Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:17 pm

This news is a really important development with massive potential for informing teachers in Australia about their effectiveness in teaching phonics.

IFERI highly recommends global use of England's Year One Phonics Screening Check - or similar variant - to inform the teaching profession wherever English is taught for reading purposes.

Dr Jennifer Buckingham has written a report, Focus on Phonics, in which she highly recommends the use of England's Year One Phonics Check - or a modified version of the check.

See the report referenced in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia:

Back to basics phonics test to be rolled out in Australian schools


http://www.smh.com.au/national/educatio ... 123-gsvoxs

...and in the Australian Financial Review at:

Simon Birmingham backs phonics check for all Year 1 children


http://www.afr.com/news/policy/educatio ... 123-gsvl7x


Dr Jennifer Buckingham’s outstanding report, Focus on Phonics, published by the Centre for Independent Studies:

https://www.cis.org.au/app/uploads/2016/11/rr22.pdf

Dr Jennifer Buckingham is a member of IFERI's Advisory Group and you can read about some of her work here:

http://www.iferi.org/jennifer-buckingham/

And you can read about Jennifer's more recent pioneering work here:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=496
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:43 am

You can find Jennifer's report here via Australian Policy Online - and also further reports written by Jennifer and Dr Kerry Hempenstall:

http://apo.org.au/resource/focus-phonic ... ning-check

Focus on phonics: why Australia should adopt the year 1 phonics screening check

Research report no.22

Jennifer Buckingham

24 November 2016

Source: Centre for Independent Studies

In order to read proficiently, students need accurate and fluent word identification skills and adequate language comprehension. Put simply, they must be able to work out what the words on the page or screen are, and know what they mean.

The most effective way to develop accurate and fluent word identification is to learn the code of written English through being taught phonics - the relationships between sounds in speech and the letter patterns in written words - especially through an explicit teaching method called ‘systematic synthetic phonics’.

Literacy policies and programs in use in Australian schools do not consistently support effective teaching of phonics, and many teachers do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach in this way.

A Year 1 Phonics Screening Check would be an effective and cost-effective measure, which would demonstrate how well phonics is being taught across the country and in individual schools, and supply the impetus to drive improvements in teaching.
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:58 am

Jennifer's piece in The Australian:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion ... a1fb68761b

Five minutes of phonics to lift child literacy levels

JENNIFER BUCKINGHAM

The Australian
November 24, 2016

A simple five-minute process could detect at an early stage all those Australian schoolchildren who are at serious risk of struggling with reading skills — and how to help them.

To read proficiently, students need accurate and fluent word identification skills and adequate language comprehension. Put simply, they must be able to work out what the words on the page or screen are and know what they mean.

The most effective way to develop accurate and fluent word identification is to learn the code of written English through being taught phonics —―the relationships between sounds in speech and the letter patterns in written words in an explicit and systematic way. This is one of the best-established findings in educational research.

Unfortunately, literacy policies and programs in use in Australian schools do not consistently incorporate evidence-based, effective phonics instruction.

Numerous studies have shown many teachers do not have the necessary knowledge and skills to teach in this way, and there is low confidence among principals in the ability of graduate teachers to teach reading.

Documents produced by peak organisations such as the Australian Literacy Educators Association and the Primary English Teaching Association Australia show they do not support explicit, systematic phonics instruction.

It is difficult to explain precisely the resistance to such a well-proven method. However, it seems to stem from a combination of ideological attachment to social theories of literacy, a rejection of the primacy of scientific evidence on how children learn, and vested interests in entrenched reading programs.

Whatever the reason, the result is that among English-speaking countries, Australia has one of the largest proportions of children who do not achieve minimum standards in literacy by Year 4.

The only way to accurately determine whether children are learning the fundamental phonics skills they need for early acquisition of reading — before the achievement gaps become difficult to close — is to assess what they know at a critical early point in their schooling.



The Australian government proposed a phonics check for Year 1 students in its May budget. Education Minister Simon Birmingham has since reiterated the government’s intention to introduce the check in Australian schools.

There is a strong precedent for this policy. The British government introduced a Year 1 phonics screening check in primary schools in 2012. The proportion of students reaching the expected standard in the Year 1 phonics screening check has increased since its introduction from 58 per cent in 2012 to 81 per cent this year. The proportion of students failing to achieve the expected standard in Year 2 reading tests has fallen by one-third across the same period, from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. The literacy attainment gap associated with socioeconomic disadvantage has narrowed to the same degree.

The phonics screening check is not an exam. It is not high stakes and is not onerous for students or schools.

Several Australian schools voluntarily are using the British phonics screening check already to inform their teaching. The check takes five to seven minutes per student to administer by a teacher.

In Britain, overall results are reported at a national level. Individual school results are not pub­lished but are taken into consider­ation in school inspection reports.

The check comprises 40 items, all of which are phonetically decodable words. The check has two sections, each of which has 20 items progressing from easier to harder. There are 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words. Pseudo-words are included because pupils will not have encountered them before and therefore will not be able to read them as remembered “sight” words.

The British Year 1 phonics screening check could easily be adopted for use in Australian schools with some simple adaptations and improvements that would increase its positive impact without increasing its cost.

A Year 1 phonics screening check would be an effective and cost-effective measure to demonstrate how well phonics is being taught nationwide and in individual schools, and would drive improvements in teaching. At the student level, it would provide early identification of students who are struggling with this essential foundational reading skill and need intervention or further specialist assessment.

Jennifer Buckingham is a senior research fellow and director of the Five from Five reading project at the Centre for Independent Studies. Her report Focus on Phonics: Why Australia Should Adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is published today (http://www.cis.org.au).
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Nov 24, 2016 9:28 am

And without drawing a breath, the anti-phonics, anti-testing union personnel and academics begin to respond. This is in The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-n ... in-schools

Researchers warn against further use of phonics testing in schools

Centre for Independent Studies thinktank finds English model could ‘easily be adapted for use in Australian schools’

Dr Misty Adoniou of the University of Canberra says there is little evidence phonics testing is effective.

by Christopher Knaus

Thursday 24 November 2016

Researchers and teachers have warned against introducing additional phonics testing for Australian primary school students, saying it would duplicate existing tests and waste education funding.

Phonics testing assesses a student’s ability for fluent word identification and proper language comprehension.

It was introduced in 2012 in England, where year one students are shown 40 words – 20 real words, and 20 “pseudo-words” – which are then read aloud to the teacher.

The federal government announced its own plans for a phonics test in the May budget, and the Centre for Independent Studies thinktank released a paper on Thursday, which found the English model could “easily be adapted for use in Australian schools”.


Phonics method helps close attainment gap, study finds

Read more

Jennifer Buckingham, education research fellow at the centre, found England’s experience had proven successful, simultaneously boosting literacy standards and narrowing the attainment gap associated with socioeconomic disadvantage. “Literacy policies and programs in use in Australian schools do not consistently reflect the evidence on effective reading instruction, especially phonics,” she said.

“The only way to accurately determine whether children are learning the fundamental phonics skills needed for early acquisition of reading – before achievement gaps become difficult to close – is to assess what they know at a critical early point in their schooling.”

But the University of Canberra language and literacy expert Dr Misty Adoniou cast doubt on the plan on Thursday, describing phonics testing as unproven and the proposal as a “distraction”.

Adoniou said states and territories already had phonic testing in year one, making any new test an unnecessary duplication. “My first reaction is, instead of piling more tests on, why don’t we do more with the data we already have from the first year?” she said.

“If the government wanted to panic and put its money somewhere, I’d suggest they put it into year four and put it into deep comprehension.”

She said there was little evidence phonics testing was effective, citing the ACT as an example.

ACT schools achieved by far the highest scores in the country in the 2011 progress in international reading literacy study (Pirls), an international comparative assessment of year four students.

The territory’s median score was equal highest in the world, matching the world-leading scores achieved in Northern Ireland. But the ACT had no structured phonics testing in the years leading up to 2011.

“So we can’t correlate phonics program instruction with high scores in a reading comprehension test in year four,” Adoniou said.

The Australian Education Union has also voiced concern about the proposal. Correna Haythorpe, AEU president, said early testing of literacy was already in place in primary schools, and called for resources to instead be re-directed.

“An extra test is not necessary and will not make a difference to a child’s learning without the extra resources to help students who are behind,” she said. “This is simply a distraction to cover up the fact that minister Birmingham’s plan to cut Gonski funding after 2017 will make it less likely that students who are identified as struggling with literacy will get the support they need.”


IFERI committee member, Molly de Lemos, commented thus regarding the article in the Guardian:

... I would have expected a more balanced article from the Guardian.

The title of the article was I thought misleading (Researchers warn against further use of phonics testing in schools).

They then go on to quote Misty and AEU President, Correna Haythorpe as opposing the phonics test.

I am not aware of any recognised reading researcher who has expressed opposition to the use of the Phonics test in Australia.



If the people against the suggestions of objective phonics screening across the whole of Australia had properly read and digested Jennifer's report, they would realise they 'protest too much'. Jennifer addresses the issues in full in regard to the realities of phonics teaching in England, teachers' responses to the promotion of the check and the actual 'results' of increased uptake of phonics teaching in schools.

No reasonable person could argue with Jennifer's findings and recommendations. She has written a fantastic report.

IFERI committee member, Sir Jim Rose, responds to Jennifer's report:

I think this report is a triumph - have sent it in all directions! No doubt it will agitate the anti-phonics brigade over here but the opportunity it presents for countering their arguments is immense.


I would also like to add this point: Any teacher teaching foundational literacy should want to know about their teaching effectiveness in reading instruction. It is SO important. The same teachers teaching the same children can make a huge difference when they modify their practices to fully evidence-informed practices. If I was a teacher in any part of the world teaching English for reading and writing, I can categorically state that I would want to know what the most effective teachers 'do' and I would want to emulate that good practice to ensure that I've truly done my best for every child in my care.

I would not want to carry on teaching in 'ignorant bliss' - teaching my heart out, doing wonderful activities - which actually might be failing to fulfil the potential of each and every child.

We know from our experiences in England that the details of our teaching and learning activities can make a huge difference with regard to 'literacy for all'. This is a profoundly serious issue - and the advent of the statutory Year One Phonics Screening Check has really made a difference to RAISE AWARENESS of just what is possible. In the 2016 Year One Phonics Screening Check, in over 1,000 schools, 95 to 100% of the children reached or exceeded the official benchmark of words read successfully. This figure has risen year on year since 2012.
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Susan Godsland » Thu Nov 24, 2016 12:25 pm

Australian Financial Review:

http://www.afr.com/news/policy/educatio ... 123-gsvl7x

Simon Birmingham backs phonics check for all year 1 children

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has seized on a new research report to back the case for a literacy check on all year 1 school children to gauge their phonics skills.

The report from Centre for Independent Studies researcher Jennifer Buckingham says that a similar check in the UK has driven big improvements in the reading ability of students since it was introduced in 2012.

"The proportion of students reaching the expected standard in the year 1 phonics screening check in England increased from 58 per cent in 2012 to 81 per cent in 2016," Dr Buckingham said.

The Turnbull government announced in this year's budget that it would make the next round of school funding for the states dependent on introducing the phonics check in year 1.

Senator Birmingham will make the case to the states at a meeting with state and territory education ministers on December 16.

Dr Buckingham said the phonics screening check for year 1 children, which was easy to administer and took 5-7 minutes, was not a high-stakes test.

But it would enable early identification of students who were struggling with the essential reading skill of being able to sound out letters to form words.
Fundamental skills

She said such a check was the only way to determine whether children had mastered the fundamental phonics skills they needed before those who were struggling fell too far behind.

"Schools say they are providing effective phonics instruction but the only way we are going to know is to perform this check," Dr Buckingham said.

She said too many schools were still using the popular Reading Recovery program – which did not properly teach phonics – and which a recent NSW government study found was ineffective.

Senator Birmingham said the report, titled Focus on Phonics, backed the "evidence-based" school reforms that the government wanted to link to the new Commonwealth-state agreement on school funding.

He said the screening check was important because "you can intervene and you can fix that problem".

"We know that once a child reaches the age of eight, there are enormous challenges to turning that around and the learning gap only blows out further," he said.

Senator Birmingham has discussed with his UK counterpart how the phonics check works in Britain.

The UK phonics check has 40 words that children are asked to read. Twenty of the words are "pseudo-words" which can't be sight read. These are designed to test the childrens' skill at sounding out letters.
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Nov 24, 2016 11:43 pm

How about this for a fantastic 'snapshot' of Dr Jennifer Buckingham's report - just 2 sides long!

https://www.cis.org.au/app/uploads/2016 ... apshot.pdf

Research Report SNAPSHOT

Focus on Phonics:
Why Australia should adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check


Jennifer Buckingham
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Susan Godsland » Fri Nov 25, 2016 10:10 am

Excellent editorial today in The Australian re. the possible introduction of the PSC

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion ... ad5bd120e4

Australia is being urged to adopt a successful British test of phonics for early reading at school. The decoding of words enabled by phonics is obviously important, so who could object to such a proposal? Teacher unionist Maurie Mulheron, for one, because he says the idea reveals a lack of trust in teachers.

Well, uncritical trust in teachers — especially in teacher-training faculties — gave us the flat-earther’s “whole language” approach to reading. And in line with the demand of teachers unions for more money, Australia increased government school funding by $10 billion across the past 10 years with little improvement on national and global measures of educational attainment, and a decline in some areas.

This is an education system in which many early primary teachers do not grasp basic concepts of linguistics and principals have little confidence in the ability of graduate teachers to teach reading, as Centre for Independent Studies researcher Jennifer Buckingham pointed out in these pages yesterday. She recommends the British phonics check as a quick and cost-effective way to identify pupils struggling with reading before this deficit casts a long shadow over their learning. “It would be a ‘circuit-breaker’ policy that would demonstrate how well phonics is being taught across the country and in individual schools, and supply the impetus to drive improvements in teaching,” she says in her CIS report. She thinks phonics is “arguably the weakest component” in early reading at our schools.

Phonics and a Year 1 phonics check together make for a socially progressive policy. Phonics done well is especially beneficial for children who find reading difficult because they lack support and help at home. The same children are easily left behind if their difficulties are not picked up and remedied. There is an abundance of evidence confirming the importance to reading of phonics, which Dr Buckingham defines as “the ability to decode words using knowledge of the relationships between letters and sounds”. Confronted with hard data and sound social policy, the enemies of phonics stand on ideology (whole language mysticism) and authority (uncritical trust of teachers). Whatever the reason, effective phonics is not offered consistently across our schools, and our literacy standards are poor compared with other English-speaking countries. On an international measure known as PIRLS, for example, one in four Year 4 children in Australia failed to reach the minimum benchmark for proficiency in reading.

In 2012, Britain introduced its Year 1 phonics check for primary schools. This alerted teachers and parents to pupils needing more help. It dovetailed with pro-phonics reforms and grants to improve the teaching of phonics. This year, the proportion of British children reaching the benchmark in the Year 1 phonics check rose to 81 per cent, up from 58 per cent in 2012. The share of pupils failing to reach the standard expected in Year 2 reading tests fell from 15 per cent to 10 per cent in the same period. “The literacy attainment gap associated with socioeconomic disadvantage has narrowed to the same degree,” Dr Buckingham says.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has been briefed on the British experience and acknowledges the strong case made by Dr Buckingham for Australia to trial an adapted version of the British phonics check, followed by a national rollout if, as suspected, our results are found to be inadequate. The state of Australia’s schooling is too important to be taken on trust.
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Nov 25, 2016 10:30 pm

And in The Conversation, phonics detractor, Professor Misty Adoniou, writes to undermine the uptake of the phonics check! No surprises there as it is well known that Misty is challenges the promotion and value of phonics teaching:

A new phonics test is pointless – we shouldn’t waste precious money buying it from England


https://theconversation.com/a-new-phoni ... land-69355

Something I would like to comment upon in response to one point Misty made in her article above is the advent of children doing lots of practice of blending nonsense words because of their inclusion in the Year One Phonics Screening Check:

In some schools in England, literacy time is now spent learning how to read made-up words in order to do well on the test.


Whilst this enables children to apply their alphabetic code knowledge (the letter/s-sound correspondences they have learnt) and their 'sounding out and blending' skill (synthesising), it is nevertheless not a necessary activity as children can be supplied with 'cumulative' banks of real words (which match the code they have been taught) that enable them to both practise their code knowledge and blending skill at the same time as enriching their vocabulary (some of these words are like nonsense words for the children to decode in that they are not necessarily in the 'spoken' language of the children and then the teacher can teach them the meaning of these 'new' words).

There are phonics advocates like me who do not promote the use of nonsense words for children to blend routinely. This is not necessary practice although it is true many teachers provide nonsense words for decoding practice.

What I would also like to add is that clearly, in England, not all teachers are equally as effective at teaching all children phonics knowledge and skills - as shown very clearly by the advent of the Year One phonics check. Teachers need to aim for all their children reaching and, better still, exceeding the 'benchmark' of 32 out of 40 words correctly.

Part of my (day) job is observation of phonics lessons in early years and primary schools. From this, and from wider knowledge of the programmes and practices in England, I have created a graphic of not-untypical phonics provision in different contexts. What this graphic does is try to illustrate that whilst all teachers are very hard-working, they are not equally knowledgeable about the research on reading and the best phonics provision - and not all children get sufficient, or content-rich, phonics practice. Many teachers, too, continue to promote multi-cueing reading strategies (associate with 'whole language') whether directly by 'teaching' children to guess words in books from cues, or whether by default through giving the children reading scheme books to read independently which they cannot completely decode so they have to guess words just to get through the books.

So, yes, even in England we have some way to go with our phonics provision!

Here is my graphic to illustrate what I mean:

https://phonicsinternational.com/Simple ... chools.pdf

And here is IFERI's statement about the state of play of the 'type' of books children might be given to read when they are beginners:

http://www.iferi.org/wp-content/uploads ... oned-1.pdf
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:11 am

Professor Pamela Snow comments on why the phonics check is a good idea and on Professor Misty Adoniou's attitude to the suggestion of a phonics check in Australia:

Why is a Phonics Check a good idea in Australia?

This week, the Centre for Independent Studies released a report authored by Dr Jennifer Buckingham, arguing the case for a Phonics Check at the end of Year 1 in all Australian schools. The rationale behind this call lies in the underwhelming engagement of (a) states/territories and their education sectors and (b) Faculties of Education in taking seriously the recommendations of the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL). The reasons for this resistance are largely ideological and have been discussed elsewhere on this blog. If Australia was a high-performer with respect to literacy outcomes, then we would not be having this debate. We could all content ourselves with the knowledge that whatever it is that early year’s teachers are doing, it is working, so there is little need for us to interrogate their knowledge or practice. However that is not the case.


http://pamelasnow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/1 ... n.html?m=1

Pamela writes about Misty:

The importance of getting early instruction right, rather than applying costly band aids after the fact, when early instruction has not been optimal, as per Dr Misty Adoniou’s perplexing suggestion that rather than a Phonics Check, we should wait until failure is deeply entrenched at Year 4.


Do read Pamela's full post!
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Re: Dr Jennifer Buckingham: Focus on Phonics - a report recommending use of an annual phonics check

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:28 am

Alison Clarke of Spelfabet has also written about this hot topic - and addresses Misty Adoniou's concerns within the blog post. Alison describes why teachers should welcome the phonics check:

http://www.spelfabet.com.au/blog/

The UK Phonics Check could help reduce teacher workloads

There’s an article in yesterday’s Age newspaper about a proposal from literacy expert Dr Jennifer Buckingham for compulsory use of the UK Phonics check with Australian first grade children. Rather than trying to paraphrase it, I encourage you to read the proposal yourself, it’s in plain English and based on a behemoth of scientific evidence.

Any teacher, school or interested person can already use the UK Phonics Check. It’s quick, free, simple, downloadable and a useful assessment of early reading skills. Some Australian schools already use it. Click here for the 2016 version.

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