Planning to catch up in phonics: A case study from Peartree Spring Primary School

Like most schools returning this September, Peartree Spring Primary have been planning to bridge the gap post lockdown.

How much learning was lost in lockdown?

The world was thrown into chaos this year in a situation we never imagined we would be in. Little did we know when we started the academic year in September 2019 that we would be unable to see the year through and we certainly did not anticipate teachers teaching online and parents stepping up to becoming teachers.

Many teachers found that trying to teach phonics and reading through a computer screen presented challenges.  A poll by the NFER found that only 60% of pupils were in regular contact with their teachers. This is more concerning when put in context of the time lost.

Below is just a snapshot of how COVID-19 has affected pupils in the UK.

Total weeks of school Lockdown14
Proportion of the Academic Year Lost36%
Proportion of EY/KS1 lost for children in EY/KS112%
Hours of Learning Lost 315 hours per pupil

These are worrying statistics for teachers and parents. Now we are at the next stage of looking at how to accelerate progress to make up for this lost time.

What will change this term?

At Peartree Spring Primary School in Hertfordshire, we will be teaching two phonics sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon to help catch up on lessons missed in the classroom. We will continue to use a multisensory approach in order to engage the children and keep the learning fun and fresh.  Children who took part in home learning will be able to solidify their understanding through revision in class and those who were unable to engage in online sessions will be supported to catch up on those sessions they missed.

What phonics scheme do we use?

We adopted the Monster Phonics scheme in 2018 and very quickly saw the magic both in and out of the classroom. We embedded the approach throughout the school environment which provided continued learning opportunities throughout the day. Monster Phonics uses colour to show the link between spelling and sound and so it is very visual. This meant we could teach the 30-minute phonics lesson each day and then drip feed phonics all day long. It was successful because of the engagement possible… our children love the monsters.

The school saw a 14% point rise in the number of children passing the Phonics Screen in the first year. We were on course to achieve an even stronger result this year when Lockdown inevitably shut schools across the country.

Each day in lockdown, the children were sent a picture of a monster via an online learning platform along with the grapheme being learnt that day. An accompanying ready-made PowerPoint was then delivered by the teacher to the children via online video streaming which then led into a song and accompanying video from the Monster Phonics website. This was then followed up by a task set for the children to help them further engage with the lesson independently. The children were able to access their learning at a quicker pace because of their understanding of the monsters and the colour coding system from before lockdown and so teaching phonics during lockdown proved much easier for the school.

We found that parents’ understanding of phonics really improved through Monster Phonics and home learning too.

Webinars

Our staff attended a series of webinars to help teachers and parents during the lockdown. We found these really useful. The webinars are continuing throughout the year and are definitely worth attending and are free too.

Conclusion

As we approach the new academic year, we are faced with new challenges that we are all currently preparing for. The truth is, none of us know the answer and none of us know exactly what will happen. However, we are confident we are ready to catch-up with what we have in place. All the best for this upcoming academic year!