No one could deny that teaching children to become fluent readers is probably the most important task a teacher has in those first years of schooling. Without the ability to read, a pupil cannot understand any other areas of the curriculum.
That having been said, serious doubts have been raised over whether the Government's new phonics test for five- and six-year-olds – with its made-up words – is the best way to do this. It is said by teachers that some of the brightest children fail it because they try to turn the made-up words into real words.
The results of the phonics test published yesterday showed a 42 per cent failure rate – compared with just 13 per cent failing to reach the required standard in the assessment of seven-year-olds. That suggests a discrepancy which either means the teachers are right in saying children who are good readers are being caught out by the phonics test or the national curriculum assessments are flawed.
One of the promises Michael Gove made when he became Education Secretary was that he would give teachers more freedom to teach. This would seem to be an example where he could allow them to carry out their own assessments of their pupils.