England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Feb 03, 2017 10:28 am

The link below goes to a TES (Times Educational Supplement) piece - 'breaking news' - of the Department for Education dropping the idea of a Year 3 re-take of the Year One Phonics Screening Check following a pilot in 300 primary schools.

If you want any evidence of how incredibly lacking in knowledge and understanding so many members of our teaching profession demonstrate regarding the nature of reading and the scientific findings underpinning reading instruction, then skim through the many 'readers' comments' section.

The vast majority of the responses are shocking and utterly dismaying.

Within one day, there were over 200 comments - that vast majority gleeful and scornful about the abandonment of the check for Year 3 children who have previously failed to reach the benchmark of 32 out of 40 words read or decoded correctly or plausibly.

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/br ... ds-dropped

Phonics resits plan for seven and eight-year-olds dropped

Adi Bloom
2nd February 2017

The Department for Education says that it will not proceed any further with the idea of Year 3 pupils retaking phonics tests, after a trial found that nearly half failed for a third time
The government has abandoned the idea of Year 3 pupils retaking phonics screening tests.


As TES reported earlier today, a Department for Education pilot project, published today, revealed that almost half of seven and eight-year-olds who had twice failed the phonics check did not meet the standard on the second retake.

And more than a third of teachers said that repeating the test again at the end of Year 3 – two years after it was first taken – had no positive impact on their teaching of phonics.

'It doesn't deliver for pupils'

Now the DfE has confirmed that it will be dropping plans to allow for a second retake of the test. A spokesperson told TES: “[The pilot] was a small-scale piece of work looking at the impact of phonics check retakes in Year 3. On balance, we have decided not to proceed with it any further. They are not going to go ahead.”

The NAHT heads' union has welcomed this decision. Russell Hobby, general secretary, said: “The government has seen what many professionals have been saying: retaking phonics screening adds to workload and does not deliver for pupils.

“The government is often attracted to retakes and resits, when, in fact, a different approach to teaching is needed.”
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Feb 03, 2017 10:38 am

Let's spare a few moments to consider this scenario:

First of all, the report on the pilot is very short and easy to read - but, as yet, I haven't been able to find any more details/specifics about the pilot including, for example, any description or analysis of the intervention practices in the 300 schools - nor indeed any information about the First-time teaching for phonics and reading instruction in these schools.

So - if there are so many schools with Year 3 children who have apparently had systematic synthetic phonics provision since Reception (therefore, for four years) but who have not yet managed to reach the 32 out of 40 benchmark of words that are generally not challenging, shouldn't those in authority be looking closely at the reading instruction and what it actually 'looks like' in those schools?

It is noted in the report that many of the Year 3 children in the pilot were not identified as 'special needs' within the schools.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publicati ... -at-year-3

Key findings

• Of the 1,625 year 3 pupils who took part in the year 3 Phonics Screening Check pilot, 51% met the expected standard.

• 59% of pupils who took part in the pilot with a first language other than English met the expected standard.
• 39% of pupils with special educational needs support or statement met the expected standard, compared with 65% of pupils with no special educational needs.

Table 1 provides more information on pass rates and pupil characteristics.
Table 2 provides a summary of the answers given in the teacher questionnaire


My impression is that the questionnaire for the pilot included very general questions - not specific about programmes and practices used for both the mainstream and intervention teaching.

We need to link this scenario with other details we can glean from reading instruction in schools in England. What, for example, does 'systematic synthetic phonics' provision 'look like' across different schools?

Although my personal observations and analysis of what provision 'looks like' is inevitably a tiny sample, nevertheless, I have been able to draw some conclusions first hand - and I can couple these with information from video footage, forums, experiences colleagues have also reported - so a somewhat 'collective' analysis.

From my observations, then, I was able to draw up the graphic below:

The Simple View of Schools' Phonics Provision:

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

If you look at the graphic, you will see that phonics provision is not at all uniform or consistent (not only from school to school, but also in some cases from class to class, or teacher to teacher). You will also note that many schools still persist with the multi-cueing reading strategies which amount to such practices as 'guessing' unknown printed words from picture, context, initial letters, word shape, reading on..and going back - all of which have been flagged up as damaging practices for beginner readers. Multi-cueing for making meaning is entirely different from multi-cueing to guess the actual words. Mixing phonics provision with multi-cueing for guessing the printed words does not amount to the research-informed 'systematic synthetic phonics teaching principles'.

I have noted these characteristics of practice in my own work - so surely the Department for Education with cooperation from Ofsted could have noted the content, method and quality of reading instruction in a more thorough way.

Further, I have now established a blog of my own focused very much on 'intervention' and accountability. I write about, and provide evidence of, the very parlous state of the type of whole language guidance which still persists from many schools and from many literacy and intervention organisations - including in England.

This surely raises further questions about the nature, content and quality of intervention received by Year 3 children in England?

Again, I have seen first hand in my consultancy work that slower-to-learn children are often sent off to interventions which do not fit in with the description of 'First-time' teaching as described and expected according to the National Curriculum for English in our primary schools. Sometimes these interventions are simply computer-based word work - not necessarily the same skills practice as First-time phonics teaching - and sometimes the interventions are mixed methods or whole language - and sometimes they are phonics-based but, again, not in line with the First-time phonics provision and skills practice. There is a lack of, or total absence of, paper-based practice - with impoverished content at best.

I write about this issue here:

https://phonicsintervention.org/2017/01 ... ds-advice/

If you glance at my blog post above, you will note that I also mention guidance for parents or carers. This is often multi-cueing guessing strategies, perhaps with some phonics in the mix, but it is generally patronising - and certainly not the kind of guidance you would want to give to parents of Year 3 strugglers with the aspiration of working in partnership with parents.

This whole scenario should flag up serious worries to those in authority.

We clearly have many Year 3 children, and older, who require the highest quality, richest content of systematic synthetic phonics provision (and of course, additional language comprehension and literature work) so what will be the steer from authority going forwards for such children?

I write a damning critique of the Education Endowment Foundation's description of 'Phonics' here which, again, provides evidence of the very, very parlous state of knowledge and understanding of reading instruction that prevails to this day - even in England:

https://phonicsintervention.org/2017/01 ... -projects/
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Feb 03, 2017 11:21 am

Now let's take a look at the reporting of this event in the TES:

I've emboldened and coloured red a key message that comes through on this piece - and which reflects questions including in the questionnaire (see quote below).

The thrust of this TES piece reporting on the withdrawal of the Year 3 phonics check, then, suggests that it has made no difference to the provision of phonics teaching for the children themselves: 'It doesn't deliver for pupils'.

Does this suggest that the test itself was intended to improve phonics provision for these children - or measure their decoding capability?

Was it really intended to focus teachers' minds and practices on improving the children's phonics knowledge and skills?

If so, for many teachers the advent of the check clearly made no impact. For others, they did look to increase the time-scale of their provision, or change their programme, or seek additional training (although, not that many).

This suggests that teachers may well have attributed all the reading difficulties of the children to 'within child' issues and not to 'teaching provision' issues.

This is the worry of IFERI and others...the 'within child' explanation.

It is not to say that children don't have individual 'within child' challenges and learning difficulties (of course they do) - but it is to say we worry when these become the sole focus of 'why' the children are struggling to the extent that they are. Add to this the pernicious idea that 'some children need something else because they've already had phonics' and 'phonics doesn't work for all children' and we have an extremely worrying state of affairs in our schools. The EEF 'Phonics' description shows how pervasive the 'Phonics hasn't worked this far so do something else' myth abounds.

I am suggesting, then, that it is high-time 'someone' took a very close look at both the overall picture of phonics provision in our infant and primary schools and a very detailed look and analysis of exactly what is going on in our primary schools.

How can it be that over a thousand schools in England in 2016 managed to achieve virtually 100% of their Year One pupils reaching or exceeding the 32 out of 40 benchmark of the same check? Is it mere coincidence or the methods/content/provision of these schools? Is it something in the local water?

We also need to have 'someone' take a very close look at what is going on in the bigger picture of initial teacher-training and Continuing Professional Development. The TES 'readers' comments' provide some evidence of the parlous state of professional knowledge and understanding. We need a forensic look at what is going on for the sake of all those children and the teaching profession itself. For the children, being able to read is serious life-chance stuff - and that is not an exaggeration.

Phonics resits plan for seven and eight-year-olds dropped

Adi Bloom
2nd February 2017

The Department for Education says that it will not proceed any further with the idea of Year 3 pupils retaking phonics tests, after a trial found that nearly half failed for a third time
The government has abandoned the idea of Year 3 pupils retaking phonics screening tests.


As TES reported earlier today, a Department for Education pilot project, published today, revealed that almost half of seven and eight-year-olds who had twice failed the phonics check did not meet the standard on the second retake.

And more than a third of teachers said that repeating the test again at the end of Year 3 – two years after it was first taken – had no positive impact on their teaching of phonics.

'It doesn't deliver for pupils'

So, the Department for Education - What ARE you going to do about all the remaining children who struggle to read in our schools? What ARE you going to do about the prevailing professional lack of knowledge and understanding and weak reading instruction practices, and flawed guidance, that still abounds?

Now the DfE has confirmed that it will be dropping plans to allow for a second retake of the test. A spokesperson told TES: “[The pilot] was a small-scale piece of work looking at the impact of phonics check retakes in Year 3. On balance, we have decided not to proceed with it any further. They are not going to go ahead.”

The NAHT heads' union has welcomed this decision. Russell Hobby, general secretary, said: “The government has seen what many professionals have been saying: retaking phonics screening adds to workload and does not deliver for pupils.

“The government is often attracted to retakes and resits, when, in fact, a different approach to teaching is needed.”
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Feb 03, 2017 11:38 am

The NAHT heads' union has welcomed this decision. Russell Hobby, general secretary, said: “The government has seen what many professionals have been saying: retaking phonics screening adds to workload and does not deliver for pupils.

“The government is often attracted to retakes and resits, when, in fact, a different approach to teaching is needed.”


And what exactly does Russell Hobby mean when he says, '...a different approach to teaching is needed'?

Of course I, too, am suggesting that there may well indeed need to be a 'different approach' in schools where Year 3 children cannot yet decode to the level of expectation of Year 1 children.

But my understanding of such a 'different approach' is focused on the forensic look at what is happening in such schools for both initial mainstream reading instruction and any additional intervention provision.

Would we be surprised to learn that Russell Hobby might actually mean 'something different from phonics'?

We should clarify. Perhaps I'll try to contact him.
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Feb 04, 2017 12:14 pm

Ive now tried to contact Russell Hobby to see what he meant in his response to the withdrawal of the Y3 phonics check.

Meanwhile, this topic has been highlighted in Nursery World:

http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-w ... eck-retake
Dick Schutz

Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Dick Schutz » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:37 pm

Yikes! The DfE and NFER should be commended for publishing the results of the Pilot Study, but beyond that, what in the world were they not thinking?

Given the Government commitment to teaching all kids to read, a Yr 3 resit is a no-brainer that doesn't require any pilot test. And any inquiry that doesn't ask anything about the instruction the kids received is RT? rather than Response to Instruction.

The inquiry should be instructive to those who have a blind confidence in "Evidence." Half the Yr 3 resit kids still can't read 32 of the 40 words on the Check. One would think that would be alarming. The schools report that they have done little or nothing to change what they are doing. One would think that would be informative. But wrong on both counts! NFER draws no conclusions, DfE decides to drop Yr 3 resits, TES cheers. Only in EdLand would this happen.
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Feb 04, 2017 6:01 pm

Dick, you wrote:

Yikes! The DfE and NFER should be commended for publishing the results of the Pilot Study, but beyond that, what in the world were they not thinking?

Given the Government commitment to teaching all kids to read, a Yr 3 resit is a no-brainer that doesn't require any pilot test.

And any inquiry that doesn't ask anything about the instruction the kids received is RT? rather than Response to Instruction.

The inquiry should be instructive to those who have a blind confidence in "Evidence."

Half the Yr 3 resit kids still can't read 32 of the 40 words on the Check. One would think that would be alarming.

The schools report that they have done little or nothing to change what they are doing. One would think that would be informative.

But wrong on both counts! NFER draws no conclusions, DfE decides to drop Yr 3 resits, TES cheers.

Only in EdLand would this happen
.


PRECISELY!
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sun Feb 05, 2017 1:43 pm

And here we have the same story in Education Business with the same quote from Russell Hobby:

http://www.educationbusinessuk.net/news ... s-scrapped

Phonics test resit for Year 3 pupils scrapped


It seems to me that these are all empty snippets as there are no questions asked about 'why' are these Year 3 children failing to learn and 'what' are the schools and the government going to do about it.
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:06 pm

Here is an important blog post via the Scenes from the Battleground blog. It is well known and someone has called upon it yet again with regard to the anti-phonics-check folk in Australia.

The point here is that Russell Hobby's name pops up again - as a signatory of an 'anti-phonics-check' open letter back in 2012!

https://teachingbattleground.wordpress. ... scredited/

Blogger Andrew Old writes:

Update 2/4/2015:

I was perhaps a bit naive with this post. I didn’t guess that the general response for phonics denialists would be to claim that everybody already knew that performance in the phonics screening check would be closely correlated to reading ability and effectively deny that any of the claims above (except perhaps for the claim that teacher assessment would be more accurate) had ever been an issue. So just in case there is any doubt that people claimed that the phonics check would cause problems for those who could read and would tell us nothing about reading ability, here’s a link to a letter opposing the phonics check from June 2012.

Please note it contains the following claims:

*we [don’t] believe that this will help parents know how well their children are learning to read…

*They will not show whether a child can understand the words they are reading, nor provide teachers with any information about children’s reading ability they did not already know…

*The use of made-up words …. risks … frustrate [sic] those who can already read

*…using unrealistic, arbitrary benchmarks in the checks plucked out of the air is of benefit to no one.

The signatories included:

Mary Bousted (General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers)
Russell Hobby (General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers)
Christine Blower (General secretary, National Union of Teachers)
David Reedy (United Kingdom Literacy Association)
It also included Stephen Twigg and Lisa Nandy who were both Labour frontbench education spokespeople and the prominent anti-phonics activist Michael Rosen.

This was not some fringe group. These were the loudest enemies of the phonics screening check. And they were all utterly wrong.

Anybody know if any of them have acknowledged this?


In other words, it is looking highly likely that Russell Hobby is no specialist in evidence-informed reading instruction as he seems to have no idea about the importance of phonics screening checks (useful for multiple reasons) - nor, presumably, the importance of looking into what teachers provide for our weaker readers and why they continue to struggle.

I've now tweeted both Education Secretary of State, Justine Greening, and Russell Hobby about this matter.
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Re: England: Y3 phonics check resit dropped by government

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:16 pm

For interest, here is the piece in The Guardian which reported on the collective letter by influential people back in 2012:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2 ... ve-reading

Phonics checks will not improve reading

We urge the government to think again about pushing ahead with phonics checks for six-year-olds (Report, 11 June). We do not believe this is the best way to improve literacy in schools. Nor do we believe that this will help parents know how well their children are learning to read. Our objections are not about using phonics when teaching children to read, provided the government doesn't insist it is the only method used, but about the checks themselves.

They will not show whether a child can understand the words they are reading, nor provide teachers with any information about children's reading ability they did not already know. The use of made-up words – like snemp, osk, jound – risks confusing children for whom English is a second language and those with special educational needs, and frustrate those who can already read. And using unrealistic, arbitrary benchmarks in the checks plucked out of the air is of benefit to no one.

Many of those working in primary education fear that these tests could undermine rather than benefit children's progress and development.

Mary Bousted General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Russell Hobby General secretary, National Association of Head Teachers, Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers, David Reedy United Kingdom Literacy Association, Stephen Twigg MP Shadow secretary of state for education, Lisa Nandy MP Shadow children's minister, Pat Glass MP Education select committee, Ian Mearns MP Education select committee, Annette Brooke MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Michael Rosen Children's author, Alan Gibbons Children's author


I'm sorry to say but people who speak up against phonics and screening for progress in phonics are working AGAINST raising literacy levels for all - even if inadvertently.

Again - for interest - here is my response to David Reedy, representative of the United Kingdom Literacy Association, regarding the advent of phonics screening:

https://phonicsinternational.com/reedy_response.pdf

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