Working memory and phonological awareness as predictors of progress towards early learning goals at school entry


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Tracy Packiam Alloway, Department of Psychology, University of Durham, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK (


This study investigates whether working memory skills of children are related to teacher ratings of their progress towards learning goals at the time of school entry, at 4 or 5 years of age. A sample of 194 children was tested on measures of working memory, phonological awareness, and non-verbal ability, in addition to the school-based baseline assessments in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, speaking and listening, and personal and social development. Various aspects of cognitive functioning formed unique associations with baseline assessments; for example complex memory span with rated writing skills, phonological short-term memory with both reading and speaking and listening skills, and sentence repetition scores with both mathematics and personal and social skills. Rated reading skills were also uniquely associated with phonological awareness scores. The findings indicate that the capacity to store and process material over short periods of time, referred to as working memory, and also the awareness of phonological structure, may play a crucial role in key learning areas for children at the beginning of formal education.