The findings from the first round of Dyslexia Action's Sound Check Project have revealed that specialist teaching resulted in a phonics check pass-rate of 60% for children with special educational needs [SEN] compared with the national SEN pass rates of 24% in 2012 and 32% in 2013 for Year 1 children.
Despite the Government annoucing recently that "100,000 more six-year-old children are on track to becoming excellent readers", experts believe more focus is needed on teacher training to support pupils' development in phonics.
As a result, education charity Dylexia Action launched its intervention project, Sound Check alongside the British Dyslexia Association, and Springboard for Children. It sees specially designed phonics lessons delivered twice-weekly to groups of up to five children by a Dyslexia Action specialist teacher. Staff and parents also receive training and pupils are given follow-up support by trained volunteers.
It builds on the theory that, although the government's current annual phonics check fulfils its aims, resources might be better focused on training and supporting teachers in their on-going monitoring of phonics.
Long-term gains in literacy skills
Phonics expert and Oxford University Professor Maggie Snowling said: "Ideally, I would want to see evidence that children are also better able to read for meaning and that the gains made on the check translate into better long-term gains in literacy skills.
"A one-off check is valuable but only if combined with greater teacher knowledge of the reading process and with a range of strategies so they can teach flexibly and according to a child’s needs."
As part of the Sound Check Project teachers worked with Year 2 pupils (Cohort 2) who failed the 2013 Phonics Check and Year 3 (Cohort 1) who failed in 2012 and 2013. Children who were eligible for free school meals (FSM) were prioritised resulting in 55% on FSM in each cohort. To gauge progress, Cohort 1 and 2 re-sat the Phonics Check this year (2014).
The results found:
- A 90% pass-rate for non-SEN Sound Check pupils in Year 2 compared with the current national pass rate for non-SEN pupils of 81%.
- A smaller difference between SEN and all other children - 22 percentage points in Cohort 1 and 30 percentage points in Cohort 2, compared with the national figure of 44 percentage points in 2014.
- A pass-rate of 60% for SEN children in Cohort 2 and 49% in Cohort 1, compared with national SEN pass rates of 24% in 2012 and 32% in 2013 for Year 1 children.
- The intervention reduced the difference between FSM children and non-FSM children in Cohort 2 to only 1 percentage point compared with a national figure of 16 percentage points for Year 1 pupils.
Sound Check Project Director Liz Horobin added: "We are delighted with these figures. In addition to closing the gap between FSM and other pupils, what is significant is the very impressive pass rates for our SEN children."
To see the results in full and find out more about Sound Check visit www.dyslexiaaction.org.uk.