Literacy Research Centre's response to the DfE's Year 1 Phonics Screening Check consultation

Date: 2 February 2011

The Literacy Research Group today responded to the Department for Education's e-consultation on its proposals for a Year 1 phonics screening check.

In summary, we argued that reading assessments should be focussed on authentic texts, rather than lists of single words and invented "non-words". The proposed 'phonics screening check' is not a valid test of children's reading: there is a real danger thatusing isolated skills as the sole index of progress leads to children failing to attend to the meaning of what they are reading. Children need to be engaged in the texts they read if they are to make real progress.

Policy makers should encourage headteachers to learn from the schools that are particularly successful in teaching children to read. By this we mean schools where children not only demonstrate a high degree of competence, but also show that they actually like reading and do plenty of it. Children who read more enter a virtuous cycle: they become even more competent at reading and develop larger vocabularies and a greater understanding of the world.

Studies of schools and classrooms where children are taught to read most effectively show consistently that high achieving classes are characterised by:

(a) a balanced approach in which attention to word recognition skills is matched by attention to comprehension;

(b) attention to individual children's literacy skills, experiences and interests through high quality interaction and close monitoring of individual progress;

(c) high levels of engagement in reading.

Parents and carers should be kept informed about their children's progress.The proposed expenditure on high-stakes testing would be better spent on identifying difficulties in reading, writing and speaking and making available professional support as appropriate to the needs of individual children.

We are aware some strange characters have appeared in our submission form as it appears on the web in the linked document and are trying to correct the problem for readers.

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Further information

Associated staff: , , Mary Hamilton

Associated departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Education, Literacy, Literacy learning, Reading