Headteachers could 'boycott Government reading test', warns union leader

 

Headteachers could boycott the Government's controversial new reading
test for six-year-olds if it is used "as a stick to beat schools with",
a union leader warned today.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, (NAHT) said there were fears that the check will be used to "attack rather than assess".

If this proves to be the case, heads could refuse to administer it, and set their own test instead.

Plans for a reading test were announced by ministers last year, amid fears youngsters with poor reading skills were slipping through the net.

The check, which is taken by pupils at the end of their first year of formal schooling (Year 1), is based on phonics, a system which focuses on sounds rather than recognising whole words, and has been promoted by the Government as the best way to boost reading standards.

Pupils are asked to sound out or decode a series of words, some of which are made up, to test their reading skills.

It will be administered across England for the first time this year.

In his speech to the NAHT's annual conference in Harrogate today, Mr Hobby said: "We fear that the pass rate for the new phonics screening check will be set at an arbitrary high level in order to fuel headlines about children failing to learn to read.

"There is not yet a robust evidence base for any particular pass rate.

"We don't see the need for this screening check - it is inferior to what most schools do already - but if it is to happen it should be used as a genuine diagnostic test, not a stick to beat schools with.

"And if it is used to attack rather than assess, that will be the end of the screening check as far as the NAHT is concerned.

"And we will happily work with our colleagues in other unions like the National Union of Teachers (NUT) to frustrate its further application."

Mr Hobby told delegates that "nobody is saying our education system is perfect", but added it was important to remember the progress that has been made.

"Our schools have got an extra 200,000 children a year reading well, compared with 1995. We are not complacent. But it is pride in what we have achieved so far that will be the springboard to get to 100 per cent."

Speaking before the conference, Mr Hobby gave details on how the NAHT would "frustrate" the reading test.

"What we would do is create our own reading test, administer it, and give it to parents, but we won't report on the data to government," he said.

"Parents will get all the information they need, but the Government won't get any statistics to damn the profession with."

He said that most schools already have their own reading tests in place, which cover more than phonics, and the union will use these to create a standard test.

The NAHT is likely to ballot members for a boycott before any action is taken, Mr Hobby added. His comments come just weeks after the NUT called for a campaign against the test, warning that pupils will be branded as failures at the age of five or six.

Delegates at the NUT's annual conference in Torquay passed a resolution arguing that the mandatory testing of phonics is "unnecessary and inappropriate".

They called for concerns to be raised with ministers about the test "at every opportunity" and for the NUT's executive to prepare a campaign, including a boycott, if the test is used towards league tables in the future.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
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

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Reach Volunteering: External HR Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot