New phonics reading tests will confuse children, warn teachers

Children will be left confused as a result of the Government's new reading test for six-year-olds, teachers warn today.

The test, a phonics check which will be taken in schools this week, will include both real and made-up words. Three teachers' unions – the National Association of Head Teachers, National Union of Teachers and Association of Teachers and Lecturers – are warning they will boycott the tests next year if there is any attempt to use results in league tables or make "false claims" about its validity. They argue the use of made-up words will, in particular, confuse children for whom English is a second language and those with special needs.

In addition, the brightest children will be frustrated – pilots have shown they are prone to failing the test because they try to make the made-up words into real ones. Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: "The clear message being given by professionals to the Government is that they want the freedom to adopt whatever method best suits their children and not be pushed down a one-size-fits-all route."

Nick Gibb, the Schools minister, said: "The unions' position is especially disappointing as many of their members have already told us how this quick check will allow them to identify thousands of children who need extra help to become good readers."

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