Pleasantly surprised by phonics test

18th March 2011 at 00:00

I read "Unions united in rejection of phonics test to 'screen' Y1 readers" with interest (18 February). When I first discussed the policy with other heads, many had reservations, in particular about whether it would be too time-consuming and whether it was useful to assess young children using nonsense words.

My school, Brookside Primary, is one of 16 schools involved in early trials of the materials, and we found that pupils responded really well. Most read through the list of 40 words - half real and half nonsense - in two or three minutes. The pupils thought the nonsense words were fun rather than confusing, and all understood the task easily.

The teachers involved in the trial were pleased that their own assessments were confirmed by the check, and they noticed areas to revisit with children in their class.

Of course, the ability to decode using phonics is not the only skill that underpins a child's development towards confident reading. But it is vital in their developing ability to read newly encountered words, including the many recently coined words and names that they will encounter in contemporary functional language.

Phonics is only one aspect of reading, and we want our children to love reading and enjoy books; to use context, pictures, comprehension and higher-level skills when they are reading. This is all part of our teaching and learning and we are clear that the phonics screening check gives us one part of the picture. I am confident that it can be a simple but helpful assessment for schools. I have certainly been pleasantly surprised.

Claire Axten, Headteacher, Brookside Primary School, Street, Somerset.

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