Concerns over Government's new reading test

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Campaigners have raised concerns over the proposed use of non-words in the Government's planned new reading test for six-year-olds in England, claiming it is "counter-productive".

The Government announced plans last November for a "phonics-based progress check" for Year 1 pupils aimed at identifying those not at the expected reading level and in need of extra support.



It launched a public consultation requesting the views of teachers, parents and professionals on the proposals, which closed on February 14.



The Department for Education said it aimed to pilot the test this summer, to take place nationally from summer 2012. It is understood to involve approximately 40 items.



Phonics focuses on sounds rather than having children try to recognise whole words.



In synthetic phonics, children start by sequencing the individual sounds in words - for example, 's-t-r-ee-t', with an emphasis on blending them together.



In its consultation response, the UK Literacy Association (UKLA) said: "The inclusion of non-words is counter-productive since most six-year-olds expect to make sense of what they read.



"Thus non-words are likely to confuse children used to reading sense, to the point that they under-perform."



It added learning to read involved "the construction of meaning" and "identification of words", incorporating the recognition of irregular words and other word patterns as well as phonics.



In an earlier statement on its website, David Reedy, president of UKLA, said: "It is essential that as many people as possible make their views known about this flawed and dangerous test.



The UKLA also pointed out in its response English was not as regular as Italian of Finnish.



Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "We are clear that synthetic phonics will not be compulsory in schools but we do believe more schools should teach synthetic phonics because it is shown to have a major and long-lasting effect on children's reading and spelling.



"We are supported in that view by high-quality academic evidence from across the world - from Scotland and Australia to the National Reading Panel in the US - which points to synthetic phonics being the most effective method for teaching literacy for all children, especially those aged five to seven.



"Too many children leave primary school unable to read and write properly - we are determined to raise standards and the new phonics-based reading check for six-year-olds will ensure that children who need extra help are given it before it is too late, and then can enjoy a lifetime's love of reading."

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