Schools aren’t held to account in the phonics screening test, says Schools Reform Minister Nick Gibb (16 January 2015
). That’s because it’s a ‘diagnostic tool’ and results aren’t published in school performance tables.
It’s arguable whether this ‘diagnostic tool’, which cost £4.3 million to administer in 2014, can tell teachers anything they don’t already know.
But that aside, why are the results being used to praise certain schools when the test is only supposed to reveal problems individual pupils might face?
Schools are obliged to let parents know their own child’s results but there’s no compulsion to publish the results for the whole school. And whole school results are not publicly available. Neither should they be if they’re only supposed to be a ‘diagnostic tool’.
Despite phonics screening not being a performance measure, Gibb used the results
of one primary free school, Ark Conway, to claim its 100% result in the test was down to the Government’s ‘rigorous approach to phonics’ (unspecified method) and the Government’s free schools and academies programme.
2% of primary schools reported that 100% passed the phonics screening test. It’s unlikely they were all free schools or academies. If they were, ministers would no doubt be screaming it from the roof tops. Claiming the results in one free school vindicate Government policies is as misleading (and as daft) as claiming the results in one local authority maintained school show the superiority of non-academies.
Schools, according to the Schools Reform Minister, ‘are not held to account for their performance in this diagnostic check’. But the Inspection Handbook (January 2015
) says inspectors may use a 'range of indicators' to assess pupils' attainment over time. These indicators include the results of the phonics tests. Schools are
, therefore, being ‘held to account’.
It’s hard not to believe that this supposed diagnostic tool isn’t yet another way of judging schools.
NOTE: This is an expanded version of the comment I posted today on this thread
I originally wrote 'But Ofsted is expected to comment on performance in the test.' This has been changed - inspectors aren't expected to comment in all cases but can take the results of the phonics screening test into account if they think it is relevant. Thanks to Andy for drawing my attention to the latest edition of the School Inspection Handbook