Scrap reading tests for pupils aged 6, experts urge ministers

Leading literacy experts will today urge the Government to abandon plans for a compulsory national reading test for all six-year-olds next summer.

Ministers argue the assessment, which will see pupils reading real and made-up words to test their phonics skills, will help identify slow readers. However, the experts say a pilot of the test ended up baffling the brightest youngsters and warn it could even end up lowering reading standards.

In a letter to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, they and teachers' leaders – who include Professor Robin Alexander, the Cambridge don who three years ago headed the most thorough investigation into primary schooling in the past 40 years – say the Government has misinterpreted the findings of a pilot of the test.

The Schools minister Nick Gibb argued that "the check will be of real benefit to pupils but takes just a few minutes to carry out and is a positive experience for most children".

However, the letter says 72 per cent of schools found difficulties with the use of "pseudo words", which led to some of their most able readers becoming confused. The trial assessment included 20 real words and 20 made-up ones.

The signatories say the findings confirm their worries that the test "could actually harm standards in the longer term with able readers mistakenly identified as needing further teaching of phonics and being held back as a result".

They also take issue with Mr Gibbs' claim that the evaluation takes "just a few minutes". They say the average time teachers devoted to it in the pilot was 15.5 hours. They urge ministers to reconsider the introduction of the test. "The signatories of this letter would welcome an opportunity to discuss how teacher assessment of reading would identify and help young readers who are slow to start," they add.

It is signed by Professor Alexander; David Reedy, chairman of the UK Literacy Association; and John Hickman, chairman of the National Association of Advisers for English. Fellow signatories include several teachers' leaders.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education accused the authors of the letter of misreading "much of the evidence" from the pilot tests.

She added: "Only last month we learned that one in 10 boys can read no better than a seven-year-old at the end of Key Stage 2 (11-year-olds). We cannot let this continue."

Sound out: The test

The test consists of 40 words – 20 made up and 20 real – that children have to read out aloud.

Some examples of what they have been assessed on include: blow, cat, cow, glimp, mip, koob and zort.

A pilot assessment carried out this summer revealed that bright youngsters were flummoxed by the unreal words because they suspected something was wrong.

However, they were then identified as being in need of remedial help with their reading.

The Government argues that the test will strengthen phonics teaching in schools, which research has shown is the best way of teaching young pupils to read.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: MIS Officer - Further Education Sector

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating throughout London and...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K - £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been we...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there