Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - Phonics screening results could mean EAL pupils lose out

Fears have been raised that bilingual pupils will lose out on much needed support in English after scoring highly in the new phonics test - despite historically doing poorly later in primary school.

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 4 October

Phonics screening results could mean EAL pupils lose out


Fears have been raised that bilingual pupils will lose out on much needed support in English after scoring highly in the new phonics test – despite historically doing poorly later in primary school.

The phonics screening was introduced for the first time last term, with pupils in Year 1 asked to read a list of 40 words, 20 of which were made-up ‘nonsense’ words.

Results published last week showed that 58 per cent of pupils passed the test, with no difference in the pass rate between native English speakers and those who speak English as an additional language. All of the 235,000 children who failed to make the grade will receive additional support with their reading in Year 2.

But experts have raised concerns that the over-riding focus on phonics, championed by the current government, will mean that children who speak English as a second language will miss out on the help they need. While those pupils are as good as their classmates at sounding out words, they lack the wider comprehension needed to develop their literacy.

Nicola Davies, of Naldic www.naldic.org.uk, the subject association for English as an additional language, said their biggest concern was that schools may not realise that bilingual pupils still needed long-term support. “We will need to say explicitly to schools ‘don’t let this fool you - don’t forget that there’s more to reading than phonics’,” she said. “No-one is disputing that phonics is a good way to find out about words, but it is one part of the jigsaw. What we hope is that none of this means comprehension gets squashed out by phonics.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of heads’ union the NAHT www.naht.org.uk, aid that the issues surrounding EAL pupils showed that literacy was about more than ‘decoding’ words.

“The government is focused on only one half of pupils,” he said. “If children are weak at decoding, this test could reveal that. But comprehension is just as important and it shows nothing about that. Decoding is important but the most important thing is to like reading.”

For more on this story, see tomorrow’s TES magazine





Related resources


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