Scrap reading tests for pupils aged 6, experts urge ministers
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 October 2011
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.
Nepal earthquake in pictures: Photos show devastation caused by 7.8 magnitude earthquake
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital in London where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Nepal earthquake: Rescuers forced to dig with their bare hands in search for survivors as images show damage to historic buildings
Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson in angry clash live on BBC's Andrew Marr Show
Bali Nine executions: British grandmother on death row in Indonesia Lindsay Sandiford says she 'just wants to get it over with'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 2 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Windo...
£25 - 32,500K (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Produ...
£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning independent ...
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...