New tests will cut school reading time, say authors


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The Independent Online

A new spelling and punctuation test for 11-year-olds next year will cut the time for children's reading in schools, authors warned at the weekend.

The former Children's Laureate Michael Rosen told a conference in London: "There won't be time for reading and enjoyment."

Instead, the new test, dubbed the "spag" test as it will cover spelling, grammar and punctuation, will combine with the phonics test for six-year-olds introduced last year to make more children feel like failures at any early age.

Both Mr Rosen and children's author Anthony Horowitz were talking at the Festival of Education – staged by London University's Institute of Education with the support of i – about how schools could "stop killing the love of reading".

Figures show that while literacy levels have improved, fewer children now say they are reading for pleasure. "Spag is guaranteed to put children off reading. It almost has a quality stamp on it that it will do that," said Mr Rosen.

Mr Horowitz argued that instead, schools should be encouraged to set aside more time for reading and have more money for books.

Earlier, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, when asked what the school leavers of the future should be able to do, said they should "draft documents, write business letters, read and appreciate English literature and have fluency in another foreign language".

Schools are fostering a "cult of the average" by focusing too much on tests and exam league tables, according to a major study of education published by Britain's employers today.