Freedom of Information Act Query: Phonics testing. League Tables for Five Year Olds.

Having just written a blog post earlier today which points towards the fact I hadn’t received a response to my Freedom of Information Act query – this afternoon I find an email in my inbox from the Department of Education. I’m publishing the text of this Freedom of Information Act Query on this blog here. I’m sure you’ll agree it is enlightening…pay particular attention to the costs of the Phonics test in schools…

Copy follows:

Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 17 January 2011. You requested the following:

a) The cost of the implementation of the proposal to introduce school league tables for five year olds using the Early Years Foundation Stage Profiles. I understand the plan is to publish these on an existing web site, but the information will still need to be collated and gathered from every school in the country, presumably. I should like to know how much this measure will cost. This data should include the cost of any feasibility studies that have been carried out or initial research costs before the proposal was made.
b) The cost of the proposed reading test for six year olds. This too, is referred to in the coalition business plan and it appears to be something which would be introduced in a pilot scheme this June. I should like to obtain what the cost of this pilot scheme would be, and if possible the cost of the implementation of this scheme. The costs mentioned should include any consultancy costs already spent in the researching of this scheme. It should also include details of the cost of any feasibility studies that have been carried out.c) Please also provide details of the cost of any publicity measures that have been used specifically to promote the above schemes including any web sites or web consultancy costsI have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).

The Government has no plans to publish Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) profile data at school level and we have not made an assessment of the costs you request. The draft transparency section of the DfE business plan, published in November, suggested that achievements of children at the end of the EYFS might be published at school level, in addition to data already published on children’s attainment at the end of the primary school phase. This is not the case and will be made clear in the final published version of the Business Plan. 

We are not able to release the full costs of the pilot of the Year 1 phonics screening check. The printing and distribution of the pilot screening check materials and the monitoring and evaluation of the pilot are still subject to procurement activity, and considered to be commercially sensitive information.  We are therefore withholding this information under section 43(2) of the Act. Section 43 provides for information to be exempt, where disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person. The release of information related to the anticipated costs of these contracts could prejudice the Department’s commercial interests by adversely affecting the bargaining position during contractual negotiations, resulting in the less effective use of public money. It is therefore considered that it is not in the public interest to disclose this information.

However, in the interests of transparency, we are able to provide you with some of the costs of the pilot. It is intended that up to 300 schools will take place in the pilot.  We anticipate that approximately £250,000 will cover the costs of developing the items for the screening check, statistical analysis of the results, studies to determine the validity and reliability of the screening check, training teachers to administer the check, and a payment to schools to cover their preparation and administration costs associated with taking part in the pilot. These costs are only indicative and future policy decisions may alter the costs of these elements of the pilot.

The Department does not hold detailed costs for the potential roll out of the phonics screening check because the policy is still in development. Findings from the pilot and feedback from the public consultation will be used to inform decisions about the implementation of the screening check. These decisions will, in turn, determine the cost.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original consideration of your request. 

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office

Yours sincerely,

Assessment Division

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2011/0004302.


Copy Ends.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Please help us spread the word about boycotting the test. I’ve been told by Dept of Ed that I have NO RIGHT to ask for my twins to be excused.


  2. Good afternoon,

    I am interested to know who is involved in the pilot and what it entails please.


    Dr. M. Simms
    Early Years Consultant


    • Posted by Frances Laing on May 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Thanks Margaret. The government intends to implement this pilot in schools in the month of June. The TES newspaper has covered this extensively. Best. F.


  3. Posted by Frances Laing on February 10, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you Catherine for taking the time. Thank you for reading this and hope to discover more answers to these questions before too long.
    Very best.


  4. Posted by Catherine Beaumont on February 10, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    I am very interested to read the information both about the league tables, and that the spokesperson is saying there are not plans to implement that idea. This idea of ‘testing’ 6 year olds reading ability really worries me for those children who just aren’t ready to be demonstrating reading skills at this age. Why when in Sweden, Finland and other countries there is not even the expectation that children should be reading at 6 are we in Britain having Ministers proposing to ‘test’ our 6 year olds? Who are these Ministers’ advisors? There is NO evidence to suggest this is good for long term success.


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