Phonics checks ‘better prepare’ 120,000 pupils for reading but sponsored academies lag behind

The government has declared that 120,000 more children are “better prepared to become strong readers”, but data shows sponsored primary academies are still lagging behind their converter academy, free school and maintained school counterparts on reading.

The Department for Education has published the results of phonics checks, which show that 77 per cent of year 1 pupils met the expected standard in 2015, compared to 74 per cent last year and just 58 per cent in 2012.

The release also shows that 90 per cent of year 2s met their expected standards this year, up one percentage point on last year.

Schools minister Nick Gibb (pictured) has hailed the rise as evidence of the success of phonics checks, which were brought in three years ago. He said the focus on phonics was ensuring more children were “confident, inquisitive and fluent readers”.

He said the results demonstrated the “effectiveness of the government’s continued focus on phonics” as the “primary way” of helping young people to read.

He continued: “For years, children were being denied the joy of becoming fluent readers because of a reliance on teaching methods that failed too many children. We will continue to challenge those local authorities whose phonics results are below the levels achieved elsewhere

“The evidence is clear that the systematic teaching of phonics is the most effective way to help children master the basics of reading so they can go on to become confident, inquisitive and fluent readers.”

But although national data from key stage 1 teacher assessments shows a rise in the overall proportion of pupils achieving level 2 in reading from 85 per cent in 2010 to 90 per cent this year, sponsored academies are still not doing as well as other types of school when it comes to reading.

The statistics show that 86 per cent of sponsor academy pupils achieved a level 2 in 2015, compared to 91 per cent of maintained school pupils, 92 per cent of converter academy pupils and 94 per cent of those at free schools.

Of sponsored academy pupils, 76 per cent achieved a level 2B, compared to 83 per cent of maintained school pupils, 84 per cent of those at converter academies and 87 per cent of free school pupils.

The percentage of pupils at converter academies reaching level 3 was 24 per cent, while the figures were 32 per cent, 34 per cent and 35 per cent for maintained schools, converter academies and free schools respectively.

You can read about the six key points from the data here.

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  1. Janet Downs

    When Gibb talks of phonics, does he mean any system of phonics taught in any way? Or does he mean systematic phonics – the teaching of any method of phonics as long as its systematic? Or does he mean systematic, synthetic phonics – the teaching of synthetic phonics in a systematic way?
    Gibb uses the three terms simultaneously. A cynic might say he doesn’t know the difference.

  2. Janet Downs

    After the results were published last year, DfE-commissioned research found teachers recognised the importance of phonics instruction but the majority linked it with other methods. Perhaps Gibb should read the research requested by his department before saying the rise in the proportion of pupils passing the phonics test (a diagnostic tool, surely, not a test?) is down to ‘phonics’ alone.