Year 1 Phonics Screening Check
Children in Year 1 in Primary School could soon be tested on their reading skills using a new Phonics Screening Check.
This is to make sure schools are using the Governments preferred method of teaching reading i.e. using a systematic method of teaching phonics - Letters and Sounds. 300 schools completed the test with six-year olds last summer, Govenment stats show that only 32% passed the test. This means that two-thirds of the primary school children tested failed! So does this mean that primary schools are failing our children and teachers are not teaching children properly?
Phonics Screening Check - Something to worry about?
The preferred method of teaching reading is by blending and segmenting the individual sounds in words. With this in mind the test includes non-words, the reason being that children should be able to decode the words by sounding out. My opinion is that this will create more confusion for the children, especially those with english as a second language. Children who are stronger readers are being encouraged to read nonsense words alongside real words - how confusing? Part of learning to read, is to read for understanding, not just for the sake of reading. As a teacher and parent you make asking children questions about what they have just read, as part of routine.
Many teachers will use a variety of methods to teach reading. Although the systematic teaching of phonics is important, I know many teachers who use picture cues, encourage children to learn words by sight (memorising key words) and use repetition of words and phrases, in conjunction with synthetic phonics.
The introduction of synthetic phonics has helped many children to read. As a primary school teacher, over the years I noticed a difference between those children that had been taught to read using synthetic phonics and those that hadn't. I believe children who have been systematically taught phonics are also better at spelling, when encountering an unknown word, thay are able to make a better guess as to how to spell or read it by sounding out and using their phonic knowledge.
So what do the Government stats say about the quality of phonics teaching?
In my opinion, stats aren't everything. It is the child's teacher and parents who really make a difference. If your child's teachers has a good understanding of how to teach reading and writing, and can use the appropriate methods according to the child's needs, then that child will do well. A parent that reads regularly with their child, takes the time to find out how their child is being taught in school and uses this to reinforce learning at home, will be contributing to their child's success.