon your score will dip. I think ds1 would have got 100% 6 months ago actually, when everything was much more phonics based in his head. But he is a far FAR better reader now.

You just can't disengage the two.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 08:56:36

If a child is used to reading any combination of the sounds they are taught to make any word at all, including nonsense words, as a strategy check to see if they know the sounds inside out, and KNOW that it's an alien/nonsense word because they are told that it is, it would not be normal and.....healthy(?) confused

If, however, a child has never encountered this teaching strategy before in decent everyday phonic teaching, they will struggle and try to make a real word instead.

'Jound' is not 'joined'. It's wrong.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:01:39

Feenie - my DD was taught phonics rigorously in both her languages, including a lot of nonsense words in French (not English), not long ago. I can assure you that she is now a very fluent reader in both her languages and she always assumes that any word is a real word, not a nonsense word. She has an assumption of rationality in what she encounters, as do most small children. When she encounters something that is not rational, she tries very hard to put it in a rational box. We had another interesting example recently, of a book they read in French class that was recommended reading by the French Ministry of Education; neat and tidy, but simplistic and wrong, interpretations were freely available on the internet for teachers to use in class and DD's teacher used one. DD was totally confounded by this and tried really hard to reconcile her (correct, but complex) interpretation of the story with the simplistic and wrong one provided by the teaching establishment.

allchildrenreading Sun 26-Feb-12 09:01:58

Some good points - LilyBolero. However it only takes a little light practice of the check to make clear to any child that the words with little creatures alongside are pretend words.

using a variety of tactics

doesn't help around 100,000 children a year. 'The variety of tactics' approach reached its zennith in the 1980s with a big push for 'real reading' . The results were disastrous.

One of my dc was also a voracious reader by the age of five but she would have benefited from a good synthetic phonics start. The logic of the alphabetic code and how sounds map to letter(s) is quite simply one of the marvels of human development.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:05:13

Maizie's comments referred to sounds taught in Y1, not a ceiling on Y1's phonic knowledge. A mark would be given if the sound was plausible.

Your ds has not been taught phonics properly if he isn't used to reading nonsense words. It's a standard check - that's why it is used in this test. It's a little worrying that his instinct on seeing an unknown word is to 'guess' it. That might hamper him when enocuntering unknown words in the future.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:06:35

Feenie, that's just not right, sorry! You can't say to a 5 year old 'you have to turn off all of your reading skills that you normally use' here. And I'm very hmm at the idea that my ds1 who is way ahead of where he should be in reading (I mean WAY ahead, not one or two colour bands here), should have to waste time reading alien words so that he can practise for a phonics test to check he 'knows his sounds'. He knows them, inside out, he's excellent at blending.

But when we did the test, his common sense took over a little.

Is that so hard to see? Fwiw, I remember being VERY bored at school, particularly in reception and Y1, practising 'key words' and 'phonic sounds', when I was a really good reader already - my mum says I had read Alice in Wonderland before starting school, so going fishing for the word 'the' and reading it really didn't inspire me. Which is a shame.

English is not a regular language. As soon as you get off curriculum you HAVE to use common sense. And it's unreasonable to assume that a 5 yo can turn it on and off. In fact, I think including 'ou' in a phonics check is stupid as it does have so many different sounds associated with it - 'ow', 'or', 'oo', 'uh' - I think it's not illogical for a 5 yo to assume there may be yet more sounds that they don't know yet....

You're really asking a lot of 5yos to be able to process all of this (I'm talking about the advanced readers here) - to force themselves to abandon all of their usual reading tools and use purely phonics. It's really hard to do that, and they are FIVE!

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:08:29

"It's a little worrying that his instinct on seeing an unknown word is to 'guess' it."

Forgive me, but I think your interpretation of what this little boy is doing when he encounters an unknown written is wrong. He is not trying to "guess" the word - he is applying a rational strategy, which is to assume that any short written word he encounters is already familiar to him in his spoken language.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:08:48

Feenie - my DD was taught phonics rigorously in both her languages, including a lot of nonsense words in French (not English), not long ago. I can assure you that she is now a very fluent reader in both her languages and she always assumes that any word is a real word, not a nonsense word.

Gosh - every single week in her phonic lessons she would try to make it a real word instead of blending the sounds to read them as they appear, even though they did this activity week in, week out? I've never seen a child do that, and I've taught many, many very able readers. Most children would catch on after the first few practices of this strategy. It can't have been an everyday strategy, surely.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:09:51

Not reading a word, and bending the phoneme into a different on to 'make sense' of it is guessing, pure and simple. It's not reading.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:10:18

No, Feenie, that is not what I said and I don't know where you got that from.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:10:54

Reading is not "decoding". Children read for meaning and it is vital never to forget that!

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:12:20

And it's unreasonable to assume that a 5 yo can turn it on and off. In fact, I think including 'ou' in a phonics check is stupid as it does have so many different sounds associated with it - 'ow', 'or', 'oo', 'uh' - I think it's not illogical for a 5 yo to assume there may be yet more sounds that they don't know yet....

You underestimate 5 year olds then, Lily. They cope very easily with trying alternatives which they know - it's easy to them.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:13:16

The test is a test of decoding and there is a very short phase when children read only to decode and where, according to the language, nonsense words may be appropriate. From my own experience, I think nonsense words are almost unavoidable for learning to read in French but are entirely avoidable in English.

Once a child is able to decode fluently, they read for meaning and therefore rationally assume that any written word they encounter is a representation of a real word that forms part of their oral vocabulary.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:13:48

No, Feenie, that is not what I said and I don't know where you got that from.

We were discussing 'joined' for 'jound', no? The child read 'joined' - that's a guess. It isn't reading.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:14:26

Oh ffs.

Read what I've written.

"using a variety of tactics

doesn't help around 100,000 children a year."

As I wrote, he was taught using only phonics. The variety of tactics comes FROM HIMSELF. SCHOOL TEACHES PHONICS, HE USES VARIOUS TACTICS INCLUDING A BIT OF COMMON SENSE.

"Maizie's comments referred to sounds taught in Y1, not a ceiling on Y1's phonic knowledge. A mark would be given if the sound was plausible.
Your ds has not been taught phonics properly if he isn't used to reading nonsense words. It's a standard check - that's why it is used in this test. It's a little worrying that his instinct on seeing an unknown word is to 'guess' it. That might hamper him when enocuntering unknown words in the future."

That was what I was saying about the teaching - that if a child is reading ahead of where they should be, they are encountering words that are not 'taught' in Y1 - is that hard to understand?

And of course he has been taught the phonics properly. He got 38/40 on the test. His instinct on seeing an unknown word is not to guess it. As I have said on at least 3 posts.

I'm really frustrated that you, who have never met my ds1 and have no idea about his reading can write posts like the above. You're saying that he's going to be hampered in the future, essentially because he is reading challenging texts....hmm

He is not guessing words, but we all, once we are 'away' reading use a variety of methods - mostly memory, and in English that is essential. But we also do use context, and common sense. Otherwise how would you ever read rough, tough, bough and ought?

You are so defensive about this phonics check, but I think it's pretty worrying that you're blinkered that some very able children might perform unexpectedly.

And do you honestly think it's a good use of time for a child who is a fantastic reader, and AVID to read books , to practise alien words? I don't.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:15:57

It would be a guess if that child were still at the decoding-only stage of reading. But, as LilyBolero explains, her DS is way ahead of decoding-only and is reading for meaning - and therefore assumes any word he encounters is a word known to him in his spoken language.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:16:26

I agree totally with Bonsoir on this, especially about the 'window of decoding'.

feenie, if you've 'never seen a 5 yo do this' you must have had very uniform 5yos in your class.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:17:32

Reading English, you HAVE to use other tactics once you're over the initial start. There are too many variables.

And yy that reading is ultimately about gathering meaning from written text. That is why if you are beyond the typical Y1 decoding level, the test is inappropriate.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:18:14

(Before you all misinterpret the last post) - that is not to say that other tactics need to be taught, but they develop naturally as you become more fluent.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:19:46

There are too many instances in this thread where "reading" and "decoding" have been used interchangeably. They are not the same thing.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:21:05

Exactly Bonsoir. And decoding is the tool you use at the beginning, most older children don't use 'phonic decoding' when they are reading, and nor does my Y1 boy, most of the time.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:21:26

I also think this thread throws up interesting points about the educational establishment underestimating the natural intelligence and rationality of children...

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:22:06

It's a guess. He didn't read 'jound' correctly. He guessed it instead.

It's not a difficult word. It's not implausible that he may come across an existing word which is just as easily read but a real one - and guess it. Just keep an eye, is all.

I don't think it's a waste of time in everyday teaching to use alien words, no - it lets me know that children can use their decoding strategies well. I still use this strategy in Y5 with some excellent readers. It's very useful for reading and spelling.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:22:26

And once you're beyond that stage, I think it's hard to 'switch it off'.

My older children could turn it off, but that's because they've been reading longer, and are not encountering new words so much, so if there's a nonsense word, they are more confident in making it a nonsense word.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:22:58

Sure. Adults don't use phonic decoding - the eye and brain recognise whole words (up to eight letters) at a time - unless they encounter a very long and unfamiliar word and apply phonic decoding consciously to read it.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:23:32

You are quite wrong on this, Feenie.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:23:36

I also think this thread throws up interesting points about the educational establishment underestimating the natural intelligence and rationality of children...

Does it? I would expect high level 5 children to still use this strategy when reading and spelling unknown words...still, at 75% + level readers most years, maybe we are getting things wrong? confused

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:24:05

That would be 75%+ level 5 readers.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 09:25:22

Bonsoir, you are entitled to your opinion. But since we don't fail ANY of our children in reading, never mind 20%, I am quite happy that I am not, thank you.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:25:45

Think about, Feenie, and try reading Stanislas Dehaene's Reading in the Brain, which explains it in a lot more scientific detail than I can do here!

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:26:27

Ah, the spelling one.

I disagree fundamentally that it is good for spelling. My dd who was the most comfortable with phonics had ABYSMAL spelling for years. She's now in year 4, and her spelling is MUCH better (largely down to doing lots of typing on the computer with the spell checker on). Ds1 who never 'got' phonics, despite being taught it, had much better spelling, because he knew what the word looked like. He is year 6 now, still has excellent spelling.

Only in our country would we prefer a child to write a 'phonically plausible' spelling rather than knowing the correct one!!!

Look, I'm not against phonics, they've served dd well, and ds2 is flying having used the phonics method. But the test, and especially teaching to the test, is a waste of time for the able kids. And the Y1 teachers I know also think this (I haven't asked my ds' teacher, but I have various friends teaching Y1). But if a teacher who is reading with the children every week isn't aware of any phonics problems lurking, they aren't a very aware teacher tbh.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:29:57

"Does it? I would expect high level 5 children to still use this strategy when reading and spelling unknown words...still, at 75% + level readers most years, maybe we are getting things wrong?"

I think you are giving the phonics too much credit - my level 5 reading children would very rarely use phonics. They might use a dictionary to check spelling though...

Just asked dd (Y4, level 5 reader and writer), she said she never ever uses phonics in reading, and only very occasionally in writing if she's doing a piece of work in school, but hardly ever.

That's what she says. She is clearly doing really well in reading and writing - nothing to worry about there!!!

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:30:13

LilyBolero - "Only in our country would we prefer a child to write a 'phonically plausible' spelling rather than knowing the correct one!!!"

I'm sorry to have to tell you that I have encountered this in French, too. My absolute favourite was my DD in her end of year exam last summer writing a story. She wrote cantilavé (phonically plausibly perfect) when the correct spelling would have been Quand il avait (=when he had).

I also think that too much phonically plausible spelling interferes with learning correct spelling.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:36:29

The efficient way to learn to spell correctly and automatically is to read the word correctly spelled many times over, and to reproduce it correctly in writing.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:38:13

Yy, the reading is the key to good spelling!

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 09:39:10

Bonsoir with respect what we are discussing here is a decoding test which consists of a list of real words and non words. The child is told that some of the words are made up and they need to "decode" the words. The government has even decided to put pictures of "aliens" next to the non words to identify them from real words.
It is purely and simply a test of whether the child can apply their phonic knowledge.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:45:11

Those people saying you shouldn't be using a variety of tactics, how on earth would you teach the ought, tough, bough, not to mention you and could. That,s at least 5versions of the ou sound - seems silly to have that one on the test! Poor 5yos, faced with 'is it jowned or jooned or jund or jorned or what'.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 09:47:36

Lily by the end of Y1 a child should have been taught the alternative ways of writing the sounds in the English spelling system. Maizie asked if it was likely to have encountered "rough & tough" and the answer is most certainly yes they should have been taught it.

A widely read intelligent child using their knowledge of words from their reading would be aware that no words contain the letters ou to represent the sound oi

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:48:25

mrz - the point LilyBolero is making, and with which I strongly agree, is that a child who is a long way past the decoding stage of learning to read (it is one stage of three major stages) may well find it difficult to revert to the decoding stage for the test.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 09:49:08

Mrz the point is that if your child is beyond the decoding stage by and large, you're asking them to switch off all their reading skills. Is this a good use of time for the most able - to switch off their reading skills? I suggest not!

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:52:48

Now I think about it, I don't know why the decoding test cannot use exclusively real words, but use very long words that children are less likely to have memorised as a test of their decoding skills. My DD learned to decode very long (four and five syllable) words in French very quickly thanks to her phonic knowledge. But they were real words.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 09:54:09

we teach ough can represent the sound or , oa , oo and ow and to try the alternatives as they read through the word

in the test when it comes to a non word any of the above would be acceptable

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 09:55:47

yes I would expect them to use their decoding skills in a decoding test just as I would expect them to walk not run in a walking race.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:57:20

So any phonically plausible pronunciation of a written nonsense word is acceptable in the test, but an attempt to make rational sense of a written nonsense word based on a child's knowledge of real spoken language is not acceptable?

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 09:58:10

The problem is when young children switch off their decoding skills they start to make errors and guess at all unfamiliar words or skip over them. Decoding needs to be there as a back up when they meet such words even as adults.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:58:24

You are asking children to put their real knowledge of language to one side for the test?

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 09:59:44

Once children have learned to walk, their tolerance for crawling to get where they want to go is understandably low...

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:00:23

If I asked you to read a word and told you it wasn't a real word and you then read it as a real word ...hmm

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:00:53

mrz - phonics is a fantastically useful back up for reading unfamiliar words as adults. But we work on the rational assumption that the words are real ones that are encountered in language as used around us.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:02:21

Many (not all) children don't like being asked to do nonsense tests. Our ability to perform tasks is rooted in our belief that they are rational and meaningful.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:03:37

No we are asking them to use one of their skills

If we were having a crawling race and one child decided to run what would it tell us?
I have a child who can't crawl and has never mastered the skill, this impacts greatly on coordination for writing etc...

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:05:01

Bonsoir would you work on the assumption that all words are real words if you were told these words aren't real hmm

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:06:29

It would tell us that the child who ran had no tolerance for the intermediary skill of crawling because they were way beyond it.

It is a mysterious misconception sometimes encountered in the educational establishment that you can accurately evaluate a developmental milestone that has been achieved a long time previously and that a child has moved on from.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 10:07:04

What's more, in real life we get feedback from the context - in a test like this, there is no feedback - so taking the ou sound, irl you might say 'the sea was ror, the sea was row, the sea was ruff! Bingo, rough=ruff' and then remember it - using a memory tactic...

In a test there is no such feedback. All very well saying 'they are alien words' but you are essentially asking a child to waste time, and to turn off all the skills they have developed.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:07:50

Children's natural and rational inclination is to see words as a written representation of sounds. It's all very well telling them, but they know (and this is actually what most teachers and parents teach) that written language is a representation of oral language that they already master.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:19:05

No in the case of my son (the child who ran) it would tell me that there was a problem and that important skills had not been developed and that he had major problems ...

Lily I don't think you can get much clearer feedback than the teacher saying this isn't a real word

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:19:28

You really should all read Stanislas Dehaene because he explains so well the transformation of an illiterate brain to a literate one, and gives examples of the tests you can perform on illiterate and literate brains and the different results you get...

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:28:18

Bonsoir my extremely able reader when faced with a non word test decoded the words but commented after each one
so when faced with chiffusion she said it's like chiffon and confusion joined
blavoursome it's like flavoursome
drecial it's like special with a d instead of a s

and I read Stanislas Dehaene on your earlier recommendation

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:29:06

Then you know that the child who does as LilyBolero's does is not wrong, but rational smile

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 10:29:33

Bonsoir, your argument really falls down for me because I read the word 'jound' as 'found' as did, I am sure, every other able reader on this thread.

The reason for not including eg 5 syllable real words may be because of the potential variation in working memory capacity amongst this age group. A decoding test must test only that and not be influenced by WMC constraints.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:30:22

No Bonsoir I know a child who does as Lily's child does hasn't understood the task they have been asked to do.

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 10:30:48

Of course I mean I read 'jound' to rhyme with 'found' <thought I'd better make that clear>

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:31:14

pickledsiblings - you are a lot older and a lot more advanced in your language and reading capabilities than a 5 year old. On this thread, we are all old enough to understand the science of phonics and to use it to teach a child. Do you think that a 5 year old has that skill? They are not in the same phase of language and reading development.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:32:15

mrz - doesn't understand or doesn't find it rational, given their skill level?

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 10:34:49

I don't know whether any of you read French, but Jeanne Siaud-Facchin writes very well on children being asked to perform tasks at school that are significantly below their rational, intelligent development (mostly linguistically) and being classed as "failures" or "not understanding", when in fact a dispassionate examination of the task shows it is not rational and that the child cannot get to grips with being expected to execute irrational tasks.

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 10:38:37

I am not sure how 'rational' 5 year olds can be - if your were talking about 10 year olds than I'd happily accept your argument.

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 10:40:01

I am also not sure of the connection at the age of 5 between 'skill level' and 'rationality'. Interesting idea though.

Destrier Sun 26-Feb-12 10:42:40

I've read about 2/3 of the thread, but don't have time to read more (sorry if that annoys anyone!)

I'm interested in this and I think the test could be helpful (not sure about reporting, though). I've just had ds read through the words (preschool reader, so it's me that has helped him learn)- I told him that some might not make sense - he got 2-3 wrong. Interestingly on the made up words, he read 'thon' using a 'th' as in the word 'the', which I would have called wrong, but then 'th' can be pronounced that way.

Very interestingly, on a couple of made up words it showed he still has a slight problem with p/d - something that isn't picked up with real words - the understanding of the word/context makes him pick the right phoneme. I now know I need to go back to some initial phoneme work.

Overall I think the test is good <realises that my feelings won't hold much weight here!>

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 10:42:48

On this thread, we are all old enough to understand the science of phonics and to use it to teach a child. Do you think that a 5 year old has that skill?

Yes, I have encountered several classes full of them. It isn't a problem.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 10:45:18

Your ds's way of reading 'thon' is right, Destrier - children are taught that th has two distinct pronounciations.

And of course your feelings here hold weight. smile

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 10:52:21

What advice can you give to a parent whose child is being taught mixed methods? We have a parents meeting this week so that school can explain the screening test to us and confirm their teaching methods

Sorry, SharonGless, your question got kind of lost there! A lot depends on the kind of reading material used to practise reading and whether your dc is one of the 20% who struggle - my ds was thrown onto Stage 3 of a Look and Say method, and had stayed there since September Y1. He couldn't read any of the vocabulary and forgot all his Phase 3 phonics. I subscribed to Reading Chest (I could have got decodable readers from my school, but ds is thrilled that they come in a big envelope addressed to him smile) and dis some work with Phase 3 phonemes on flashcards (fast and frequent). He is already improving rapidly.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 10:52:35

Which is exactly what my exceptional reception class readers did pickledsiblings

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 11:02:29

Feenie - if your 5 year olds are able to understand the science of phonics (for example, able to read and digest Reading in the Brain), I wonder what they are doing in your class room reading nonsense words? wink

pickledsiblings - many 5 year olds are extremely rational creatures - they haven't yet had time to be confused by the irrationality of the world around them. Long may they be preserved from it.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 11:09:22

Bonsoir doesn't understand

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 11:09:41

They understand the science of phonics enough to read 'jound' with no hesitation, Bonsoir.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 11:11:16

That is not an understanding of the science of phonics, Feenie, and of the transformations that go on within the brain during the different stages of learning to read. Which none of you understand, but fair enough - your business is teaching phonics.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 11:12:51

No Bonsoir our business is educating children

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 11:24:47

Bonsoir, these brain transformations of which you speak are very much open to interpretation - there is no definitive mechanism for how the brain learns to read, only models. Experienced teachers have as much to bring to the table as neuroscientists and psychologists on this one!

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 12:47:29

Just coming back to the thread after church:

A few thoughts - I didn't read jound to rhyme with found, I looked at it, my brain process was 'that could be like wound, or it could be joust - I wonder which one it is meant to be....' and then started meandering off thinking about other 'ou' sounds, of which there are many.

It is virtually impossible to teach a purely phonics method. You're going to fall down on 'the' for example - that can't be found by blending sounds. So instantly you are introducing the idea that many words can't be found by blending. And then, when a child has grasped the phonics, grasped the fact that many letters/combinations have different sounds, grasped blending, and learned to READ not decode, and moved on totally from that stage, you're asking them to forget everything they've learned since then, in order to pass a spurious decoding test that some jumped up minister thinks is a good idea.

What's worse, you're going to waste time in class that you could be spending either reading fantastic books, or practising other literacy skills, learning to read words which are NONSENSE words, and don't mean anything. What the hell is the point of that?

I asked my 5yo if they practised reading words that don't mean anything, he said they did spend a fair bit of time doing that. Which is just rubbish imo, he can read completely fluently, he does not have a problem with phonics, and this time is wasted.

You might as well ask a very good swimmer to swim 10m in the shallow pool using doggy paddle and then penalise them for doing a bit of front crawl.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 12:51:04

in order to pass a spurious decoding test that some jumped up minister thinks is a good idea.

For once - and this doesn't happen very often - this idea is based on very sound evidence and following years of good practice.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 12:56:52

Penalise them for getting it wrong? confused

You want the mark given for guessing a word in a decoding test then?

pickledsiblings Sun 26-Feb-12 13:03:13

'Many (not all) children don't like being asked to do nonsense tests. Our ability to perform tasks is rooted in our belief that they are rational and meaningful.'

'Non words' are routinely used by experimental psychologists in an attempt to elucidate how we learn to read. To me it makes perfect sense to test phonetic knowledge using nonwords - how else would you do it?

Surely 'rational' DC will accept that as an explanation.

Bonsoir Sun 26-Feb-12 13:12:25

pickledsiblings - you are projecting the rational processes of an adult on to the rational processes of a child. An adult ought to be (and, thankfully, many are) able to take on board many more variables than a child. Rational is not an either/or state.

This is an interesting thread. I am a great proponent of synthetic phonics for teaching decoding, but decoding is only a stage on the way to reading and once stages are past, evaluating how a child managed that stage becomes inappropriate.

The phonics test should only include real words IMO. How about some long words - electricity is nice easy decodable word, and a real one. There are lots more.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 13:15:50

It is virtually impossible to teach a purely phonics method. You're going to fall down on 'the' for example

It is actually very simple to teach the using phonics - th represent th sound and e represent the schwa ...

I would suggest your 5 year old can't read fluently if he read joined for jound which is simply a very bad guess not reading.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 13:16:10

but decoding is only a stage on the way to reading and once stages are past

Decoding is a strategy for life, not just until a reader reaches a certain stage in reading.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 13:17:48

Bonsoir the point is the test is of decoding NOT of reading

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 13:34:42

"I would suggest your 5 year old can't read fluently if he read joined for jound which is simply a very bad guess not reading."

I would suggest you should not make judgement on my 5 yo who is an incredibly fluent reader.

Jound is not a word. Therefore, an intelligent child may easily try to make sense of it. Is it such a simple concept to grasp? As it happens, 'ou' is one of the sounds with the most options.


There's 8 different options. A 5 year old with a wide experience of reading could very easily know that ou is a sound with many different sounds, and it's not beyond the possible that it could be another sound that they are not aware of.

Nothing to do with fluency of reading. Because jound is not a word. Therefore, reading it as Jown-ed is decoding only.

What's more, you've just proved the idiocy of the test. If you took my 5yos answer, and deduced that he 'therefore was not very fluent at reading', you would be wasting time with interventions to improve his decoding ability, when in fact he is an unbelievably good reader. What he needs is more books to read, not to improve his ability at reading made up words....

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 13:36:38

And no way do you say to your Y1 class 'in the word the, 'e' represents the schwa....'

"Decoding is a strategy for life, not just until a reader reaches a certain stage in reading."

Not true. It is a starting strategy. My 10yo and 8yo, both level 5++ readers both said they don't use phonics AT ALL in reading. Because they 'know the words'.


LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 13:39:03

If they find a word (which is pretty rare) they haven't seen before they use the context, and their knowledge of vocabulary.

I suppose they might just use a bit of phonics in deciphering a Harry Potter spell, or a Lord of the Rings character name, but generally speaking, phonics doesn't get a look in.

I definitely don't use phonics in my reading! And I am a prolific reader, not handicapped by not sounding out words...

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 13:39:08

I would suggest you should not make judgement on my 5 yo who is an incredibly fluent reader.

not on your evidence on this thread

Lily I tell reception children that the "e" represents the "schwa"

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 13:40:07

So if you encounter a unfamiliar word how do you go about reading it Lily

teacherwith2kids Sun 26-Feb-12 14:03:29


The point has probably been made elsewhere in this mammoth thread - but I would suggest that both you and your children have reached the stage of 'unconcious mastery' of decoding where it no longer goes through that 'conscious' phase of 'sounding it out'. Just because you do not consciously go through the 'sounding out' stage when you encounter a word doesn't mean that your brain isn't doing it - a bit like reaching out and picking up something from a table, you aren't consciously making the calculation about distance and angle and muscle extension, but your eyes and brain are still going through that process IYSWIM?

To analyse what is actually happening - to test the specific phonic skills of decoding and blending IN ISOLATION (it's not called a reading test, it''s called a phonics test) - it makes entire sense to test with non-words which combine phonic sounds AS LONG AS the person being tested is made aware that some of the words are 'non-words' and so does not try to 'revise' their answer to 'make it make sense'.

Anecdotally - my DS was a fluent pre-school reader. Had you asked me at the time, I would have said that he had appeared to learn to read by memorising whole words, as his 'party trick' before learning to read was to recite entire long books word for word by memory. I assumed that he was using recognition of whole words to 'match' what he said when reciting to what the word was on the page and then moved on to reading it in different contexts. In so far as he could verbalise what he was doing, he would also have said 'I just know what that word says'.

However, when DS encountered systematic phonics teaching on starting school, it turned out that he did in fact have a sophisticated understanding of the phonic code, which he had worked out for himself. So despite what appeared to be evidence to the contracry, he was not reading by word recognition, instead word recognition had given way to understanding the 'code' within the word and thence to reading unknown words through phonic decoding. He was, and remains to this day, wholly oblivious to the fact he uses this phonic knowledge.... but give him a list of members of the Sri Lankan or Pakistan cricket team to read out, and it is absolutely clear that he uses phonics to decode the names.

choccyp1g Sun 26-Feb-12 15:35:59


All these common words with ound sound OW except wound which sounds OO.

Phonics is more than one letter at a time.

teacherwith2kids Sun 26-Feb-12 15:46:37

The way I see it, a good knowledge of phonics is the basic tool in the toolbox of reading - your trusty basic adjustable screwdriver that you turn to when all your other tools don't quite work. A child or adult who has mastery of phonics can 'overlay' that with all sorts of other ways of accessing the written word - through context, through familiarity, through knowledge of word derivations, suffuxes, prefixes et al. However, for words where all of those other tools don't work, everyone literacte should have that trusty basic tool to fall back on. It might not be pretty, it might not fit the screw absolutely perfectly, but it enables you to 'have your very best shot' at a job when everything else fails.

Because it is such a basic tool, it is worth checking that a child has a secure knowledge of it at a young age, when intervention has a good chance of working. One could argue that it would be better as a 'test when ready' test like the old Sscottish level tests, rather than a 'fixed age' test. However, arguing that a child shouldn't be tested 'because they have moved beyond phonics' doesn't ring true to me - everyone, however advanced a reader, will encounter a name or a word in a newspaper article or a textbook that they need to have the tools to sound out accurately, so every child should have a secure knowledge of phonics to fall back on.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:21:23

"not on your evidence on this thread

Lily I tell reception children that the "e" represents the "schwa""

What - because he made a mistake on a made-up word? Proves my point really, that if the test flags up mistakes like that, then it is worthless. My 5yo is pushing KS1 level 3 in reading, fab comprehension and expression, his teachers are shock, as am I as he couldn't speak till he was over 3, and had a moderate speech and language delay. But he is just flying at school, and his reading is amazing, because it has all come from him, he has very much not been hot-housed by us. And within a context, he can easily work out new words. With no context, he can work out new words, using his knowledge of the English language. Made-up words - because he is so articulate, he may sometimes (as in 'jound') try to rationalise them.

Not sure why this is such a hard concept to grasp, and why all you teachers seem to take the line that 'this proves he is not a good reader''s a bit depressing really that an educator should say that.

What is the point in telling reception children who can't yet read 'the' that the 'e' represents the 'schwa'? How is that ever going to help your average reception child to read?

"I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead -
For goodness sake don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there's dose and rose and lose -
Just look them up - and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart -
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I'd mastered it when I was five!"

To read this poem you HAVE to use other tactics of context and memory. Phonics is not going to help you much!

EdithWeston Sun 26-Feb-12 16:28:14

LilyBolero: it doesn't say anything about whether he's a good reader because it is not meant to

Did you see the posts further up, about how many more children learn to read effectively via phonics, com pad to via other methods? This check will indeed show that your DC fails in phonics, and then there should be intervention to see what is needed to ensure good reading (which in your case might be "nothing, sound though atypical reader"). Obviously, if you cannot trust your school/teacher to understand this, then you are in a bit of a bind. But one hopes most schools will not be at such a low level.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 16:28:41

But Lily, to your ds a made up word is the same as an unknown word. And instead of tackling the unknown word using phonics he tried to bend it into a known word instead. It's not a huge problem, and it's easily corrected, but the test did tell you something about your ds's decoding skills.

Now you can check next time he comes across a word he doesn't know, and make sure he isn't trying to 'fit' those into his known vocabulary aswell.

Btw, if your very able older children only rarely come across new vocabulary, perhaps they need more challenging texts to read? It's sad to find that able readers rarely find an opportunity to expand their vocabulary.

Bonsoir, what do you do for a living, and have you been doing it very successfuly for over 20 years? Because I would like to read a couple of books about it and tell you that you are wrong.

EdithWeston Sun 26-Feb-12 16:31:06

PS: yes, that poem can be read phonically, as the tackling of different graphemes is part of proper phonics teaching. Obviously, if you have only had exposure to an inadequate programme that does not do this, then you will have greater difficulty. The phonics check should help identify (thus raising the possibility of remedy) any schools/teachers who are not teaching it properly.

Without phonics, that poem would be so much harder!

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 16:34:57

Lily they are told when they are being taught how to read the word the it's very simple 4 year olds understand it

Lily I'm very sorry you are upset and offended but if your child read joined for jound they are not reading they are guessing! You may not like it and you may insist that because letter patters can represent a number of sounds and that sounds can be represented by different letter patterns it means they aren't "phonic" it doesn't I'm afraid mean you are correct.

There are approx a quarter of a million words in the OED are you saying your children have learnt them all?

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:45:08

"This check will indeed show that your DC fails in phonics, and then there should be intervention to see what is needed to ensure good reading (which in your case might be "nothing, sound though atypical reader")."

I'm not sure why this is all so focussed on my ds being 'poor at phonics' - he got 38/40 on the sample test! I simply quoted one of the 2 words he got wrong, with my understanding as to why. I think it is utterly understandable that a highly literate and articulate child would try and make sense of the written word, as they are used to doing the rest of the time.

He categorically doesn't have a 'problem' with phonics!

"But Lily, to your ds a made up word is the same as an unknown word. "

It's not, because I would say that generally speaking his vocabulary is ahead of his reading age, and so he can work out the word, and get the feedback of it making sense.

"Btw, if your very able older children only rarely come across new vocabulary, perhaps they need more challenging texts to read? It's sad to find that able readers rarely find an opportunity to expand their vocabulary."

They are voracious readers and read everything they can. Ds1 has been reading Macbeth this term. I am always trying to give them a bigger range of reading materials. They are both very articulate though, dd in particular is very 'wordy' - her teacher describes her as a highly-gifted writer, because she uses such a wide range of language. (incidentally, first time she came across the word language, she worked it out using phonics, came up with Lan-ja-jah - I guess she must have been using mrz's schwa for the last letter...)

I have had misgivings about this test ever since it was announced - for my kids, who are high-achieving and very able in literacy, I don't think it is helpful - it will flag up problems that don't actually exist! Teachers are hard-pressed enough without having to address non-existent problems.

Certainly my friends who teach Y1 are very hmm about it, and the trial of the test also threw up problems with it, along the lines of what I have been arguing.

Phonics test a waste of money says phonics expert

Literacy experts deeply concerned about phonics test

"The reports finds, for example,that 54% of respondents disagreed that the check accurately assessed the decoding ability of pupils with EAL, 65% disagreed with regard to pupils with speech difficulties, 67% disagreed with regard to pupils with special educational needs and 72% disagreed with regard to pupils with language difficulties. Yet these categories of children are the very ones who are in most need of identification. Thus the test fails in its main purpose.

Finally, the evaluation of the pilot informs us that 72% of schools experienced difficulties in relation to the use of pseudo words and that some able readers were confused. This confirms our previously expressed worry that the use of a test of only the decoding aspect of reading could actually harm standards in the longer term, with able readers mistakenly identified as needing further teaching of phonics and being held back as a result.

In the light of the findings from the evaluation of the pilot we are sure that ministers will be reconsidering the need for the phonics test for 6 year olds. The signatories of this letter would welcome an opportunity to discuss how teacher assessment of reading would identify and help young readers who are slow to start."

That is from, among others, teachers involved in the pilot study, it's an impressive list of names, and basically backs up what I've been saying on the thread about able readers throwing up anomalous results.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:47:16

"Lily I'm very sorry you are upset and offended but if your child read joined for jound they are not reading they are guessing! "

I'm not upset or offended. You know nothing about my child and their reading ability. He's my 3rd child, I'm beyond getting bothered about reading levels. I am aware of how good at reading he is though.

He is not guessing. Must be a bloody good guess if that's what he's doing, giving his accuracy reading most texts with REAL WORDS.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 16:48:44





LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:49:45

"There are approx a quarter of a million words in the OED are you saying your children have learnt them all?"

Nice to see people reverting to sarcasm.

What I'm saying is that when I asked my older children how much they used their phonics, they said 'never in reading, occasionally in writing'. I do think their spoken vocabulary outstrips their reading vocabulary generally, they both have a very wide vocabulary because they hear a lot of v good English.

I'm not the only person with reservations about this, read the links from the pilot studies - lots of people found that exactly what I'm saying would happen DID happen - ie it didn't flag up children who were struggling and did flag up a lot of non-problems.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:50:26

see, I'd use my knowledge of latin rather than phonics there....

EdithWeston Sun 26-Feb-12 16:51:49

I noted that in none of her "ou" list was there an example where "ou" was pronounced "oi", so it does look more like a random guess than an informed attempt.

And also I had a bit of a realisation: the concentration on graphemes indicates a totally different view of language, and I hadn't fully appreciated before just how different that view was. Phonics is based in the sounds of the language, and is taught by learning to recognise and blend the sound of the language in their various graphemes (starting with the commonest, and adding more). Phonics is not/not taught by giving a list of spellings and learning a sound to fit. That sounds to me a bit like the remnants of "look and learn" trying to invade.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 16:52:54

Gregg Brookes isn't against the test he's against the cost of something he believes schools should be doing automatically.

Must be a bloody good guess the point is it's a bloody bad guess Lily!

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 16:55:03

Lily it was a serious question ... are you saying your children will never encounter an unknown word are you saying you will never encounter an unknown word?

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 16:55:52

Both your links throw up the same (flawed) article, Lily. So that's a list of one name then, whose only misgiving is that the money woud be better spent on resources to teach SP and help children who struggle.

Ministers aren't reconsidering anything, btw - the test will go ahead in June, everything is in place already. The only problem was regarding the identifcation of real/nonsense words and that's now fixed with pictures of aliens for the nonsense word.

Many schools involved in the pilot study use mixed methods, so it's not surprising to hear that they disagree with the test.

I also thought it was a waste of money in the beginning - but now I want schools like my ds's to be forced to teach phonics daily and properly, and to provide decodable readers. I think this test will flag up their deficiences in readng teaching.

EdithWeston Sun 26-Feb-12 16:58:38

"Nice to see people reverting to sarcasm."

Lily: you find it a snippy comment, but it is the only possible way of reading a new word if you do not use phonics. That one is generally unaware of doing so is an indication that the process has become internalized.

Do I take it that you are unable to make a plausible attempt to read the following: Meiyou gongchangdan, jiu meiyou xin Zhongguo?

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 16:59:05

I don't think mrz was resorting to sarcasm, Lily - you are the only person on this thread who has resorted to swearing, though.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 16:59:30

no, what I'm saying is that in the context of reading, most words are either known, or are often related to other words. So blending phonics becomes less important. Eg in your words, the 'rhino' bit is recognisable as rhino, it's not broken down to sounds, but to recognisable word-bits.

"Must be a bloody good guess the point is it's a bloody bad guess Lily!"

No, I was referring to how he gets almost 100% accuracy reading anything with real words - you said he was guessing not reading, I'm pointing out that if that's the case, he is a bloody good guess.

From the 2nd link;

"This confirms our previously expressed worry that the use of a test of only the decoding aspect of reading could actually harm standards in the longer term, with able readers mistakenly identified as needing further teaching of phonics and being held back as a result."

That's not a worry about cost. That's a worry about the test being counter-productive.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:01:41

2nd link was the wrong link, it was an open letter from the people who did the pilot study;
news link here

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:01:47

actually what the pilot did flag up was that lots of schools weren't teaching phonics effectively and that some still encouraged guessing.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:02:52

the letter wa signed by the following people;
David Reedy, United Kingdom Literacy Association and

John Coe, Chairman, National Association for Primary Education (NAPE)

Professor Robin Alexander, Director, Cambridge Primary Review

Alison Peacock, National Network Leader for the Cambridge Primary Review (CPR)

Professor Trisha Maynard, Chair, TACTYC and Director of Research Centre for Children, Families and Communities, Canterbury Christ Church University

Wendy Scott, President, TACTYC

Graham Trousdale, Chair, Committee for Linguistics in Education (CLIE)

John Hickman, Chair, National Association of Advisers for English (NAAE)

Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT)

Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Chris Keates, General Secretary, NASUWT

Philip Parkin, General Secretary, Voice

Matthew Martin, CEO, College of Teachers

Miles Berry, Senior vice Chair, NAACE

Simon Gibbons, Chair, National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE)

Penny Tyack, Programme Director and founder of Reading Quest.

Rona Tutt, Chair, National Literacy Association

Lorraine Petersen, Chief Executive, National Association of Special Educational Needs (NASEN)

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:03:49

"actually what the pilot did flag up was that lots of schools weren't teaching phonics effectively and that some still encouraged guessing."

You're completely wrong, the study said that if the test was to encourage systematic phonics being taught in schools, they 'already did'.

They encouraged the Government to rethink the test completely.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:06:53

This is the text in full; I have emboldened the bits that back up my thoughts;

Dear Secretary of State

An open letter regarding the ‘phonics check’ for six year olds in English primary schools

On Monday 19 September Nick Gibb, Schools Minister, released the independent report regarding the pilot of the phonics test for six year olds which is to be imposed on English primary schools in June 2012.

Mr. Gibb said ‘This study finds that the check will be of real benefit to pupils but takes just a few minutes to carry out and is a positive experience for most children.’

However this statement is at variance with several of the report’s findings. Many of our original fears have been confirmed by the evaluation report and the undersigned remain deeply concerned about the imposition of this test on all schools in England.

The reports finds, for example,that 54% of respondents disagreed that the check accurately assessed the decoding ability of pupils with EAL, 65% disagreed with regard to pupils with speech difficulties, 67% disagreed with regard to pupils with special educational needs and 72% disagreed with regard to pupils with language difficulties. Yet these categories of children are the very ones who are in most need of identification. Thus the test fails in its main purpose.

The results will be ‘high stakes’ as they will be collated centrally through RAISEonline and used by Ofsted when inspecting schools. Research shows that high stakes tests have a narrowing affect on the curriculum and in this case is likely to have a detrimental effect on areas such as enjoyment, comprehension and wider reading.

The claim that the test will only take a few minutes is flatly contradicted by the report which states that the average time for preparation and administration was 15.5 hours and even longer in large schools. This is equivalent to three days teaching. How will 6 year olds benefit if their teacher is otherwise engaged with the check and may also be out of class for this time or more?

If the intention of the check is to encourage primary teachers in England to teach phonics systematically the pilot informs us that almost all already do so.

Finally, the evaluation of the pilot informs us that 72% of schools experienced difficulties in relation to the use of pseudo words and that some able readers were confused. This confirms our previously expressed worry that the use of a test of only the decoding aspect of reading could actually harm standards in the longer term, with able readers mistakenly identified as needing further teaching of phonics and being held back as a result.

The government is proposing to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money every year on a test which will increase workload, undermine teaching time, fail in its core purpose of accurately identifying children’s needs in reading and is unnecessary in promoting the already present teaching of phonics.

In the light of the findings from the evaluation of the pilot we are sure that ministers will be reconsidering the need for the phonics test for 6 year olds. The signatories of this letter would welcome an opportunity to discuss how teacher assessment of reading would identify and help young readers who are slow to start.

In the meantime we would appreciate any clarification you can give on the questions and issues outlined in this letter.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:07:25

And it is signed by the people listed in the previous post.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:08:08

I can't speak for the other teaching unions but the ATL is against it because it

demonstrates government’s lack of trust in teachers’ abilities and professionalism

will lead to a wealth of data that will not raise standards nor be useful for parents

is an increase in bureaucracy and a waste of money in a time when government needs to prioritise its spending on resources for teaching.

which I pretty much agree with

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 17:08:29

That is the whole point Lily. Almost all schools claim to be teaching phonics, and mostly they aren't. They mostly don't even know enough to realise what they're teaching isn't phonics.

And this test is unfortunately necessary to encourage them to teach phonics properly.

Your child is a good reader, and no one is saying he isn't. This test isn't about your child though. It's about the 20% of kids who never become good readers.

Have some sympathy for them. Those failed kids are disasters waiting to happen.

choccyp1g Sun 26-Feb-12 17:09:22

Lily, how does he get on when reading a text with a lot of unusual names or place names.
I read with year 6 children, and find that some of them, despite being very good readers, guess wildly at the pronounciation of unfamiliar places such as Framlingham, or Daventry, which they have obviously never heard spoken.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:10:15

IndigoBell, the pilot showed that those readers were not being flagged up by the test though, and if able readers ARE being, it is lose-lose - the intervention is going to the wrong kids.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:10:36

the government have responded by putting pictures of aliens on the pseudowords

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:10:55

choccypig - pretty well, though not when we went to Anglesey....grin

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 17:19:26

In what way did the pilot show that poor decoders weren't being flagged up by the test? confused

Your child passed the test. I can't imagine any situation in which children who are good at decoding get put on a reading intervention because of this test.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:21:29

Lily my son is hyperlexic ... he could read the Financial Times in nursery but he still had huge gaps in his spelling ability because he never needed phonics and everyone (including me) thought it didn't matter because he was such an amazing reading when in fact he had SEN sad

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:22:01

reader not reading

rumpeta Sun 26-Feb-12 17:26:18

Hi I haven't read all of this thread so don't know if this has come up already, but looking at the sample paper on the DFES website two words that came up were 'starling' and 'scribe' - my daughter may well be able to decode these words but I don't know of many year 1 kids who would know what a starling or a scribe is/ are so presumably these kids would assume they are nonsense words? Also one of the 'fake' monsters is called an etc - so some might assume this DOES mean something? Seems some odd choices from the myriad of words they could choose from - or do they learn the meaning of words such as scribe early on at prep schools in case they need one for their 7+?!

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:28:24

From the report;

"Three quarters of those surveyed felt that the Check accurately assessed phonic
decoding ability overall for their pupils. Agreement was highest (84%) for pupils
with strong phonics skills, but lower for pupils with weaker decoding skills (61%).
Less than half of respondents agreed that the Check accurately assessed the
decoding ability of pupils with EAL (46%), with speech difficulties (35%), with
SEN (33%) and with language difficulties (28%). Around a third of respondents
held neutral views around whether the Check was a good way of measuring the
capabilities of Year 1 pupils in these groups. These issues were mirrored in case
study findings and, in addition, about a quarter of case study interviewees
mentioned that they felt the test was not age appropriate as the standard may be
set too high for some of the younger or lower ability pupils.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:29:27

mrz, sorry your ds has SENs.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:30:15

"Almost half of schools (43%) indicated that the Check had helped them to identify
pupils with phonic decoding issues that they were not previously aware of. Just
over half (55%) of schools surveyed and many teachers from case study schools
felt that the Check had not helped them to identify these issues. This was
particularly the case with smaller schools. This is linked to the issue identified
earlier: schools would like to use the Check to inform teaching and planning but
felt that the Check needed to be designed in such a way that it can do so."

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:31:26

Between 23 and 29% of surveyed schools felt the experience was negative for
pupils with speech or language difficulties, other SEN and weak phonics skills,
mirroring the findings in relation to the accuracy of the Check for assessing
phonics ability. Those with weaker phonic skills, speech difficulties, SEN - and to
a lesser extent EAL - were less likely to have found the Check a positive
experience. Pupils who had been told it was a 'test' expressed the most anxiety

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:34:02

" One lead teacher noted complications with a particular pupil who was a very good
reader but had speech and language difficulties which meant his speech was unclear,
meaning that in a different context she could have asked him questions around the content
of what he was saying but in the Check situation this had not been possible:
I very often don't understand what he says but I can ask him questions about the content and
then know that he's understood what he's read. With the test he's saying the word and I'm
thinking did he read it right? I don't know (CS18, Lead teacher)

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:35:08

Don't be sorry Lily it makes him who he is. What I'm sorry about was that I didn't realise earlier he had a problem with phonics so we could work to correct it.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:35:41

He achieved level 6 in his KS2 maths and science and level1 in writing

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:36:03

" At least seven case study schools and three survey schools in open comments raised
the point that the Check should be looking at comprehension in addition to decoding ability;
therefore words should be used in context. This applied equally to the more advanced
readers - who often searched for a known 'real' word - as well as those with weaker
decoding skills. For example, one school commented:

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:37:03

yy I understand that mrz, I felt very sorry that I had not picked up ds2's hearing loss which led to him having a significant speech delay sooner. Happily it has more or less resolved, and comes and goes, but I did feel bad that we didn't pick it up sooner.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 17:43:05

Comprehension checks are made formally in Y2 but again these are things schools should be doing automatically without being told but then the government would have to trust teachers

rumpeta Sun 26-Feb-12 17:44:46

oops, the monster is an ECT but you get my gist? Seems the test was poorly thought out and could be confusing, a worry for teachers who are already under-resourced and under a lot of pressure? If phonics is the best method of teaching kids to read (and I suspect it is) why not spend the money on ensuring that all teachers are thoroughly trained in the teaching of it and the classrooms are properly resourced. My DD's school has a daily phonics lesson, grouped by ability and I think they use Ruth Miskin scheme books in the classroom, but because they have no money, they send home old ORT books. Teachers need better training and resources, not more pressure on them.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:46:51

I feel v sorry for teachers atm, and this test is part of it - I simply don't believe it will flag up any problems the teachers aren't aware of, and so it is just another stick to beat teachers with.

And from the report of the pilot, it doesn't sound like it 'does what it says on the tin' in any case. And takes about 12 hours to administer - that's 2 days of teaching time!

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 17:48:36

Perhaps we should all start calling Michael Gove "Michael Guvv" (to rhyme with love and dove!) grin

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 17:53:15

My ds's teacher isn't aware of any problems, Lily.

And the government is providing up to £3000 match funding for schools to invest in phonic resources and training.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:00:51

Feenie - what do you mean? Do you mean they need the test to point out to them which kids need support? In which case, the school needs to address that.

Certainly my kids' teachers have been utterly switched on to how they're doing in reading, and able to spot when there is something that needs addressing.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:02:50

Lily two educational psychologists insisted my son didn't have a problem because he had a reading age in the teens despite him being unable to write more than his name ...

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 18:04:18

Yes, I think that lots of teachers and lots of schools need it pointing out to them - you only have to read threads on MN for evidence of that. sad

Part of the problem is that teacher training establishments still don't teach students effective strategies to teach children to read, and are very resistant to SP.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:07:22

To both of you, how would you feel if your children did well in the test? And the teachers said "look, he's got 35/40 - no problems there. And so, despite you wanting extra help in some areas, the help was not there, because they had not been 'flagged up'.

I just think that it's up to the teachers and parents, if a teacher is failing a pupil, then that needs flagging up to the school, or to Ofsted if the school don't help. I don't believe getting the entire nation's 5 and 6 yos to read 20 made up words is going to address the problem of poor teachers, and certainly this was what the letter from all those reading and literacy experts said too.

Feenie Sun 26-Feb-12 18:10:55

I would point out that decoding is one part of reading, and raise different issues re comprehension, for example, if they were there.

The results will be flagged up to Ofsted who have a new agenda which focuses very closely on reading. And something HAS to be done - schools have had long enough to implement SP teaching properly on their own, and lots are still failing those 20%.

maizieD Sun 26-Feb-12 18:11:27

Teachers need better training and resources, not more pressure on them.

The only pressure that is on teachers in this instance is to teach phonics properly.

To be perfectly honest, I don't feel particularly sorry for teachers who haven't been teaching phonics properly and who are now coming under pressure to do so. I don't suppose the parents of the extremely high number of children who leave KS2 with minimal reading skills (some 20%) would have a great deal of sympathy for them either.

All the hand wringing about SEN and EAL and SPLD doesn't wash particularly, either. It is a very rare child who can't be taught the letter/sound correspondences and how to decode and blend. It is what is known as a 'lower order skill'. What the handwringers mean is that they have always assumed that children in these groups aren't capable of learning and they have lower expectations for them. Also, if they have been trying to teach them read by the old Searchlights' methods (which many teachers cling to; 73% according to the evaluation of the pilot) they won't achieve very much because this is very much the group of children that the Searchlights failed.

I have read this thread with great interest! I am knocked out by the 5 y olds who have mastered the entire English lexicon and to whom no word is unfamiliar. Oh brave new world that hath such people in it...

I feel quite ashamed to admit that, as an extremely mature adult with some 50+ years of voracious reading behind me, I still encounter new words and when I do, oh smack my wrists now and put me on the naughty step, I decode and blend them.blush

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:12:33

It is a test of one aspect of literacy so alone all it indicates is whether a child can or can not decode single words. So a pass would indicate the child is progressing well in phonic knowledge acquisition and a fail would indicate they need some additional support.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:15:20

When my present class started Y2 in reception I assessed them and 17 out of 30 were put on a program to improve phonics only three still need that support

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:18:40

maizie, you clearly haven't read the thread then!

I presume you're sarcastically referring to my 5yo.

What I said about him is that he has basically moved on from using phonics to decode, and is reading using other skills primarily. So to have to switch these skills off in order to do a purely phonics test is both tricky and counter-productive imo. The experts who did the pilot also say;

"Finally, the evaluation of the pilot informs us that 72% of schools experienced difficulties in relation to the use of pseudo words and that some able readers were confused. This confirms our previously expressed worry that the use of a test of only the decoding aspect of reading could actually harm standards in the longer term, with able readers mistakenly identified as needing further teaching of phonics and being held back as a result."

Obviously there are new words to learn, but within a context this is entirely different to pseudo-words.

I'd be pretty worried if my 5yo was flagged up by the test (despite various teachers on here saying he was struggling with phonics, and not reading but guessing hmm ) - he's reading Harry Potter atm and loving it. That seems a much better use of time than learning to read made up words. He's moved on from the 'purely phonics' stage, and so to revert to it for a test is not helpful imo. And is backed up by the evidence from the study.

Just showed that to my five year old and she got nearly all right but rebelled against the non-words a lot.

I think it's a good idea to check that what is being taught is working because I don't think phonics does work for all children. However I'm not sure this will then go on to solve that problem, just identify that there is an issue. And then we'll have to wait another five years to figure it out confused hmm

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:19:19

What's more, if able readers ARE mistakenly flagged up, it is taking resources away from kids who really do need extra support.

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 18:23:03

Lily - your DS passed the test. So why would he be flagged up?

It's touching that you have 100% faith that all the teachers in all the country are teaching reading well, but it's just not true.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:23:08

whomovedmychocolate - dd would have refused to say any of the pseudo-words. She would have been able to think the answers perfectly, but no way would she have said them out loud.

This is the child who cried when she had to choose a picture from a magazine for her geography exercise book, because she 'might have chosen the wrong one'.

She was a fab reader, still is, was ace at phonics, but hated getting anything wrong, and even knowing they were alien words, would not have said them out loud. So the most she could have got would be 20/40. Definite fail. Despite being the best reader in the class, and a level 5 reader/writer at age 8, described as highly gifted by the teacher.

Problem is, she's also i) a perfectionist and ii) very shy. And I know she would have gone into shut-down mode, and possibly refused to do the entire test. And cried. Despite knowing all the answers.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:24:52

IndigoBell - I only brought ds2 into it, because I was interested in the mechanism by which he got 2 words wrong. Then all the teachers on here jumped on the fact that he said 'joined' instead of 'jound' and started on about how he clearly was not a good reader, etc etc etc

I don't have 100% faith in teachers. I don't, however, think the test will effectively flag up those who need to teach more effectively.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:25:56

Lily he shouldn't have to learn to read the non words at this stage it should be automatic.
Can I ask is he taught phonics in Y1?

LilyBolero - ah yes DD does that too and says 'don't be silly, I KNOW ALL THIS' in a very disdainful voice. Her teacher must have the patience of a saint because she's bloody irritating frankly.

I'm still smarting from the HV marking her down on the two year check because when asked to put one brick on top of another she constructed an elaborate block structure twenty bricks high but she did not directly place one brick exactly on another though hmm grin

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 18:26:43

Sounds like you DD needed help then. Not a phonics intervention, but some other help. School would have obviously already known this, and obviously she would have already been on an intervention to help her with her problems.

And when they would have analysed the results of her phonics test they would have said "yes little lily is havin help with her shyness / perfectionism" then they would have moved on to the next kid.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:28:14

To add, what I was meaning about 'flagging up ds2' was someone's comment that he was 'poor at phonics and reading in a non-standard way' (is too far down the thread to find the quote).

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:28:31

Lily my SEN son was described by his Y6 teacher as the most intelligent child she had ever taught in 30 years of teaching and he could barely write hmm

singersgirl Sun 26-Feb-12 18:28:43

Lily, your daughter sounds like an extreme example. I'm sure if you told most children that some of the words were words in a foreign language that they wouldn't understand or that they were names of different types of sweets you could get in other countries they would be happy to read them. It's very strange to suggest that a child will only read a word that they understand. If that were the case, they would have to have an extraordinary vocabulary and would struggle with learning foreign languages hmm.

I don't think the decoding test is really to inform the teachers at the school; it's to inform the inspectors of which schools are teaching reading the most effective way.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:29:06

mrz - yes they do phonics every week. Including spending a lot of time on alien words....hmm

When he gets home he devours books.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:30:12

IndigoBell - no, she didn't need help, she just needed a bit of understanding. She is much better now, after we modelled 'getting things wrong' for years and years. We still get the very odd shut down and tears, but she is MUCH better than she was.

At 5 (and an August birthday) - still very much a slave to her perfectionism.

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 18:30:29

This test will:

a) flag up some teachers who aren't teaching well
b) encourage others to teach better

This is a good thing.

Lily - you also have to remember you have never experienced the heartbreak of having a child being taught to read badly (from what you've said so far). It is the most soul destroying thing for your child to not learn to read.

Anything that helps children should be embraced. And this test will def help some children.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:31:55

mrz - why the hmm ? Obviously intelligence manifests itself in various ways. Ds2 took part in a study by our local uni, where he was assessed at age 3. He came out as top 1 percent, 'highly superior' was how they described it grin , couldn't say a word, was seeing a speech therapist, with significant speech delay.

IndigoBell Sun 26-Feb-12 18:32:16

Modelling getting things wrong is help. It's something school could have done with you.

Interventions don't have to be fancy packaged expensive stuff.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:34:07

IndigoBell - yy, the important thing is that children are taught to read well.

However, the people reporting on the study who wrote to the Government did not think the report would actually 'catch' all the children who needed help, and may catch some who didn't.

And they suggested the whole thing should be rethought.

There's no point in a test which throws up wrong results, and then ends up with the wrong children getting support.

mrz Sun 26-Feb-12 18:35:26

because nothing was ever done to support him because he was intelligent.

LilyBolero Sun 26-Feb-12 18:35:46