How 'voo' and 'terg' caused a 'strom' in the reading tests
Teachers threaten boycott of national exams, saying children were confused by made-up words
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Friday 28 September 2012
More than four out of 10 children failed the Government's first-ever national reading test for five- and six-year-olds. When the reseults were published yesterday they immediately sparked a row with teachers, who claimed the test was undermining the cleverest children through the use of made-up words and undermining the confidence of pupils by failing them at the age of five.
Teachers may now boycott the tests next year if the Government does not first withdraw them.
At the end of the first year of their compulsory schooling, children are tested on 40 words – half of them made up like "voo", "terg" and "strom". Only 58 per cent got 32 out of 40 right – the required standard that children are expected to meet.
Girls did better than boys in the test, with 62 per cent achieving the pass mark as opposed to 54 per cent of boys. Children from disadvantaged homes did worst with just 44 per cent meeting the standard.
However, a survey of teachers by three unions – the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and National Association of Head Teachers – revealed that the test was often foxing some of the cleverest children who believed the made-up words were a spelling error. As a result, they tried to turn them into real words, for example turning "strom" into "storm" and therefore getting marked down.
The Department for Education said the phonics check had unearthed 235,000 pupils who needed help with their reading. It argued that made-up words had to be used as the only fair and accurate way of checking pupils' decoding skills since pupils could not resort to memory to get the answer right. The Education and Childcare minister Elizabeth Truss said: "The reading check helps to identify those pupils who need extra help in learning to read."
However, Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: "Children have different learning styles and develop at different ages and stages – a fact the phonics check doesn't recognise. Five is too young to fail. This check is simply upsetting.
"We need to be encouraging reading for pleasure and not putting children off the whole process by reducing it to yet another target."
The unions' survey revealed that 91 per cent of teachers did not believe the phonics check told them anything they did not already know about their children's ability to read.
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...
Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree have recently been awa...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...