Talk

Advanced search

The Phonics Test for 6 Year Olds

(194 Posts)
WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:13:24

Hello from me!

Just a little introduction, I am the Deputy Head of The Wroxham Primary, in Potters Bar. We are a one form entry Primary School with a Nursery. We work on the principle that our children are the most important part of the school and as a result, we include them in their learning. For example the children help work out where we are going to go with our topics and they select the challenge of work they feel confident with, which makes for a great learning environment and one where the children feel valued. The school has moved from Special Measures in 2003 to Outstanding in in 2006, where it has stayed ever since.

That is just a little bit of background information, now onto the main event! I emailed Rowan Davies, who suggested that I posted on here, so I hope that is ok?

As some of you know the Government has decided to bring in a new test for our six year olds in England, to check their phonic knowledge. We at our school and many other organisations (see list below) are against this idea, as it goes against everything that we believe in.

We feel that this test, which will be reported to OFSTED, will narrow the curriculum for the children in Nursery and Reception, as some schools will feel pressure to ensure that the children are ready for the test in Year 1. This is not a good thing as it will result in putting some of our children off reading, as not every child accesses reading through this method.

We have started a campaign, which is gathering momentum, with our base being readingshouldbefun.wordpress.com

On the Blog you will find lots of information about the test, in addition to this you will find a short video showing the real meaning of reading (which does include phonics, just not only phonics).

We would love to have the support of Mumsnet, as we know that you are key to our children's learning (we only have them 6 hours a day!).

I would be interested to hear from people and try to answer any of your questions. I will also direct some of the people who are backing the campaign to this site, as they have additional information to myself.

Below is a statement from The Cambridge Primary Review, which details their position, but I would like to emphasise that we do not have a problem with the teaching of phonics, just the fact that our 6 yr olds don't need to be tested, or have the data sent to OFSTED.

Thanks in advance

Roger Billing

One of the key recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, the most comprehensive research into English primary education for the last forty years, recommends that children should have an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum. Research evidence in this country and internationally shows that talking to and with young children is of great developmental importance. Telling stories, listening to stories and enjoying books is a vital part of learning throughout primary school. The following video clip shows that enjoying high quality literature at primary school is essential and that learning to read should be a varied and rewarding process.

Some of the Groups backing the Campaign

David Reedy – President, UKLA

John Coe – Chairman, National Association for Primary Education (NAPE)

Alison Peacock – National Network Leader for the Cambridge Primary Review (CPR)

John Hickman – Chair, National Association of Advisers for English (NAAE)

Russell Hobby – General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT)

Christine Blower – General Secretary, National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Professor Trisha Maynard – Chair of The Association for the Professional Development of Early Year Educators (TACTYC)

Bill Goodhand – Chair of The National Association for Small Schools (NASS)

moondog Sat 25-Jun-11 18:15:44

Hello from me too!
In view of your interest in answering questions, can you elaborate on this?

'We at our school and many other organisations (see list below) are against this idea, as it goes against everything that we believe in.'

How so?
Where is your evidence to back up your belief?

meditrina Sat 25-Jun-11 18:23:35

This has already been discussed quite extensively on MN when the White Paer came out look here.

The sort of testing proposed is pretty much what good teachers do anyway, and I really cannot see why anyone would need to "teach to the test" for it, nor how it would necessarily impinge on the love of reading.

Then again, perhaps I've just been lucky with all the teachers who my DCs have had in their early years.

LovetheHarp Sat 25-Jun-11 18:25:23

I am sorry but I would need more information too.

So many children are leaving schools without the basics that this seems a good way to encourage all children to learn them aged 6. I wouldn't mind if the test was age 7 if you think 6 is too young. Or even 8 - but why against the principle of it? Not quite sure I understand really.

Mum2be79 Sat 25-Jun-11 18:26:13

I'm a teacher in Yorkshire and totally agree. I teach Y1. Our new head has introduced a new home reading scheme. Whereas books are 'book banded', the children are allowed to select books that may be too easy to read or too difficult and maybe need an adult to read to them. The focus is not on the teaching of reading 9that's done at school) but encouraging children to ENJOY reading. Phonics learning will only come when the children are intrigued by books and WANT to read. Another test like this will only put children off and make it seem like a chore.

blackeyedsusan Sat 25-Jun-11 18:27:10

a phonics test a t age six is good idea.... if it wsn't being used by anyone except the teachers... I think youi are probably right, it is going to led to teaching to the test unless someone keeps aa very careful eye on it...

WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:29:57

One of the main things we have seen in Education over the last few years is a disengaged Year 6 children, as a result of the pressure involved in meeting the standards assessed by Key Stage 2 SATS. We know of many schools who spend the whole of Year 6 and even some of Year 5, drilling the the areas covered in the Maths and English SATS papers. These schools go to the extent of completing past papers every week, to get the children ready. This concept leads to a narrowed curriculum, disengaged children and an unfair record of their overall ability as if you complete paper after paper, you will find the real test easier, but you won't have actually learnt anything new.

The children at our school achieve very highly in the Key Stage 2 SATS, but we do not drill them with past papers, we involve them in a varied and engaging curriculum and all of our children enjoy school and have great levels of self belief and confidence.

This is just a very small explanation, but I can assure you that I will be sending over many other people to help back up the campaign, as we really do feel that this could be another bad decision.

Thanks for the welcome and question. smile

moondog Sat 25-Jun-11 18:30:57

I am interested in more than opinion.
I need some evidence.

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 18:32:57

One of the key recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, the most comprehensive research into English primary education for the last forty years, recommends that children should have an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum. Research evidence in this country and internationally shows that talking to and with young children is of great developmental importance. Telling stories, listening to stories and enjoying books is a vital part of learning throughout primary school.

Are you suggesting that this would not be a normal part of the experience in a school following a phonics programme?

WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:33:01

Thank you for the messages so far. As some of you have said, this information is already gathered by the class teacher, not in a test form, but by observations, discussion, reading on a one to one level and many other more formal methods. This test, which comes with matched funding for the Government's agreed phonics resources, is not needed. We are more than happy for extra training to be provided at teacher training level and for schools who see it as a priority.

WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:35:19

Are you suggesting that this would not be a normal part of the experience in a school following a phonics programme?

Our school uses phonics, the risk is that with the Government providing matched funding, only for the resources it believes to be of value, some schools will adopt a phonics only method, which will not allow the broad balanced curriculum.

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 18:35:40

The test will take a few minutes of 1-1 reading ...

meditrina Sat 25-Jun-11 18:38:27

The matched funding interests me.

Presumably this means that the Government is gathering standardised data, so that, on the basis of current evidence, schools with lower outcomes can be given more resources to improve literacy in the 6+ age group (ie post-test)?

Sounds a sensible way to go about targeting resources.

Feenie Sat 25-Jun-11 18:39:18

I can't see that schools will ditch the rest of the reading curriculum to teach to the phonics test.

Good phonics teaching takes 15- 20 minutes a day.

This isn't the same situation as the KS2 tests, although I see exactly why you are worried it could be.

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 18:39:22

Sorry but where does the idea that phonics reading instruction excludes talking, telling stories, listening to stories or enjoying high quality story books come from?

WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:44:16

The main worry is that with a test that is testing some real words and some pretend words, the teaching will be directed towards that, with the chance of missing out on some of the other areas of reading.

Again to emphasise, we don't disagree with the teaching of phonics, on the basis that it is part of the teaching of reading, not the only part. Children need phonics, but we all know of children who love reading and learn to read without a high input of phonics.

WroxhamSchool Sat 25-Jun-11 18:45:24

The matched funding interests me.

Presumably this means that the Government is gathering standardised data, so that, on the basis of current evidence, schools with lower outcomes can be given more resources to improve literacy in the 6+ age group (ie post-test)?

Sounds a sensible way to go about targeting resources.

No, the Government will match funding from any school, but only for the resources that they believe to be the best, which is not always the case.

Feenie Sat 25-Jun-11 18:48:05

confused at your assumption that schools will abandon all teaching of reading to concentrate on phonics only, that's ridiculous - and fairly impossible. Any teacher trying it would be bored silly themselves after a day.

I know of more children who didn't learn to read because they were denied good teaching of phonics. And what is 'high input'? It only needs 15 -20 minutes each day.

meditrina Sat 25-Jun-11 18:48:09

Maybe the campaign energies would be better directed at offering training to support and improve those teachers who would seek to short cut by "teaching to the test" the rounded standards that so many of their peers already reach?

veritythebrave Sat 25-Jun-11 18:49:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 18:55:35

Just to get this clear ... you are saying the "test" at the end of Y1 will lead to schools teaching to the test to the exclusion of other literacy/language experience? Could you explain how that idea will effect the KS1 SATs where comprehension is the focus of the reading test? It wouldn't work would it?

CPRnet Sat 25-Jun-11 19:00:10

Ofsted are currently reviewing their inspection framework to include a rigorous assessment of the school's skill in teaching reading through the use of synthetic phonics. They also propose asking children to come out of class during the inspection to read with them. The phonics check for all 6 year olds is an unnecessary burden on children and is not really a test of them at all but a test of the school's capacity to teach reading effectively. Ofsted provides a strong accountability agenda and the resources that will be deployed for a country wide test would be better deployed on high quality reading materials in schools at a time when many cannot even afford to renew their membership of the schools library service.

CPRnet Sat 25-Jun-11 19:08:31

The Times Educational Supplement 24.6.11 reported: 'In 2009, education secretary Michael Gove told the Royal Society for the Arts: "We will replace the KS1 tests with a simple reading test at the end of the second year of primary so that parents know whether their child has been taught to read properly or not" It would appear that the proposed phonics check aims to monitor quality of teaching rather than children's performance. The proposed test is not a test of reading as it includes 20 words and 20 non-words. It is a test of decoding. Unfortunately, the English language is highly complex and simple sounding out of decoding does not work for many words. Try it!

mrz Sat 25-Jun-11 19:12:12

As I understand the Y1 test is currently undergoing a pilot study. I for one will be interested in how these have been managed in the schools concerned.

Feenie Sat 25-Jun-11 19:13:14

Ofgs, here we go. Simple sounding out doesn't work, no. You're thinking of using single sounds. But when you arm children with the full code of 44 phonemes, they are very successful at decoding by Year 1. The English language is mostly decodeable - if someone bothers to teach the children the code.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now