So this week is a bit of a milestone in our household. Little E is being tested at school to see how well she knows her phonics. This is the first time one of the kids has been 'tested' and we've feeling a lot of pressure from the school to make sure she passes.
For those of you who haven't had the (dis)pleasure of encountering phonics yet I'll briefly outline how it works. Children are taught to read by recognising individual phonemes. A phoneme is a unit of sound which distinguishes one word from another. For example, the difference between the words kiss and kill is the end phoneme. They children learn rhymes to help them remember the sounds for each letter of the alphabet and then begin blending them together to make a words. It starts off simple and gets increasingly more complicated as different rules and exceptions are applied such as split-digraphs and tricky words. The phonics test is a national test for children in Year 1 to check they recognise and understand the key phonics rules.
The test is made up of 40 words, half are real words and half are 'alien' words, which are nonsense words like 'thrand' or 'bulm'. The child needs to be able to read both the real words and the alien words correctly to prove they know their phonics sounds rather than sight reading. In past years they have needed 32 out of 40 words correct to pass.
So what is the point of testing these 6yr olds? Well pretty much like the SATs tests to come in Year 2 there isn't much point. If the school is doing their job correctly they will already know where the child is on their reading journey. The test is purely a way for the government to assess the school. Which is why so much pressure is being put on parents to get their kids through the exam.
Little E is probably going to fail the exam, but rather than accept that is where she is at the moment the school wants parents to coach kids through the exam to get their pass rates up. Which means parents like me are expected to be teaching concepts like split-digraphs (yes, I did have to google what the hell it is) at home to children who aren't in high enough phonics groups to covered it in class yet. I'm not a teacher and I've found this hugely stressful and a lot of pressure with little resources available from the school. Plus this test is not foolproof; kids who read at very high levels have the potential to fail the test as not all kids read using phonics. High level early readers are likely to be sight reading rather than using phonics.
After a month or so of really stressing about this test, flashcarding Little E morning, noon and night, I've come to the conclusion that 6 is too young to be testing children. Their minds all develop at different rates and in a month or two's time Little E could be in a completely different place with her reading. What is important is that she enjoys reading, is progressing at her own pace and she doesn't feel, at just 6 years old, the pressure of which side of a line she falls.
And the result is irrelevant really as it won't change her, she will continue to grow at her own speed with our support and as long as she is blossoming and happy that is all that matters.
Linking up to #pocolo and #twinklytuesday
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.