The Phonics Screening Check

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chew8
Posts: 4187
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

The Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Tue Dec 29, 2020 12:57 pm

Susan Godsland has recently tweeted about the plateauing of Year 1 Phonics Screening Check (PSC) results in England. It’s tempting to think that if more schools were using certain programmes, results would improve dramatically, but some investigations I’ve done over the past couple of weeks make me wonder.

I started by googling all primary schools in Surrey (my own county) to see if they provided information on programmes used and PSC results. Schools don’t have to report these results, and the number which did so was well below the number which named the programmes they used. Some gave only the most recent results (2019) and some gave as many as 6 years’ worth, but I included only 2017-19 results, as that gave me an average national pass-rate of 82% to work on.

I focused on all-through Surrey primaries rather than on infant schools (of which there aren’t many), as I was also interested in Key Stage 2 results, which are easily available on the government ‘Find and compare schools’ site. As Geraldine Carter has found, excellent PSC results don’t always translate into excellent longer-term results, though one has to allow for the likelihood that the children finishing KS2 in a school will not be exactly the same as those who finished KS1 4 years earlier.

Most of the 177 Surrey primaries provided at least some info. on programmes used: Letters and Sounds (L and S) was most frequently mentioned in first position (sometimes in combination with resources from other programmes), then Read Write Inc. (RWI) in much lower numbers. Just 4 schools mentioned JolIy Phonics (JP) as the only programme used, but many others (notably L and S schools) mentioned it in a supplementary role. That led me to calculate L and S PSC results in two ways: 1. for schools which mentioned no other resources and 2. for all schools which named it in first position, even if they also mentioned JP or other resources which might have boosted the phonics teaching. The PSC average was the same in both cases.

Sounds Write (SW) was used in just 2 schools out of the 177, and neither mentioned PSC results. Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters (FP), although mentioned by several schools in a supplementary role, was not named in first position by any. I therefore did further googling to find non-Surrey schools which used these two programmes and JP. Googling the name of the programme produced a lot of promotional stuff, but also, if I scrolled down enough, names of schools using the programme. I then googled each school to see if it used the programme as its main one and also provided PSC results – I made a note of results for the first 10+ schools that met those criteria. Those were the only criteria for inclusion, so I did no cherry-picking. As with the Surrey schools, I included only all-through primaries.

JP came out with the highest average PSC pass-rate, at 87%. This may be because the great child-friendliness of JP shows particularly strongly at infant level. The other four programmes all had an average pass-rate of 84%, give or take the odd few tenths of a percent, and each, as well as JP, had years in which the pass-rate was well below the national average and years in which it was well above. The SW picture is particularly interesting: if it’s still the case that schools have to undergo the training in order to acquire the programme, then there is less likelihood that liberties are being taken with this programme than with others, and yet the average PSC pass-rate in the SW schools I was able to find was the same as in L and S, RWI and FP schools.

This is offered as food for thought rather than as a proper scientific analysis. I don’t know how typical my figures are, but others can make their own checks in the way I’ve done, especially if they know of lots of schools using a particular programme. It’s very time-consuming, but the information I've relied on is all in the public domain.

Jenny C.

geraldinecarter
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Re: The Phonics Screening Check

Post by geraldinecarter » Tue Dec 29, 2020 3:34 pm

Sorry - I've just posted the following response on another post. Apoloiges.

Thanks, Jenny. It is time-consuming and of course the journey between PSC and KS2 should be treated with a little caution. Also KS2 reading success does require schools that focus on high quality, wide-ranging reading as early as feasible (broad knowledge/habit of reading is v. important)- and enthusiasm is driven from the top. This is the fascinating part of looking at websites. It is not difficult to distinguish regurgitated promo material from those schools that genuinely want to communicate what they are doing. But the 'WHY' that such polished programmes are not producing 'star' results at the transition to secondary school stage remains unanswered and surely needs to be addressed.

I only started looking at data when twitter SSP people overwhelmingly promoted linguistic, spelling-orientated phonics, with an underwhelming nod to other programmes. I knew ** based programmes worked wonderfully well 1-to-1 but after '06 I also saw hundreds of US posts that relayed extraordinary results from a sound-letter, approach with a slightly different sequence including more focus on reading text ( BRI).I knew also that there were really excellent results from programmes with lesser training. However, the impression given that linguistic phonics was the 'only show in town' prompted an examination of KS2 results. They are disappointing considering how fine their training is. No-body has supplied any possible reasons for this, except for one that is readily discounted (disadvantaged schools). I had focused solely on schools with significant numbers of deprived children, to eliminate that argument.

The original training + Geoffrey McG's advice to 'get into real reading' as quickly as possible - did not over-emphasise spelling and the whole code and it has saddened me that so many of the posts have focused on the exhaustive spelling code rather than self-learning. It seems that initially poor spellers like my daughter and me had little or no phonics; those with good SSP foundations have the tools to look/absorb/organise spelling in a less prominent way post R and Year l when self-learning has kicked in for more than 80% of children . And why has there been so little about self-learning and CLT and implications of more demanding curriculum since 2016?

Finally, I went public in spite of personal difficulties, as I believe that there is real danger of maintaining the split between those of us who passionately understand the importance of literacy -including learning to read in the first place, and those who believe that the functionality of phonics drowns out the transition/concentration on enthusing children to expand knowledge, empathy and creativity. As we've seen with Brexit/Remain and Trump/anti Trump only about 10% change their minds. It seems to me that we need to dig deeper and also to be more upfront about the importance of reading excellent, sustained fiction and non-fiction and Early Years needs and start to build bridges.

chew8
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Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Re: The Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 1:43 pm

One thing Geraldine highlights is that the original McGuinness-type training in England didn’t emphasise spelling or the whole code, but did recommend getting children into ‘real reading’ as quickly as possible. I didn’t undergo that training, but followed McGuinness developments closely at the time – a journalist sent me a pre-publication copy of Diane’s Why Children Can’t Read, and I then attended a big meeting in London in July 1998 at which the McGs spoke. I liked a lot of what they said, but felt that they had not grasped what was already being achieved in England through Jolly Phonics in particular. I wrote to Diane about this – she immediately acquainted herself with JP and replied saying she agreed it was good and would say so in future publications. She was true to her word, first in RRF Newsletter 49 (2002) and then in Early Reading Instruction (2004).

I soon started realising, however, that there were some big differences between her thinking and that of C. and G. McG. For one thing, her version of the basic code included some digraphs in order to cover all 40+ phonemes, whereas C. and G’s version included only single-letter spellings so covered only about half the phonemes. The points noted by Geraldine also involve differences between the McG. generations, with D. stressing spelling and a much fuller version of the code than C. and G. These differences have led to some confusion in England, I think.

JP keeps things pretty simple. D.McG herself commented, in Early Reading Instruction, that it taught very little of what she regarded as the advanced code and yet produced remarkably good results, even in spelling. The way I looked for information meant that I found only 10 schools which met my two requirements (using JP as their main programme, as far as I could tell, and reporting PSC results), and I have no way of knowing how typical they are, but the fact that their average PSC pass-rate was 87% as against 84% for the other 4 programmes I looked at is food for thought.

I’m open to the possibility that typical PSC performance is even better when programmes teach much more of the code and are more spelling-orientated, but such claims should not be made without supporting evidence.

Jenny C.

chew8
Posts: 4187
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2003 6:26 pm

Re: The Phonics Screening Check

Post by chew8 » Wed Dec 30, 2020 5:43 pm

One other brief point: I share Geraldine's interest in longer-term outcomes and will try to do more on this in due course, but my focus so far has just been on the relationship between programmes used and PSC results, as there is general agreement that decoding needs to be well taught as a first step and that the PSC is a good measure of that.

I'm continuing to trawl for info., and hope that I'll find more on the 5 programmes in the process, which should help to give a more representative picture.

Jenny C.

geraldinecarter
Posts: 993
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 6:40 pm

Re: The Phonics Screening Check

Post by geraldinecarter » Thu Dec 31, 2020 4:53 pm

Thanks, Jenny. I think that it is worth looking in more depth (omitting m/c schools) as this is about the only way we can get an overall picture. I'd like to look at some schools below the 10,000 schools in the top half but don't have time alas. I do think that T-he Reading Ape and Tarjinder Gill make some good points about the tests being knowledge based but as standards have focused much more on a knowledge based curriculum, it seems to me that it's all the more important that loads of good quality sustained reading start in parallel with the time that self-learning begins to make sense - ie as soon as PSC correspondences are secure.
It seems to me that we're making everything ever more fragmented and complicated - and I regret bitterly that Elizabeth's initial plan for general SSP followed by sessions for all the main programmes had been selected initially. This'course' would be far more thought-provoking and universal for teachers and also enable h/ts and teachers to transfer from school to school(as frequently happens in primary), without confusion and expense of retraining.

I long to return to the KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID and embrace volunteers with v. basic briefing to give additional help to the 17% who need it, post Yr. l.
gx

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