If there’s one thing The United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) never misses, it’s the opportunity to attack approaches to teaching all children to read and spell successfully and from the moment they enter school. Of course, I’m talking about good quality phonics approaches and, in particular, linguistic phonic approaches, such as Sounds-Write or Fiona Nevola’s Sound Reading System.
UKLA conducted a ‘survey’ on the phonics screening check and got 494 responses. The following, under the heading ‘Phonics Screening Check fails a generation of able readers’, is a summary of the results of that survey:
· The Phonics Screening Check is not fit for purpose
· The Phonics Screening Check impedes successful readers and has failed a cohort of the most fluent readers
· The Phonics Screening Check misidentifies pupils who are beyond this stage of development as readers and favours less developed/emergent readers
· The nonsense words were very confusing for children
· The Phonics Screening Check undermines pupils’ confidence as readers
· There are negative implications for relationships with parents
· There are implications for school organisation.
Not being a member of UKA, I can’t post a reply but here’s what I posted on a thread on the Reading Reform Foundation.
During the last year, we, at Sounds-Write, have trained over a thousand teaching practitioners. In that time we have not heard a single objection to the phonics screening check.
To take some of your alleged objections to the check:
Children are confused by nonsense words? As part of our programme of teaching children to read and spell, we have been using nonsense words for over ten years. Never has there been any suggestion that children are ‘confused’ by them. In fact, just the opposite is the case: mediated correctly, children think that nonsense words are fun, especially when teachers say that these words are words we haven’t yet met.
The check ‘impedes successful readers’ or fails ‘a cohort of the most fluent readers’? How anyone can arrive at this conclusion is beyond me. If a child cannot read simple words accurately, then they can’t read, much less read fluently! Fluent readers should be capable of reading every word in the check accurately. This objection sounds much more like special pleading on the part of those who advocate whole language and who fail to teach children to decode words correctly.
As for undermining children’s confidence as readers, when delivered appropriately, there is no reason why a child should have any inkling how they do on the check.
On any of our trainings, before the course starts, it is a rare occurrence to meet a single teacher who has a clear and explicit understanding of how the sounds of the language relate to the spellings of those sounds. Much less do they know how the English alphabet code is structured conceptually, nor do they know the skills necessary to be able to use that knowledge. Moreover, most head teachers are even less informed about how to teach reading and spelling than their early years teachers.
I would suggest that your survey – it’s hardly likely that teachers in favour of the check are going to be falling over themselves to respond! – is nothing other than a blatant attempt to attack and undermine the value of phonics teaching at what you consider to be its weakest link.