Raising Phonological Awareness


A new assessment tool has recently been launched aimed at preventing children failing the Year 1 phonics screening test and helping teachers identify those who may need early intervention.

The Sandwell Phonological Awareness Readiness for Reading Kit (SPARRK) comes on the back of the hugely successful Sandwell Early Numeracy Test-R (SENT-R), which was recommended by the Every Child Counts programme and the DES, and described as an “essential teacher resource”.

Now Sandwell are focusing on early intervention in reading skills, specifically phonological awareness. The assessment tool allows teachers to pin point where children are having problems and where and why they are unable to identify the sounds in words adequately.

Last year, a worrying 4 out 10 Year 1 pupils failed the new phonics tests, but Sandwell has found that if SPARRK is delivered to children in reception, those at risk of failing these tests at the end of Year 1 can be identified beforehand. In its extensive two year trials, Sandwell has proved SPARRK to be very efficient in not only identifying these children, but also in aiding development of intervention targeted specifically at the child’s problems.

Following these trials, teachers reported back to Sandwell, praising the SPARRK tool highly. One teacher said: “The pupils enjoyed the attention and displayed more skills than are apparent in class.” Another added: “It identified weaknesses in areas we thought we’d covered.” One teacher highlighted the SPARRK tool’s benefit for those with special education needs. “(The SPARRK tool) helped us to develop a programme for a new IEP at the next review,” she said.

SPARRK covers seven assessment sections in the order it is expected skills would be acquired: Concepts, syllables, rhyme, beginnings, ends, middles, blending and segmenting. Only aural and oral skills are assessed, and the assessments are all totally picture based and quick to administer (10 minutes per section), making it simple for teachers to screen their class while keeping the students interested and on task. Teachers who trialled the assessments reported: “Our pupils maintained interest and engagement in all activities.”

The benefits of early intervention are widely known, and yet in the UK, 30,000 11-year-olds leave Primary school every year without having achieved a Level 3 in literacy. Reading skills is a critical area for Ofsted Inspections, as is Special Needs. Children’s performance has been shown to improve from interventions with SPAARK. As importantly, it is critical for schools to show that they are responding to perceived difficulties in children with reading acquisition problems - using a system to intervene with a child having difficulties, would also impress Ofsted enormously.

For more information, or to purchase the SPARRK tool, visit our catalogue here.

Creative Teaching & Learning