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The Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) places a revitalised importance on reading, with special attention to the lowest attaining pupils.


Schools should demonstrate that they are
determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities. All pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations'*

This can be challenging because there is a perception that using a systematic synthetic phonics program will automatically ensure that every student, regardless of their background, needs, or abilities, learns to read and makes sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations. If we truly are determined to achieve these goals, we may need to consider alternative approaches.

There are things we can do in KS1, if we are determined that all children will read - and WANT to read - even if systematic synthetic phonics is used.

For example, at risk children should be identified in Term 1 of Reception and given specialist support. It is far easier to prevent reading and spelling difficulties, and even within the first two terms of reception children become aware that they are struggling to do what their classmates seem to do with ease.  This can not only negatively impact on their self-image but also their motivation to read and write. Positive self-esteem in children is a building block to success; providing a strong foundation for learning. The right support and inspiration for learning can make a huge difference in the life of a child.


Miss Emma and her Duck Hands
Dylsexia Dive - Early Intervention - The Reading Hut

Although seen here checking basic phonemic awareness skills of 135 children in less than 40 minutes in this school, what usually happens is that I checks children in class so that there is no disruption. I support teachers to identify 'at risk' children and overcome the phonemic awareness deficits quickly within the early intervention. Although only one risk factor, it is a huge one! This is part of the early intervention for Developmental Dyslexia.  

We can check their comprehension of decodable texts (created using the GPCS they seem to have mastered 

We can check when they spot that words don't 'look right'
(orthographic knowledge)

We can improve orthographic knowledge by mapping high frequency words and checking the 'whole code' with the spelling clouds.

We can use past PSC check words to find out what they know about the whole code (orthographic knowledge) and not just the limited GPCs taught and tested

We can check 'what looks right' and ask children to determine the correct mapping of words (orthographically mapped)  

We can check children can tell us WHERE in the text they found the answer to comprehension questions!

We can develop phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge within writing activities and help children become their own teachers of spelling, grammar and punctuation.. rather than wait to use these activities when children are already struggling and less motivated 

...and so much more!

* How will Ofsted make their evaluation against the quality of education judgements?

Inspectors will consider whether:

◼the school is determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs or abilities. All pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age-related expectations

◼stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction are chosen for reading to develop pupils’ vocabulary, language comprehension and love of reading. Pupils are familiar with and enjoy listening to a wide range of stories, poems, rhymes and non-fiction

◼the school’s phonics programme matches or exceeds the expectations of the national curriculum and the early learning goals. The school has clear expectations of pupils’ phonics progress term-by-term, from Reception to Year 2.

◼the sequence of reading books shows a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme. Teachers give pupils sufficient practice in reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home

◼reading, including the teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics, is taught from the beginning of Reception

◼the ongoing assessment of pupils’ phonics progress is sufficiently frequent and detailed to identify any pupil who is falling behind the programme’s pace. If they do fall behind, targeted support is given immediately

◼the school has developed sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading.

School inspection handbook May 2019, No. 190017 88

This criteria is troublesome. How can a school develop sufficient expertise in the teaching reading, of which phonics is one element, if the understanding of why so many children not only fail to learn to read but do not become children who choose to read is not fully understood by those making these judgements?

Ongoing assessment as provided by these programmes, for example, do not take a wider view - checking phonemic awareness, orthographic knowledge, vocabulary knowledge and comprehension (or engagement levels). 


“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.

Frederick Douglass

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