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Schools’ varied Covid stories make sitting the Phonics Test meaningless

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 November 2021

Alice Bradbury and Gemma Moss.

This autumn term, for the second year running, the Phonics Screening Check (PSC) will be taking place in Year 2 classrooms for all pupils, rather than the usual system of testing everyone at the end of Year 1. The Covid crisis led to the suspension of all statutory testing in the summer of 2021 and no other assessments have been moved, only the PSC. This means that Year 2 pupils who have missed out on months of classroom time last year will be taken out of their classrooms this term, to test their phonics decoding skills by asking them to read aloud 40 words and pseudo-words.

The PSC is intended to monitor the quality of phonics teaching in the school as well as to provide information on individuals for teachers. This year’s use of the test, however, will be meaningless unless local circumstances are taken into account, because the pandemic has affected schools in such a variety of ways. Our IOE research found that schools reacted in complex and thoughtful ways to the impacts of Covid on their communities, taking into account circumstances that made home learning difficult for pupils; each school has its own ‘Covid story’.

Varied local circumstances meant children had a wide range of needs, including insufficient food or heating for (more…)

Priorities for a new government: advice from our academics part 2

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 May 2017


The IOE blog has asked colleagues from across the Institute what’s at the top of their wish list. We are publishing their replies during the run-up to the election.
Primary Education
The new government should take a new approach to primary education that sees this stage as a unique time in children’s lives. This will require them to look again at the purposes of primary education.
The current statutory assessment system is not fit for assessing children’s learning and needs radical change. The government should:

  • Move to national sampling.
  • Abolish the current SPAG test and phonics screening test and replace with more appropriate measures.

When it comes to the National Curriculum, the government should: (more…)

The assessment system is unsustainable: how can we make it better?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 April 2017

Gemma Moss
The Government’s new consultation on primary assessment in England is to be welcomed. The key question is: will it go far enough? The answer to that in large part depends upon how parents, teachers and academics react.
What’s driving the consultation?
The terms of the consultation are worth quoting from the Department for Education (DfE) Website:

Recognising the scale of the changes that we have asked primary schools to deal with, this consultation represents a significant step towards establishing a settled, stable primary assessment system that is trusted by teachers and parents.

The phrase “a settled, stable primary assessment system that is trusted by teachers and parents” is well chosen, for at the moment we do not have that. Full credit to the (more…)