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readings levels and predictions for later success

(40 Posts)
sillybillies Fri 10-Jun-11 22:15:15

I'm new here and mainly started reading as was interested in reading levels etc. However, I teach at the other end of education, mainly post 16 A levels in biology and psychology. Having recently had a parents evening about my DD (she's in reception). Somehow it came up in my psychology lesson and we got off topic and starting discussing how well they had done in primary school. I was amazed at the variety of answers with couple of boys saying they struggled to learn to read (now getting C/B grades at A level) and others saying they were high fliers but now feel they were just average.

What made me concerned was one of the girls was clearly quite upset by the fact that she was top of the year in primary and struggling at A level. I must teach several students each year that were high fliers in year 7 but level off by A level and lose confidence.

I just wanted to bring this up as reading so many comments about reading levels of 4 and 5 year olds it makes me feel quite sad as clearly we all progress at our own rate and it is so important to keep that in mind. Now off to apply own theory to my own parenting and will from now on stop reading about reading levels!!

Wondered what some of you primary teachers thought about this?

Smum99 Sun 12-Jun-11 15:59:02

Interesting as I was having similar thoughts recently, my DCs have a large age range so I've seen their progress (as well as friends DCs). I do feel DCs can be coached in early years to perform well at primary school but when they start secondary school (& certainly with Alevels) their own motivation to learn seems to be to an important factor.Motivation to learn and enjoyment of learning plus a positive teaching environment seems to be important factors.

My DD who loved reading from the outset has continued to enjoy reading and learning. My other dd was less motivated but did well in primary school. She is perhaps brighter but is struggling in secondary school since she has to put in more effort for school work but would rather not.
So from my limited and non professional experience I think attitude to learning is a factor rather than attainments of reading levels in primary school.

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 16:21:56

Accounting for Early Learning AcE research - indicated that early success with reading in a very unreliable predictor of future success

cory Sun 12-Jun-11 18:15:33

I know several bright people who have only clicked with reading after a certain age- and then gone from the most basic reading to real books within a very short period of time. Dd was not reading at all by the end of Reception, but had read Vanity Fair before she left primary school. There was a moment when it just suddenly happened.

But in a climate where parents compare notes intensely during those early years it can be easy to assume that the child who is not reading at 5 is simply not very bright.

spanieleyes Sun 12-Jun-11 18:38:11

My youngest didn't read very much at all in Reception ( August birthday) and finished the year on the stage 2 books but only with a good deal of pushing and shoving! He suddenly decided in year 1 that he could read and off he went! Level 3 at KS1 and level 5 at KS2, 11 Grade A GCSE's and now on track for A/B at A level. He simply wasn't ready for reading until he felt like it but has never stopped reading since ( books are lined up 3 deep on his bookshelves which run the length of his bedroom from floor to ceiling!) I think children GENERALLY start reading when they are ready

Mashabell Sun 12-Jun-11 18:41:39

I am not a primary teacher but have been researching English spelling since 1995 and have recently been re-examining some of the stuff I've written about it. I have just finished reviewing a chapter on school starting age. It's a bit long, but perhaps u will find it interesting.

Greater pressure for an early start
In most of Europe the starting age for formal schooling is 6. In Finland, Estonia and Lithuania it is 7. In England children must start school by 5, but many are enrolled soon after their 4th birthday.

Because English literacy acquisition takes around two years longer than in most of Europe (Seymour et al, 2003), it makes logical sense to want to begin teaching children to read and write from a relatively young age. Nobody can learn much without acquiring at least basic literacy skills first. If English-speaking children started learning them at 6 or 7, as other Europeans do, they would begin their general education quite some time behind them.
There is also a great deal of evidence that the best English-speaking readers and spellers nearly all started learning to read early, around age 3.

Unfortunately many children do not become reading-ready until much later. But because of the knowledge that early readers tend to be better at all learning, many parents start to feel anxious if their children are lagging behind and succumb to the temptation to push them into reading before they are ready.

Our daughter first began to show a keen interest in learning to read at about 3½. With a little help from me and a few Ladybird ‘John and Jane’ books, she became fluent long before she turned 5. Teaching her to read put no strain or effort on her or us.

Our son, by contrast, was not even particularly fond of being read to until he was nearly 5. He much preferred to be left to play with his Lego, but I could not resist asking him from time to time if he would not like to try and start learning to read a little. Trying to teach him to read before he started school would have been traumatic for both him and us. At school, his reading progress was laborious, and in total contrast to his love of maths. He needed a great deal of patient help and cajoling at home, to keep trying. And although he eventually came to enjoy reading more than most, we were quite often anxious about his progress. We kept a close eye on it during his early school years. I have already mentioned that many parents express similar anxieties on Mumsnet nowadays.

Making children learn any skill before they are developmentally mature enough for it is generally accepted as a bad idea. But how long should you delay the start to learning a skill that is undoubtedly going to take a very long time master and is crucial for other learning? Quite a few people who are aware that Finland is consistently near the top in international educational league tables, yet does not begin formal schooling until 7, have suggested that English-speaking pupils may be doing less well because they start their education too early. But given the difficulties of English literacy acquisition, it would be foolish to restrain any child who is keen to embark on it at quite a young age. There has therefore been much debate about what the official school starting age for English-speaking children should be.

In the ‘Independent review of the teaching of early reading’, which was commissioned by the UK government and was published in 2006, Sir Jim Rose recommended that children should ideally start school after their 4th birthday and that the teaching of phonics (learning to sound out letters and common letter strings for reading and writing simple words using this knowledge) should begin as soon as possible after that. He did so on the grounds that: ‘An appropriate introduction to phonic work by the age of five enables our children to cover ground that many of their counterparts in countries whose language is much less complex phonetically do not have to cover”.

In other words, English-speaking children have to start learning to read and write earlier, because their road to literacy is much longer and bumpier, even though this is problematic for children whose reading-readiness develops more slowly. This may well be part of the reason why all English-speaking countries have a relatively long tail of educational underachievers. Children who can cope with English spelling inconsistencies from a young age go from strength to strength. Many of those who develop more slowly have a miserable start to their schooling, because they are often introduced to reading and writing before their abilities for literacy learning have fully develop. Such a premature start can do long-lasting harm.

It also has to be noted that starting to learn at least learning to read English from a young age is very helpful with learning to spell English too. Learning to write in a language in which at least 3700 common words have unpredictable spellings, such as ‘stole coal bowl’ or ‘blue shoe flew’ is a big challenge. It’s mainly a matter of learning what ‘looks right’. Becoming familiar with the look of quite a few words from a young age undoubtedly helps with embedding them in memory.

It may also be much easier to accept English spelling irregularities and just learn them if one is introduced to them before logical reasoning becomes fully developed. Because my first acquaintance with English spelling was when I was already 14, I found its lack of logic extremely annoying and constantly distracting. I have been unable to stop feeling cross about it to this day.

When a spelling system requires children ‘to cover ground that many of their counterparts ... do not have to cover”, pressure to start literacy learning early is quite inevitable. It makes it much more difficult to give children the sort of leisurely, relaxed childhood enjoyed by most Europeans, and which would be better for many English-speaking ones too. A relatively early start to formal schooling is but another of the many costs which the irregularities of English spelling dictate.

Should u enjoy reading this, u might like some of the other pieces on my blog englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com too.

Masha Bell

cory Sun 12-Jun-11 18:45:38

I see the point about English literacy acquisition; it makes sense put like that.

The only bit that strikes me as slightly unfair is how easily most Scandinavian children seem to manage the literacy bit of learning English once they take that up in junior school: the weird spelling does not seem to pose the same difficulties when you are approaching it as your second language. My English friends struggle far more with English spelling than I do, and strangely enough my English born dd also found it more difficult than I did at the same age, though it was a foreign language to me.

Perhaps we should teach our children to read in Italian or something instead.

Mashabell Sun 12-Jun-11 19:42:42

I did not begin to learn English until I was 14. Most L2 learners of English (at least European ones) have a good grasp of the alphabetic principle and phonics in their own language when they begin learning English. Small children who have to cope with the inconsistencies of English spelling when they first learn to read and write are in a much more bewildering and confusing situation, because they keep getting things wrong when they are trying to be logical (frend, sed, bruther..). This must be very intimidating for many of them.

L2 learners are also helped by the fact that teachers of English in other countries treat English spelling as something totally insane which u simply have to memorise. As an L2 learner, u also learn the pronunciation, meaning and spelling of each word as a total package, word by word.

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 20:10:45

What about "L2 learners" who have never learnt to read and write in their first language?

cory Sun 12-Jun-11 20:36:47

Then I would imagine it would be as difficult as it is for English children, mrz.

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 20:47:40

But the point is that it isn't difficult for the majority of English children cory and oddly enough not for many children learning to read and write when English isn't their first spoken language.

lulurose Sun 12-Jun-11 20:54:14

It is widely accepted that your EYFS 8/9 point scorers at the end of year R will be your level 3s at the end of KS1. These will then be your level 4/5s at end of KS2 and will go on to be your 5+ Grade A-C GCSE students at the end of 11. its harsh but that is generally how it is. The huge intervention programmes that are put in to boost Y6 levels muddy the water though. I teach R and DH is a Primary Head and does plenty of tracking to illustrate this.

sillybillies Sun 12-Jun-11 20:55:07

some great replies - very interesting. I agree with the fact that motivation is key to learning but I would add from my experience that confidence plays a large part as well. I remember a course many years ago about the fact that we should be encouraging children to be incremental learners.

English spelling is a nightmare and grammar irregularities not much better. I worked for 3 years in an international school in Italy and their approach to learning their own language was very different to how we learn English. I'd never considered before that an early start might be needed with the challenges of learning English and it seems a valid argument.

One last point is about the Scandinavian countries which are also quoted as starting formal education late. Although they do start the formal part late they are also well known for their excellent pre-school education (at least Sweden is) so is it not just the style of education in the early years that is different in these countries? I'm not sure, so if anybody has more info, a clarification of this would be nice.

SherbetDibDab Sun 12-Jun-11 20:57:14

That's really interesting MarshaBell, not thought about it like that before.

sillybillies Sun 12-Jun-11 21:05:51

hi Lulurose, read your post as I was writing mine. This is what I wondered in my original post. However it is those children who do really well right from the start and have always done well that sometimese fall down when they reach A levels. Its not that they lack ability but that A levels are the first real challenge that they've ever met and suddenly they're not top of the class but average. For many this throws them completely and they lose confidence. I find it most in girls who have always worked hard and tend to be neat and tidy. I think it lies in the way we praise them from a young age so they don't learn to cope with failure.

lulurose Sun 12-Jun-11 21:09:12

Its interesting, I guess with A levels some of he skill bases are very different and if moving onto college then students are less spoon fed and expected to read a round the subject. I thought girls were still outperforming boys at A level though?

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 21:11:34

Actually lulurose it isn't widely accepted

these quotes are from LEA and NAHT documents

Schools should continue to be extremely cautious about using EYFSP data to make firm predictions about children’s attainment at the end of KS1.
Much will depend upon variables in children’s development, expectations, differentiation and the quality of KS1 provision.

and

There is NO reliable statistical correlation between EYFS Profile attainment and NC KS1 at national level.

The message is therefore clear. No outside bodies should be applying undue and inappropriate pressure on schools with regards to EYFSP outcomes when discussing targets for later years` achievements or national curriculum test results

lulurose Sun 12-Jun-11 21:34:55

Mrz, will agree to disagree with you.

I never said anything about putting undue pressure on EYFS staff to get R children to point 8 or 9 either. Any good EYFS practitioner or Primary Head who understands child development would know that would be, at best unwise, at worst damaging.

There has been recent evidence to demonstrate this correlation.

sillybillies Sun 12-Jun-11 21:41:07

mrs - i was always under the impression for reading at least that there was no link between early reading and later success. So, we as parents shouldn't be worried either. I have no knowledge of EYFS.

Lulurose - yes, girls do on the whole outperform boys, I was just talking about a specific type of girl and its just my opinion of something I've noticed over the years. No data on it just an observation.

I suppose my post was my reflections on what I see in my job in particular the comments from the girl in my current A level class and how I deal with my Daughter's successes. It's how you effectively praise effort rather than just the achievement so that you encourage them to challenge themselves without be afraid of failure. Easier said than done.

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 21:44:31

lulurose that is the official line

and I didn't say anything about putting pressure on children or staff either
The two statements are quotes from official documents ...

Here is another

*Neither is it possible to make predictions about children’s future attainment
as there is no correlation between EYFS profile data and key stage 1 or 2 outcomes or national curriculum levels*.

which you will fin on page 3 of this document from the National Assessment Authority

orderline.qcda.gov.uk/gempdf/144590750X/Factsheet_FSP_QA_v6aWO.pdf

activate Sun 12-Jun-11 21:46:44

reading earlier than your peers when you are younger than 8 or 9 is no indicator of success, it's a developmental thing

reading levels mean little in KS1 apart from to their parents really - there's some odd upside down success related to early reading

none of my children have been particularly early readers but the secondary aged ones are succeeding well which I think comes from their ability to push themselves and not wait to be pushed by me

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 21:48:03

www.naht.org.uk/welcome/comment/key-topics/curriculum/foundation-stage-profile-and-target-setting/

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 21:50:36

www.naht.org.uk/welcome/comment/key-topics/assessment/foundation-stage-profile-and-target-setting/?locale=en

mrz Sun 12-Jun-11 21:52:00

Good Dispositions and attitudes to learning are regarded as the best indicators of future success activate

camicaze Sun 12-Jun-11 21:54:55

Its not entirely relevant to the thread (sorry) but on the subject of Scandinavia I read a fascinating study recently about pre-school maths standards. British children in Yr R (4yrs)were compared with children of the same age in Finland and Urban China, who aren't in school yet. The Finnish children (with no real maths input in pre-school which focuses on social skills) were 6 months ahead in maths compared with English children. Amusingly the Chinese children were 20 months ahead on average.
The survey said that the children might not be at school but there are very different assumptions in these countries about the normal amount of parental input, not formally in the Finnish case, but very significant in terms of progress for the children. It wasn't that Finnish parents believed in teaching their children , but that they didn't consider introducing children to maths as actually teaching them. Its bogus to argue that some countries don't begin schooling till later and thus presume the children are not being exposed to age appropriate learning.

Re A levels. i'm an A Level teacher and I think I've always presumed that those that start to under perform at A level were the sort whose understanding had not been strong but were able to get by with hard work for GCSE. I don't come across many of these though. Mostly I come across students with a pretty poor work ethic that are unstuck by A level because they can't get away with it any more. Generally they have been really spoon fed at GCSE which means they expect to be able to do well. My independent school seems to specialise in these types. Every year a few of them realise by A2 what is happening and sort themselves out - which is just so rewarding to see.

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