Reading Tests For Six-Year-Olds A 'Waste Of Money', Say Experts
The Government's new reading test for six-year-olds is a waste of taxpayers' money that will fail to identify youngsters' needs, literacy experts have warned.
In an open letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove, they say they are "deeply concerned" about the test, and call on him to reconsider its introduction.
The letter has been signed by David Reedy, the immediate past president of the United Kingdom Literacy Association, with support from others including Philip Parkin, general secretary of the education union Voice, John Coe, chairman of the National Association for Primary Education and Rona Tutt, chair of the National Literacy Association.
Plans for a reading test for six-year-olds were announced by the Department for Education (DfE) at the end of last year, amid concerns that children with poor reading skills were slipping through the net.
Pupils are asked to sound out or decode a series of words, some of which are "made up", to test their reading skills. The test is based on phonics, which focuses on sounds rather than having children try to recognise whole words.
Last month, a Government-commissioned report on a pilot of the test found that while two fifths of teachers said the check had helped them identify struggling youngsters, there were also some concerns.
The research found 72% of pilot schools said "pseudowords" caused confusion for some, or most, of their pupils and more than half of schools did not think the test helped to identify pupils with reading problems.
The open letter to Mr Gove says: "Many of our original fears have been confirmed by the evaluation report and the undersigned remain deeply concerned about the imposition of this test on all schools in England."
The letter adds: "The Government is proposing to spend millions of pounds of taxpayers' money every year on a test which will increase workload, undermine teaching time, fail in its core purpose of accurately identifying children's needs in reading and is unnecessary in promoting the already present teaching of phonics."
A DfE spokesman said: "Academic research from all around the world - from Australia to the US - shows that systematic synthetic phonics is the best way to teach early reading. Pupils who need more help to master phonics need to be identified as early as possible, which is why we will introduce a phonics check for six-year-olds from next year."