New reading test for six-year-olds will have little or no impact on their literacy, teachers claim

  • New tests were taken by 600,000 children last year and focus on the phonic system
  • Review based on interviews with teachers and published by the Department of Education criticised the assessments

By Tara Brady

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The Coalition government ordered state primary schools to introduced the new assessment which focuses on a phonic system

The Coalition government ordered state primary schools to introduced the new assessment which focuses on a phonic system

The new reading test for six-year-olds which was taken by 600,000 pupils last year will have little or no impact on literacy, teachers have said. 

The Coalition government ordered state primary schools to introduce the new assessment which focuses on a phonic system. 

Children are asked to 'decode' a list of 40 words but the list includes made up words like 'voo' 'blim' and 'spron'. 

However, a review published by the Department of Education which is based on interviews with 940 teachers and 844 literacy coordinators criticised the test. 

The report, which has been published online, reads: 'Only a quarter of literacy coordinators expressed the view that the check provided useful information for teachers. 

'Most of the teachers interviewed as part of the case-study visits to schools reported that the check would have minimal if any, impact on the standard of reading and writing in their school in the future. 

'This view appeared to stem from the fact that many thought the outcomes from the check told them nothing new'.

 

While teachers were positive about teaching phonics, they believed a range of teaching methods should be used.

The Coalition government ordered state primary schools to introduce the new assessment which focuses on a phonic system

The Coalition government ordered state primary schools to introduce the new assessment which focuses on a phonic system

A Department of Health spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: 'The phonics check ensures children struggling with reading get the help they desperately need.

'Last year's check, when teachers identified more than 235,000 six-year-olds behind on reading - demonstrated that.' 

At their recent conference, members of the National Union of Teachers, backed plans to boycott phonics check next year.

The comments below have not been moderated.

Hendonman, Steve etc. I think you will find that when the ignorant, verbally flatulent teacher-bashing pseuds and fools who think they are in some way qualified to comment on education support Gove, you just KNOW he has to be in the wrong. It also amuses me just how many of the people who seek to denigrate those working within academia stress over and over again how clever they are in comparison to the teachers they have supposedly encountered within their lives, thereby turning themselves into a parody of intellectual insecurity. Clearly some commentators struggled to assert or attain any intellectual credibility when younger and still carry an inferiority complex. To paraphrase the Bard, they are the type who ¿doth protest too much¿ and whose opinion on education is even more worthless than that of the most reviled Education Minister in recent history.

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I am a retired University lecturer in Computing. So I admit, I know very little about early learning apart from a PG OU course I completed on child development. I simply cannot see the value in children being tested on being able to recognise & pronounce nonsense words. We need to encourage the joy of reading proper literature. Too much testing. Gove knows nothing outside his own experience and will not listen to others or engage with them. A "nowhere man" .

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Doubts have been raised by the department of education and teachers, this will be the same people who slavishly followed every lame brained Liebour Party idea which has resulted in the dumbing down of our education system, girls and boys who should still be skipping and playing marbles, having babies and many young adults lumbered with huge University debts for degrees which aren't worth the paper they are written on. Pity they didn't protest then, but being the Liebour luvvies they are who's surprised. - Desperate Dan, Derby, United Kingdom, 21/5/2013 17:24 ///// Yet Gove wants educationalists to "slavishly follow", as you put it, HIS ignorant and ill-founded ideas. Do please check out his credentials, won't take you long, since he doesn't have any in the field of education. Why does he think he knows best? He repeatedly ignores advice from education professionals and does not engage with them. Top down management- "I know best" even though he doesn't. Yes, you must be desperate.

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Even the most tried and trusted method will not improve our children's literacy whilst our schools remain staffed with militant, "I know best" teachers all doggedly opposed to any reform which they fear will force them to accept that the methods they have hitherto been using have been an unmitigated disaster. Anything that Mr. Gove can do to improve teaching standards is to be welcomed, and those who boycott his methods should be politely asked to seek alternative employment. - rfyorke, Yorks UK, United Kingdom, 21/5/2013 12:35 ///// Errr, actually it's Gove who imagines that he "knows best". Despite knowing nothing about education, he repeatedly ignores professional advice and comes up with a never-ending stream of his own "ideas" that he just "thinks" are correct with no supporting evidence. If he wants the educational profession to go along with new ideas, he has to get them on side by engaging in debate/consensus, not just rubbishing teachers. He is a menace.

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Doubts have been raised by the department of education and teachers, this will be the same people who slavishly followed every lame brained Liebour Party idea which has resulted in the dumbing down of our education system, girls and boys who should still be skipping and playing marbles, having babies and many young adults lumbered with huge University debts for degrees which aren't worth the paper they are written on. Pity they didn't protest then, but being the Liebour luvvies they are who's surprised.

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I'm sad to see many comments about teachers' incompetency. I've been a teacher for 7 years only and I've seen at least a many new schemes in literacy, maths, planning and assessment, to name a few. It's not us that decide what we teach, and even how we teach! Our hands are tied; if we don't deliver then we are labelled rubbish (despite the fact that in London well over half the schools' pupils have English as a second language, if they have any English at all!). The phonics test is useful to see how successful a child has been in learning their sounds (check the 'letters and sounds' document for more details). The 40 words get progressively more difficult as the test goes on. But reading is a complex process and comprehension will always outweigh decoding in my book, but obviously still important. I've children who are brilliant readers but they don't understand what they have read. So IMO the test is not helpful in the scheme of things.

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The problem is that the children that aren't good readers 'score well' with the Phonics Screening because they sound out the 'Alien Words' (made up words like 'voo', 'blim' and 'spron') and so get them right but children who are actually good at reading know that 'voo', 'blim' and 'spron' are not real words so they change them to a near real word such as too, slim or spoon and that scores the child down in marks for the test.

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My daughter is 5 and does phonetics ,when she started school she had letters to learn, then she had books with no words then books with a couple of words,which i do think it works,the only problem i have is that she feels not always confident to read and becomes tired and bored easily ,with the government being so eager for children having to be able to read by a certain age we could end up forgetting how to enjoy books ,whats all the rush,I didn't learn to read till I was 7 and half ,indeed i had a troubled childhood ,but when i started to read I grasped it very quickly and since then i have always loved books.

Click to rate     Rating   7

20% of the world's population, regardless of race, have some form of diagnosed learning disability, yet most school systems spend less than 5% of their school budget helping kids who don't fall into the mediocre midline that they teach at. Why? Because it is not cost effective to create smaller class sizes to address the learning challenges of these students. Learning difficulties are very hard to diagnose and often are misdiagnosed. They are as individual as the child and come in endless combinations. School systems provide bandaid solutions to the kids they won't teach -by providing remedial classroom situations until the student is old enough to drop out. It gives schools the appearance that they have tried without really doing anything to address their failings. There is not one program that is going to reach all kids. Teachers need to re-learn how to teach in a diversified way. There is not one method that reaches most children.

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What on earth is a literacy co-ordinator? Concentrate on phonetics but please use 'real' words and not made up sounds. If teachers are against it and their DoE union minders support them, then you just know Gove is doing the right thing.

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