Reading task force to be set up after North East Lincolnshire pupils flop in tests
A NEW Phonics Taskforce is to be set up after nearly half of all five and six-year-olds in North East Lincolnshire failed to reach expected levels in new reading tests.
As reported, figures from the Department For Education revealed that following the first test in June, only 50.84 per cent of Year 1 pupils mastered the mechanics of reading for their age.
The statistics show North East Lincolnshire to be the lowest-performing authority in the Yorkshire and Humber region and fifth lowest in the country – seven per cent below the national average of 58 per cent.
The assessment of phonic decoding consists of a list of 40 words, half real words and half non-words, which children read to a teacher.
To pass, the children had to "decode" 32.
The check is designed to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard and have grasped the essential skills that underpin good reading.
At a meeting of North East Lincolnshire Council's children and young people's scrutiny panel, Darren Holmes, director of learning for Serco, the council's education partner, revealed what was being done to tackle the issue.
He said: "This is not a situation that is acceptable to us and not a situation we are complacent about.
"We need to improve our children's phonics skills, not to move up the league tables, but because we want our children to be better."
Among the measures that will be imposed include:
Forming a phonics taskforce of teachers from schools where children bucked the trend, and other experts, to help analyse what can be done in schools where the results were poor.
Working with individual schools to see where improvements can be made and helping to put new measures in place.
However, he was keen to point out that phonics tests did not necessarily give an indication of the reading level of any individual child – and should not be looked at in isolation.
Explaining to the committee that national guidelines also prevented him from revealing the results for individual schools, Mr Holmes said: "There is a weak correlation between school performance and socio-economic disadvantage and those children receiving a free school meal tended to perform below their peers.
"However, there were some who bucked the trend. Our best performing school was one of our most disadvantaged schools.
"Anecdotally, we have also noticed that there are some schools in more advantaged communities where children don't do as well as we would have expected.
"When presented with a nonsense word, they refused to read them as they thought that was the right answer, but they were penalised for that."