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Abandoning phonics retests Year 3 children will be welcomed by school leaders, says NAHT

NAHT welcomes news that the government has abandoned plans to extend the phonics screening check re-takes for Year 3 pupils. The change of policy comes after a pilot of the phonics screening check by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA). The STA commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to run a pilot of the phonics screening retest with Year 3 pupils who had not met the required standard by the end of Year 2.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “After a trial period, the government has seen what many professionals have been saying: retaking phonics screening adds to workload and does not deliver for pupils.

“The government must be commended for following the evidence. Pilots are a good way to test policy, and it’s sensible to act on what they tell you. The government is often attracted to retakes and resits, when in fact a different approach to teaching is needed.”

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, says: “Whilst phonics is at the heart teaching children to read, we’ve consistently said that the phonics screening check is a poor use of staff time and reduces the amount of quality teaching time available. We’ve called for the screening check to be optional, rather than compulsory for all children. We have also argued that it should not be carried out after Year 2. We are glad to see the government act on the second part of this and hope it listens to the evidence on ensuring schools have a choice on screening for children in Key Stage 1.”

The Year 3 Phonics Screening Check pilot took place during the week commencing 13 June 2016, 282 of the 300 sampled schools took part in the pilot. Participation was voluntary, although all sampled schools were encouraged to take part.