Exclusive: DfE won't rule out 2021 autumn phonics check

Department remains silent on phonics plans following cancellation of primary assessments in 2020-21 academic year
11th January 2021, 6:42pm
Amy Gibbons

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Exclusive: DfE won't rule out 2021 autumn phonics check

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/exclusive-dfe-wont-rule-out-2021-autumn-phonics-check
Coronavirus: Will There Be A Phonics Screening Check In The Autumn In Primary Schools This Year?

The government has declined to rule out the possibility of holding another catch-up phonics check in the autumn term after the summer test was cancelled.

It was announced last week that all statutory primary assessments due to take place in the 2020-21 academic year, including the summer phonics check, would be scrapped following widespread school closures.

But it is unclear whether some of the tests could be postponed until later in the calendar year.

After the pandemic forced the cancellation of assessments last summer, schools were told to hold a past version of the phonics check in the autumn term for incoming Year 2 children who had missed the June test. In a normal year, pupils would sit the check at the end of Year 1.


Last year: Pupils to catch up on phonics test 'in autumn term'

Backlash: Outrage as teachers' pleas to scrap phonics test ignored

Phonics: Most teachers oppose 'pointless' autumn phonics check


Now the Department for Education has refused to rule out this arrangement being repeated.

The department would only tell Tes that more details will be released in due course.

Coronavirus: Autumn phonics check 'was a distraction'

The NEU teaching union said the government "should learn" from the experience of last year's autumn check "before they impose another one on schools".

Kevin Courtney, NEU joint general secretary, told Tes: "The 2021 check was a distraction for teachers, a source of stress for some children and a measure that did nothing to help schools re-engage their pupils with learning.

"Teachers want the DfE to pause for reflection and to consider what will really support schools in 2020-21, instead of reverting to a test-driven curriculum."

The 2020 catch-up test proved extremely controversial with school staff. The NAHT school leaders' union called for the autumn check to be scrapped, arguing that the test carried a "completely unnecessary bureaucratic burden" with "zero academic value". But the DfE would not budge on the plans.

And in November, research suggested that nearly three in four teachers were against the autumn catch-up check, with some voicing concerns that preparing for the test could be "delaying" pupils' learning.

More than two in five Year 2 teachers (43 per cent) believed the autumn check had caused pupils additional anxiety, while 82 per cent said it had added to their own stress levels, according to a report from the UCL Institute of Education.

And 68 per cent of teachers said delivering the test had "reduced the time spent on other literacy activities", with some suggesting there had been a focus on fluent readers "relearning to segment words".

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