Phonics test ‘accurate but unnecessary’

The new phonics tests for six-year-olds in England is successfully identifying children who struggle to read, but is no more informative than existing teacher assessment, research suggests. This is from the BBC…

The research, by Oxford and York universities, also queried a screening test which had “no prescribed course of action” for pupils who were struggling.

The phonics check requires pupils to read aloud 40 real and made-up words.

Ministers said it identified those who needed further help learning to read.

The phonics screening check will be used for the second time in England’s schools later this month among pupils who are coming up to the end of Year 1.

The check was introduced in 2012 as a compulsory assessment, but has been controversial because it tests children’s ability to decode words using a single method, phonics, rather than their ability to read itself.

In a study of 300 pupils at eight primary schools in York, representing a cross-section of socio-economic groups, researchers measured pupils’ scores in the statutory phonics check against regular phonics progress checks (known as the six phonics phases) carried out routinely by teachers.

They also measured pupils’ phonics check scores against other standardised reading and spelling tests.

They concluded that while the government test was accurate in identifying children who were struggling, it offered no information that teacher assessment did not already provide.

Report author Professor Maggie Snowling from the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University and president of St John’s College said: “The phonics screening check is a based on sound principles, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the best way to check on progress.

“The new phonics check raises issues about costs and benefits of testing versus teachers being well trained to monitor children’s progress.”

More at:  Phonics test ‘accurate but unnecessary’

Does this research tally with your own experiences or would you disagree and suggest the phonics screening check does have a useful role? If so, what benefits does it offer? How do you think it could work more effectively or would you prefer just to see it dropped? 

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Categories: Primary.


  1. HeadteacherNunn

    SchoolsImprove phonics screening is time consuming and unnecessary, providing no more information than teacher assessment already in place

  2. StephenG41HR

    SchoolsImprove So all those teachers (and more importantly Headteachers) were right according to research. Didn’t stop it happening. Waste.

  3. ZCMRock

    “SchoolsImprove: From today: Phonics test ‘accurate but unnecessary’ ” The article hits the nail on the head – why are we doing this test?

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