Two Yorkshire primary schools host roadshows to spread the word after phonics success

Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire
Photo: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire
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TWO YORKSHIRE primary schools which have seen their pupils’ test results in phonics soar are to host roadshows this week to share their expertise with other head teachers.

Jerry Clay Academy, in Wakefield and Kirkby Avenue Primary, in Doncaster, have both seen big improvements in pupils’ ability to read after working with a training provider who has now been chosen by the Government to deliver a series of roadshows.

Both schools have worked with Ruth Miskin Training to improve their phonics teaching. Phonics is a way of teaching children to read by getting them to understand the “building blocks” they need to decode words.

The coalition Government introduced a Phonics Screen check in 2012 for six-year-old pupils at the end of year one to help identify those who were struggling.

Both schools have seen their performance in this check improve dramatically after staff were given extra training.

In 2012 38 per cent of pupils at Kirkby Avenue were getting to the expected level – compared to a Doncaster wide average of 55 per cent. In the following three years more than 80 per cent of its year one pupils have achieved the expected standard – way above the average for the town.

Head teacher Beverley Lockwood said: “What we have found is important is the need to be completely consistent and rigorous with the system of teaching phonics that you use. I am not telling other schools they must follow what we have done and use the same system we used, but that whatever approach you take you have to be consistent with it.”

She said Ruth Miskin’s Read Write Inc training has proved popular with pupils because it can delivered in a fun way.

“I was against the idea of the phonics check when it was first introduced. We were getting good outcomes for children at the end of key stage two but our first phonics score made us think we needed to do something to get children improving more quickly so from that point of view this has been a good thing for us.”

She said that learning support assistants had also received training to help children learn phonics. And she said that schools needed to carry out the phonics check sensitively because the pupils are only six years old.

At Jerry Clay Academy the percentage of pupils achieving the expected level in the phonics check increased from 72 per cent to 91 per cent in the space of a year after receiving support from Ruth Miskin Training.

Head teacher Tracy Swinburne said: “Read Write Inc is intensive and it allows pupils to move rapidly through the course as they learn to read and write.”

She said the phonics work was delivered throughout the school by all staff and that the academy did regular checks and one-to-one support sessions to identify and help pupils who had fallen behind. “Our score in the phonics check was a confirmation what we were doing was working,” she added.

Ten roadshows are taking place across the country this month backed by the Department for Education. An event takes place at Jerry Clay Academy tomorrow and at Kirby Avenue Primary on Friday.

The DfE said: “The events will allow schools to share best practice in the teaching of phonics and early reading and support the government’s aim of ensuring high-quality systematic synthetic phonics in every primary school.”