In my last post on assessment I analysed a report by an independent psychologist on a child whose learning needs I am beginning to understand. Here I shall look at the parts of the report that pertain to literacy.


The report states of Sarah that Her basic literacy and numeracy, at best, are no better than average for her age, while her spelling is remarkably below par.


This is not the case. The school is in absolutely no doubt that Sarah’s literacy skills are unexpectedly poor when compared to her general knowledge and oral contributions to discussions.  However, she has recently attained Level C in both Reading and Writing which, at P5, is better than average and a testament to her hard work and general good comprehension. If she did not have a dyslexic difficulty then we would expect her to demonstrate even greater literacy skills. We examine the whole child and react to her learning needs, not to tests taken from cold and out of context which are so outdated as to be completely valueless.  


The single word reading test carried out in the psychologist’s chair is no indication of a child’s ability to read in the real world. All reasonable readers use multiple and complex processes to access print: decoding unfamiliar words being just one. A child with poor phonological processing ability is bound to falter when faced with lists of unconnected words, hence a low score which leads the psychologist to conclude that Sarah is ‘below average’.

The spellings he expected her to produce are equally severed from the reality of a learner in a modern setting. Sarah’s relatively slow progress in spelling stems from difficulties with phonological processing and undeveloped auditory sequential memory. The school is well aware of these problems, and has acted to address them from Sarah’s early years. We assess how Sarah reads and spells in context, not de-contextualised single words that were relevant when we all had avocado bathroom suites, and when the Beatles were on the wane!  The tester is factually wrong when he states that Sarah’s spelling shows apparent unfamiliarity with basic conventions (‘tabel’ for ‘table’, ‘- I imagine he understands the word ‘label’! – soryy’ for ‘sorry’). These errors demonstrate a real acquaintance with spelling rules, only they are not being applied appropriately.

All in all, this report adds nothing to our understanding of Sarah’s learning difficulties, and certainly does not even begin to address how these might be supported in school.

The report concludes that Sarah would benefit from individual tuition in spelling and phonics. There is an argument to be made about resourcing such intervention, although I would support any parent who rejects an economic justification for withholding tuition if this were deemed appropriate. But more often than not, children learn better within the classroom, in groups, with differentiated materials and methodologies. Such recommendations can only be seen as mischief making or profound obtuseness!

My Addictionary word for today perfectly describes the said psychologist: ignoracle:
source of useless advice.