Children to be tested at six for reading ability

Pupils will be given an "MOT" to ensure they can read properly at the age of six, the Education Secretary said today.

Michael Gove said the academy system would also be extended to allow successful headteachers to take over failing primary schools.



Figures provided by the Department for Education to BBC Radio 4's Today programme found 9% of boys - some 18,000 pupils - aged 11 had a reading age of seven or younger when leaving primary school.



While the proportion of youngsters achieving the necessary level 4 in English had risen from 49% to 81% in the last 15 years. But a persistent minority of children are failing to reach even level 2, the standard expected of seven-year-olds.



Today, Mr Gove said secondary education was pointless if children left primary school unable to read.



New teachers would be trained to use systematic synthetic phonics, regarded as the "single most effective method" to improve reading, Mr Gove said.



He added: "We also want to ensure that there is a basic check on children's ability to read at the age of six, an MOT to ensure children are reading properly, both that they are decoding the English language, in other words, they understand the individual letters, how they go together and how a word is made up.



"We also want, having identified those children who are not decoding fluently, we want to be able to ensure there is additional support for them."



Mr Gove said the last Labour government was "rhetorically committed" to dealing with the problem of reading standards in primary schools but it failed to learn lessons from the best schools about how to teach children to read.



He said the Government would be publishing more data about weaknesses in the education system, saying it would be used "shrewdly and wisely" to improve standards.



Headteachers whose schools persistently fail would be sacked, Mr Gove confirmed.



He said: "We have said that any school where you get fewer than 60% of children reading at the expected level and where they are not making appropriate progress will also be subject to specific intervention.



"We want to make sure that those schools where children are not being taught to read are tackled because, ultimately, if you do not get a child reading by the time they leave primary school, by the time they arrive at secondary school the curriculum is just a closed book to them, literally.



"I don't want to be in the business of sacking anyone but I do want to be in the business of saying to all schools and local authorities 'I'm sorry, it's unacceptable if children leave school (unable to read). You have seven years, you have ample resources, you have the full support of the department for education in tackling illiteracy'.



"If we can't, then we have got to do something better. There are great headteachers out there who have already done this... we can give headteachers the power to make a difference in other schools."



Mr Gove said there was an "unbudgable" group of children, mostly boys, who were not learning to read.



But, he said, some schools in deprived areas had managed to deal with the problem effectively while other headteachers still had persistently high rates of illiteracy in their classrooms.



He added: "All I would say is, what have we got to be afraid of if we ask all schools to get children by the time that they are six capable of having taken the first steps of reading properly?"



Ofsted will also be asked to ensure schools know the best reading schemes, while headteachers will have to publish which schemes they use.



These will then be compared to test results so Mr Gove and his officials can identify which schemes work best.



The MOT tests were first announced in 2007 by David Cameron when in Opposition and today's announcement is part of a wider Government drive to focus resources on early years and primary education, while cutting back on spending for older students, such as axing the Education Maintenance Allowance, which gives the poorest teenagers £30 a week to stay in education or training.



Mr Gove said the Government's Pupil Premium for schools in the most deprived areas would also help alleviate the problem.



Labour have challenged whether the premium is actually on top of what schools already receive from central Government.



As part of today's announcement, the Government released figures which showed 9% of pupils had the reading age of seven-year-old or younger when leaving primary school.



In Nottingham, 15% achieved below level 3 in literacy tests at 11, while in Derby, Telford, Manchester and Rotherham the figure was 14%.



Nottingham North MP Graham Allen, who is conducting a review of early intervention for the Government, said that children's chances of becoming literate are often determined before they even arrive at school.



Ofsted reports on primaries in Nottingham have found four and five-year-olds beginning school unable to speak a sentence or to recognise the difference between letters and numbers, he said.



For these children, the chances of achieving literacy by the age of 11 are hugely diminished, no matter what teaching techniques are used at school.



Nottingham has been pioneering early intervention programmes over the past few years involving intensive engagement with mothers from disadvantaged households in the first years of their babies' lives to encourage good parenting.



Mr Allen said he was hopeful that this would feed through to improvements in the literacy of the city's youngsters in future years.



Mr Allen said: "At 11, it is too late. What you need to do is get parents to read to babies and toddlers and encourage them to look at books, to get basic social and emotional capabilities in place.



"When my review reports in January, we will be proposing a strengthening of help in the very earliest years, which is cheap and effective, rather than throwing money at the problem after it has become rooted.



"Once a boy is 11 and can't read, it is very difficult and expensive to recover that ground, but unfortunately people look for a quick fix like changing the name of schools to academies or bringing in some remedial scheme. That is looking at the symptoms, not the cause."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Experienced Primary Teachers We are curr...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits