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Why Isn’t My Child Learning to Read at School?

Scroll down for a range of free assessments to check on decoding and spelling + assessments to avoid

If your primary-age child is struggling to read and spell simple words accurately, it is important to act fast. There is no biologically critical period for learning to decode and spell as writing systems are recent human inventions. Nevertheless, there is a window of time between the ages of 4 to 7 when children can be taught the alphabet code, decoding and spelling skills most quickly and easily. The window never closes, but the older the child the more difficult it can be to provide the missing code knowledge and skills, eliminate the acquired guessing habit and prevent ”disaffection and disengagement from education” (Rose 2009. p38).

Most children start school enthusiastically, keen and eager to learn but, typically, those who are failing to learn to read will become deeply unhappy after only a term or so and may suffer from frequent tummy aches or other stress symptoms. Some children become rebellious and disruptive as an outward show of distress, maybe even receiving the ADHD label, whilst others become unnaturally quiet and subdued and do their best to avoid all attention, the dreamers at the back of the class.

”The signs are there for mums and dads who care to look out for them. If you have a child who brings books home but doesn’t want to read them; a child who is suddenly either too quiet or too aggressive at school; a child who has clearly memorised her early books or who is being described as “possibly dyslexic” or “plateauing” by her teachers — be alert to the possibility that, no matter how old, she may never have learnt to read properly.” 
(R. Miskin. Sunday Times 26/03/06)

Do NOT accept any of the following excuses for a child’s decoding and spelling difficulties:
N.B he/she, his/her are mostly interchangeable.

– Your child isn’t trying/doesn’t pay attention/needs to concentrate/lacks motivation.
– Your child has ”emotional barriers to reading” created as a result of your anxieties. (Rose 2009 p21)
– He hasn’t memorised the ”100 or so” essential sight words yet.
– She’ll never learn to read if she doesn’t love reading.
– ”Nobody hates reading. She simply hasn’t found the right book yet”.
– ”He’s developed learned helplessness. He needs to work more independently and be a risk-taker”.
– Boys are often slow ‘catching on’ to reading but don’t worry, he’ll read when he’s ready.
– Her dyslexia is part of her whole personality; you can’t cure it (FE College dyslexia support leaflet)
– ”No one can be good at everything”.
– His brain is wired differently from other children.
– Your child has a neurodevelopmental disability.
– He’s got a phonological/auditory processing defect and is ”phonemically deaf”.
– The SENCo/EP diagnosed dyslexia so we know he’ll never learn to read. We’ll put some accommodations into place.
– She’s a ”treatment resister” since she failed to respond to the school’s balanced literacy intervention.
– Her brain and speech lacks ‘rhythm’ (Goswami)
– Phonics isn’t for everybody; he needs to try other strategies when reading.
– She’s a ”very able reader” and only failed the phonics check because she’s ”moved beyond reading phonetically”.
– His learning style doesn’t suit the phonics approach.
– All children are different; he has yet to find his own unique word reading approach.
– She’s a visual/kinesthetic learner so she’ll struggle with any phonics programme.
– His ”brain isn’t well matched to a literacy-based society” (BDA. Pollak p131)
– You have unrealistic expectations; she’s just not academic.
– It’s because of the family’s low socio-economic status.
– It’s because the family lacks cultural capital. 
– It’s because she’s in a one-parent family.
– It’s because the family is white, working-class.
– It’s because the family is black, Caribbean.
– It’s because she has too many siblings at home.
– It’s because he’s left-handed / right-brained.
– It’s due to visual stress; she needs tinted lenses/overlays and colour-tinted paper.
– It’s because his diet is/was deficient in essential fatty acids.
– It’s because her second teeth haven’t appeared yet.
– He’s not developmentally ready to hear phonemes yet; we’ll use a rhyming analogy approach for now.
– It’s because she skipped the crawling stage and went straight to walking.
– You haven’t / don’t read enough to him at home.
– It’s because she lacks a growth mindset. (www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=8658)
– You didn’t listen to him reading every day, without fail, from the book sent home from school.
– It’s because the family home has few or no books.
– You failed to ”treat your baby as a meaning maker from birth and share stories of joy” (Prof. Robyn Ewing)
– He’s inherited your family’s dyslexia genes.
– It’s because English is her second/additional language…
– It’s because of his ”medical difficulties – constipation, anaemia, poor diet etc” (UK Gov. LI16.Hewes)

Note that all these excuses place the source of the problem within the child or with their parent/s, never with the teaching or the teaching materials.

”We need to be outraged at this failure to teach and insouciant parent blame. It’s not your fault. It’s not within him. It’s inadequate teaching.” 
(Lisa Jeffery. Twitter)

Galen Alessi, a Professor of Psychology, conducted a fascinating study on school psychologists. He asked 50 school psychologists to list the causes of the learning difficulties of about 5,000 students: Based on the results of these 5,000 reports prepared by school psychologists, “the results indicate clearly no need to improve curricula, teaching practices, nor school administrative practices and management. The only needs somehow involve improving the stock of children enrolled in the system, and some of their parents…After examining several “mainstream” school psychology texts, Alessi found that when assessing children’s reading problems, school factors were mentioned as a factor between 7% and 0% (zero) of the time. “Child factors” were held responsible for reading problems between 90% to 100% of the time” (Wrightslaw. The Blame Game)

The Blame Game! Are School Problems the Kids’ Fault?

”Wade and Moore asked teachers the question, “Who is to blame for students’ failure to learn?” That 65% of teachers blamed child characteristics, and 32% of teachers blamed the home situation would probably be a surprise to those parents who view schools as the major influence on learning. Only 3% of teachers blamed teachers or the school system for learning problems” 
(K. Hempenstall. Blog. Failure to learn: causes and consequences https://www.nifdi.org/news-latest-2/blog-hempenstall/397-failure-to-learn-causes-and-consequences-dr-kerry-hempenstall)

”There will always be parents that don’t read with their child. It is wrong that schools farm out their core purpose to parents and then wring their hands when children don’t learn to read, blaming their home environment or the child themselves”

How inadequate teaching morphs into other problems over time. ”It’s easy to mistake symptoms for causes”.

”The assumption is that if children are “taught” to love reading, then they will be able to read. But in fact, the reality is just the opposite: kids (people, actually) generally only love doing things when they are able to do them.”

There is a reciprocal relationship between motivation and reading, but early reading has a stronger impact on motivation than vice versa.

”Never forget that the teacher of the young reader is the custodian of the child’s destiny”
(McGuinness. D. WCCR ’98. p226)

You are likely to be your child’s best, sometimes only advocate. If your child is still at the primary stage, approach your child’s school and find out what they are using/used to teach your child to read. Most state primary schools in England have been using the DfE’s ‘Letters & Sounds’ (L&S) programme since it was published in 2007.
Update: in March 2021, the DfE withdrew L&S 2007, describing it as ”not fit for purpose”.

Although all YR/Y1 teachers do teach a daily, discrete phonics lesson nowadays, many still expect children to memorise the common exception words as whole shapes and to guess their way through levelled/banded scheme books (for example ORT’s Classic Biff, Chip and Kipper books or Scholastic’s PM readers) when reading activities take place at other times during the day. For a significant minority of children, this is a recipe for confusion and failure.

”Why is it, when you have an obvious support for the development of the alphabetic principle, that “decoding” and “reading comprehension” gets Balkanised like this?”

”Too often, there’s an assumption that with normal schooling a student has experienced adequate instruction” 
(EP. Sara Peden. Twitter)

That the majority of teachers (90%) continue to teach children to use multiple word guessing strategies, rather than phonics exclusively for decoding, was confirmed in independent reports produced by the NFER in 2013 and 2014.

According to Caroline Cox, there are four principal grounds on which teachers justify their practices. They are ‘tradition (how it has always been done); prejudice (how I like it done); dogma (this is the ‘right’ way to do it) and ideology (as required by the current orthodoxy). (Hargreaves 1996 TTA lecture p7)

”Parents who deliver their children to school on that momentous first day of kindergarten, proudly starting them on a venerable path to education, make a big mistake: they assume that their child’s teacher has been taught how to teach reading. They haven’t.”
(M. Seidenberg. p249)

Some phonics programmes teach a very limited number of the 176 common spellings directly and many schools stop providing daily, discrete phonics lessons at the end of Y1, once the phonics check has taken place. Children must then discover the rest of the common code for themselves in the context of reading. Some children can do this ‘bootstrapping’ with ease after minimal phonics instruction, but a significant percentage find it a difficult or even impossible task.

”I do think that all children should be taught all c.176. Some, of course, will bootstrap themselves for reading after learning, say, 140 or so; but, for spelling, even the bootstrappers need them all with plenty of practice given at every stage.” 
(John Walker. Twitter)

Most schools rely on parents to teach children to read.

There are reasons to be optimistic that, in England at least, the damaging multi-cue word-guessing teaching practices may eventually disappear. All Ofsted inspections taking place in England’s state primary schools nowadays include an early reading deep dive; school inspectors look closely at how well the school teaches children to read from the beginning of Reception. Inspectors also look to see that, ”the sequence of reading books shows a cumulative progression in phonics knowledge that is matched closely to the school’s phonics programme. Teachers give pupils sufficient practice in reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home.”

”(T)he new EIF includes a reading deep dive. The reading deep dive is a mandatory part of the new inspections in these schools. Inspectors will look at 7 aspects of early reading, as set out in paragraph 298 of the school inspection handbook

Prevention, Not Intervention:

For a multitude of reasons, a child can have difficulties learning to decode even though the school is using a high quality phonics programme taught expertly. It is absolutely essential that the school implements some one-to-one tutoring immediately it is noticed that the child is failing to keep up with his/her classroom companions. Ruth Miskin, an early reading expert, explains: ”I think there will always be a small group of children who will need one-to-one tutoring – even with the best synthetic programmes, the best training and best implementation; there are some children who have particular needs that cannot be met in a group – and not just SEN children. We tutored some children with SEN at my old school forever until they could read well. We also tutored children with behaviour problems, long term absentees, new arrivals just to mention a few. These children were always given more of the same and not something different. No amount of group teaching helps a child once they fall behind their peers – though you can sometimes teach in pairs if they are at the same level. If we want to be truly inclusive schools must plan for these children as a matter of course and not just hope for the best. Synthetic phonics is not a simple panacea – it takes determination to get every child reading. As soon as a child fails to learn the first letter on the first day – quick tutoring should take place”. Ruth Miskin recommends that those children who need quick tutoring, ”receive ten minutes of one-to-one practice before the lesson so they are confident from the start” (italics added. Ruth Miskin. SEN magazine 47)

”Be relentless – never give up until every child can read”
(Ruth Miskin’s advice to headteachers)

”It is important that pressure is not put on children too early to stop sounding and blending. Many Y1 pupils who sound and blend words still need to do this in order to read accurately. If they are encouraged to say words quickly, they may resort to guessing from pictures and context”, warns Elizabeth Nonweiler.

If your child has difficulties with blending then follow John Walker’s practical advice:

Reading Fluently Does Not Mean Reading Fast

Should I have my child assessed for dyslexia?

At a late stage, often only as a result of parental pressure, when the school’s intervention is proving ineffective and the child is continuing to have serious difficulties learning to read, the school may bring in an LEA educational psychologist (EP) to assess the child. Note, that LEA psychologists, ”…work within a public service ethos in which fairness to all potential clients is actively pursued, but in which it is widely believed that it is also unethical to publicly ”raise expectations” above what the LA or school can deliver” (Bunn. SEN magazine. 54 p69). Parents with the financial means may arrange for their child to see an independent EP to speed up diagnosis. They will charge a hefty (£400+) professional fee for their services.

External evaluations for dyslexia: do the data support parent concerns?
Open access: rdcu.be/ci2ze

”Parents seeking external evaluation do so due to a lack of support in schools. But sadly the reading struggles of their children are the norm and not the exception” 
(Tim Odegard. Twitter)

The problem with assessment for dyslexia is that research has cast serious doubt on the validity of all the past and present diagnostic procedures. For a start, a professional assessment will usually include an intelligence test, despite the fact that using IQ tests as an integral part of diagnosing dyslexia is known to be scientifically flawed. Prof. Elliott also points out that, ”The administration of IQ tests is restricted to certain professionals and thus has an influential role in maintaining and preserving professional influence and status”.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) advise that ”Assessments referring to cognitive test scores within batteries of tests, such as the BAS and WISC, can be informative when pointing to strengths and weaknesses in the individual case. No particular pattern of sub-test scores, however, can be regarded as necessary or sufficient in deciding whether and to what extent learning difficulties can be described as dyslexic.” (BPS 2005 p68). Furthermore, the BPS’ definition of dyslexia, which it simplifies to, ”…marked and persistent problems at the word level of the NLS curricular framework” (BPS 2005 p20) is, the BPS acknowledges, only a ‘working’ definition, not an operational one, meaning it cannot be used to make a scientifically valid diagnosis.

“If you’re testing for dyslexia, small numbers of kids get identified and prioritised but massive numbers with similar sorts of problems do not get helped”
(J. Elliott)

The irrelevance of intelligence testing for reading disability/dyslexia issues.

Reading difficulty is a teaching problem, not an intelligence problem.

Nowadays, most educational psychologists and researchers get around the irksome diagnosis problem by saying that dyslexia is not an “all or nothing” phenomenon, something one either has or doesn’t have; dyslexia, they will tell you, is ”best thought of as existing on a continuum from mild to severe, rather than forming a discrete category” (Rose Report 2009 p34). “People used to think dyslexia was a clear-cut syndrome with signs and syndromes like a medical disease, but it is actually much more like blood pressure – it can range from very low to very high” (M. Snowling. TES podcast).

This is the ‘Bell Curve’ diagnosis, where struggling readers found at some arbitrary point, let’s say in the bottom 10% on the normal distribution curve for reading ability, may be given the dyslexia label if the professional who carries out the assessment decides that it could be helpful: ”Literacy difficulties exist on a continuum. There is no clear or absolute cut off point where a child can be said to have dyslexia…whether or not to describe a child’s literacy difficulties as dyslexia will be a matter for professional judgement.” (Devon LEA Dyslexia Guidance) or ”an intuitive clinical impression” (Prof. Frith quoted in Miles. p171)

”Reading skills fall along a fine-grained continuum, and there is no consensus on where to draw the line in terms of how depressed reading skills must be to be considered dyslexia”
(Prof. Kilpatrick)

Kerr rightly describes this as ”throwing in the sponge” (Kerr p98) and goes on to say, ”(I)t is not legitimate to claim that simply because they all find themselves in this bottom 10% they must all share any particular characteristic, let alone all suffer from the same syndrome, without further evidence that this is so. We have no evidence as to why these poor readers are in this group…All we can properly say from contemplation of the bell curve is that they all seem to be poor readers. It is improper to claim more than this on this evidence – especially to claim that membership of the poor readers group per se indicates possession of a neurological deficit – indicates that all these people suffer from dyslexia” (Kerr p99)

”The [2009] Rose Report’s definition of dyslexia is exceedingly broad and says that dyslexia is a continuum with no clear cut-off points. The definition is so broad and blurred at the edges that it is difficult to see how it could be useful in any diagnostic sense.”
(HoC. S&T committee. Evidence Check: Early Literacy Interventions. 2009)

Alison Clarke: Preventing literacy failure and shifting the whole Bell Curve up.

The second method used to identify dyslexia (used alongside or as an alternative to the Bell Curve diagnosis) is based on whether the student’s word-level decoding problem has proved, ”resistant to a prolonged and systematic reading intervention” (Elliott & Gibbs p483). This is the Response to Intervention (RTI) diagnosis. What precisely constitutes a ”high quality reading intervention” (J. Elliott 2020) will not be stated and parents, yet again, will find themselves having to rely on the judgement (opinion or guesswork) of the professional involved. As Prof. Pamela Snow points out: ”We must remember though, that RTI is only as good as the assumptions that are made about the quality of the instruction that occurs at Tier 1 (universal, classroom based teaching).” (Blog: Dyslexia Dystopia).

Note that specialist dyslexia teaching as described in Jim Rose’s Dyslexia Report 2009 cannot, at present, be considered to provide a ”well founded intervention” as, ”(M)any of the things that specialist dyslexia teachers do have not been the subject of much published research” (Singleton p21) and those few ”results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether)” (Singleton p74).

Because of their inability to give a legitimate diagnosis of dyslexia (no operational definition exists, or a legal definition in the UK. Singleton p16), a specialist dyslexia teacher or educational psychologist’s written report is highly unlikely to include the discrete label. Instead, it will substitute words such as, ”has a specific weakness in phonological development”, ”has deficits in phonological awareness”, or it will be hedged about with words that avoid commitment to a definitive diagnosis: ”literacy difficulties follow the pattern of an SpLD known as dyslexia”, ”has dyslexic traits” or, ”is at risk for Dyslexia-SpLD”, with the clear cut dyslexia label only given to parents verbally.

Dyslexia: Still Not a Neurodevelopmental Disorder.
“We recently pointed out that there is no evidence to support the commonly held view that there is something wrong with the brains of children who have great difficulty learning to read …”

”Getting the right help to all children who need it – rather than spending time and money separating off “dyslexic” children and giving them expensive but often dubious assistance – should now be a national priority. But it is not” 
(David Mills. Telegraph. 2007. Dyslexia: a big, expensive myth)

After criticism of her comments on the TV documentary, ‘The Dyslexia Myth’, where she seemed to suggest otherwise, Professor Snowling declared that ”Dyslexia can be readily identified by educated professionals”. Presumably, being aware that there is no way this can be done legitimately when there is no operational definition, she added, ”It is no longer relevant to ask ‘who is dyslexic and who is not” (M. Snowling quoted by www.myomancy.com 2005). Professors Stanovich and Elliott were more straightforward: ”The underlying difficulty appears to be the same, the way these children respond to treatment appears to be the same, there appears to be no justification whatsoever for going in and trying to carve out a special group of poor readers. This is what 15 years of research, all over the world has shown can’t be justified on a scientific or empirical basis” (Stanovich quoted in Mills. The Dyslexia Myth). ”After three decades as an educationalist, first as a teacher of children with learning difficulties, then as an educational psychologist and, latterly, as an academic who has reviewed the educational literature, I have little confidence in myself (or others’) ability to offer a diagnosis of dyslexia.” (J. Elliott. TES)

Prof. J. Elliott: By Focusing On Dyslexia, We Ignore Other Struggling Readers

”Dyslexia is the excuse that absolves educators of responsibility – in fact, I believe it to be the opium of education”
(Anne Glennie).

An LEA educational psychologist commented: ”Unfortunately people want a label as they think it offers an explanation and often the label is useful as it releases extra funding and special arrangements for exams. I avoid the term, referring instead to the specific gaps in code knowledge and the need for extra teaching to learn the basic or advanced code, practice with blending, segmenting, the need for modelled writing where children compose sentences orally first, the need to develop accurate letter formation through handwriting teaching and practice. Now we have identified these gaps and weak areas, I say to schools and parents, we can focus extra teaching on them. Schools and parents would be much happier, I suspect, if I just were to say with a long face, “It’s dyslexia!!!”. It’s not an easy position to defend – there is an LEA specialist advisory teacher for dyslexia and dyslexia-friendly courses all about overlays, coloured paper, and special arrangements for accessing the curriculum, using scribes and readers and ICT”.

”Assistive tech. is not an acceptable replacement for being able to read. It’s a bandaid for a system-wide problem – poor early reading instruction”
(Parent of a teenage struggling reader)

Parents need to ask themselves if it really is a good idea to spend a great deal of time, effort and usually money, to get their child professionally labelled as ‘dyslexic’, when there is no genuine science behind its identification. More importantly, obtaining the label certainly does not guarantee that your child will, as a consequence, receive expert in-school tuition with a high quality phonics intervention programme to remediate his/her decoding and spelling difficulties.

Another negative result of obtaining the dyslexia label for a child is that many classroom teachers find the label intimidating. They have been led to believe that those with the label have biologically determined and incurable decoding difficulties. After receiving the diagnosis of dyslexia from an ‘educated professional’, the child is likely to be assigned by their teachers to the ‘can’t be taught to read or spell’ category.

Does the ‘dyslexia’ label disable teachers?

The impact of the dyslexia label on academic outlook and aspirations
”The results show that those labelled with dyslexia hold lower beliefs about
their ability in English and Maths than their matched peers without this label. The children
labelled with dyslexia were also significantly less likely to say that they would go to
university. Furthermore, teachers and parents held lower aspirations for children labelled
with dyslexia”

Various accommodations and modifications may be put in place by the school’s SENCo. These are often little more than sops for the child’s parents and will usually be limited to the least expensive or simple to deliver, hence the ubiquitous colour-tinted paper and overlays, or the common practice of sending struggling decoders off to work with computers loaded with a poor quality ‘phonics’ intervention programme (see Room 101)

”Once he had the label, the form teachers ALL washed their hands of him. It validated ‘A’ was unteachable”
(Katherine W, a parent on Twitter)

”Diagnosis for us was waste of time and money. School continued on exactly the same path – unable/unwilling to help beyond tokenism in the classroom – diagnosis gave them the excuse they were looking for to give up as dyslexics ‘cannot be taught to read.’’
(Amanda, a parent on Twitter)

Possession of the dyslexia label can make parents more vulnerable to the purveyors of snake oil cures: ”(W)hen a child has problems, parents often feel guilty, and they can to some extent assuage that guilt by doing something. So alternative interventions are especially likely to be taken up in situations where the mainstream options are seen as ineffective and parents feel powerless to make a difference” (D. Bishop. BDA 2008 ppt.) And, once they’ve gone to all the trouble and expense of obtaining the label, parents and students may be very reluctant to discard it, even if new information comes along which might make them question its legitimacy and usefulness: ”There’s a psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance which is the tendency to filter out information that conflicts with what one already believes, in an effort to ignore that information and reinforce one’s beliefs. In the context of intervention, it is uncomfortable to conclude that one put in a lot of time and money into a treatment that has not worked. There is likely, therefore, to be a cognitive bias to paint as bright a picture as possible. This seems supported by studies that find a mismatch between people’s perceptions of efficacy and objective evidence.” (D. Bishop. BDA 2008 ppt.)

”The belief that some children cannot learn to decode is toxic” 
(David Didau. Twitter)

Kerr offers other important reasons to avoid the ‘dyslexia’ label: ”Firstly, much thinking about dyslexia is almost wilfully sloppy and sloppy science never did anyone any good, very particularly the subjects of it… Many diagnoses stand on small, highly controversial and rather subjectively assessed, evidence. And then, people given a diagnosis of a neurological deficit may find such a label at the least disconcerting, at worst devastating… And then, what about those who don’t achieve the label? Are they simply (and publicly) to be designated as stupid? And then, we don’t appear able to see over or around dyslexia; once the diagnosis has been invoked we seek no other explanations for presenting phenomena. Simpler, alternative, much more everyday, scientifically duller, less sexy (and much less lucrative) explanations are very much less assiduously sought once a diagnosis of ‘dyslexia’ has been made” (Kerr.p93)

2020. ‘The dyslexia debate: life without the label’. Elliott & Gibb.

The science of dyslexia isn’t as straightforward as politicians seem to think:
”However, Lord Watson tapped into a very considerable body of support from the dyslexia industry and the individuals it purports to help. Illiteracy is intensely shameful, and a diagnosis of dyslexia is a child’s get-out-of-jail-free card. They get attached to their diagnosis, rather like the Stockholm syndrome”

The Battle Over Dyslexia:
”It was once a widely accepted way of explaining why some children struggled to read and write. But in recent years, some experts have begun to question the existence of dyslexia itself”

”It’s bonkers when parents have to fight to get their kids stigmatized to receive services that more often than not, do nothing more than lock in the stigma for life.” 
(Prof. Schutz)

See ‘Teenage Dyslexics’ if your child is in secondary/high school.


This flowchart is based on The Simple View of Reading. It will help you identify whether a child is struggling with decoding, comprehension – or both.

Free copies of the DfE’s past phonics screening check (PSC) materials. Quick and easy to do. Independent researchers found the phonics check to be a ”valid measure of phonic skills and sensitive to identifying children at risk of reading difficulties” N.B. the check examines a child’s elementary alphabet code knowledge (at the end of Y1 much of the advanced common code still remains to be taught) along with segmenting and blending skills. Although the PSC is not called a dyslexia test, if a Y1 child legitimately* achieves the ‘expected level’ in the check, then it’s reasonable to say that they aren’t ‘phonetically deaf’ or ‘dyslexic’.
* see https://www.dyslexics.org.uk/resources-and-further-reading-phonics-screening-check

Free. Phonic decodable books assessment sheets to download -includes nonsense words.

”Free, low-frequency word spelling test which you can download here and use to explore learners’ spelling skills and knowledge. It’s not a standardised test, so won’t tell you whether a learner’s spelling skills are behind, on a par with or ahead of peers. Its purpose is to focus your attention on the things that matter most for spelling”

Ruth Miskin’s free, nonsense word test. This is a phonics decoding ability test

Is your ‘end of Kindy/Reception’ kid really reading? Seven free mini-stories using basic/simple code and no pictures or repetitive language, for parents to check if their child can decode accurately without guessing.

The Literacy Hub, including a free Phonics Check for families to use at home, is an Australian Government initiative to develop tools to gauge and support Year 1 students’ phonics skills

Book (£) ‘Why Children Can’t Read: and what we can do about it’ by Diane McGuinness. Pub. Penguin (out of print but copies available through Amazon) USA edition (in print) Why our children can’t read and what we can do about it. Pub. Simon&Schuster. Both editions include a useful set of assessments: nonsense words, phoneme segmentation/blending and a code knowledge test.

Assessments to avoid:

Running Records are an uninformative waste of teacher time

Miscue Analysis – Running Records: What does the research show us?

Miscue Analysis critique

What are the problems with ‘Reading Age’ assessments?