Reading test is a waste of money say experts

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The UK Literacy Association has warned the government that the new reading test for six-year-olds is a waste of money and will not identify youngsters' needs.

In an open letter sent to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, the UK Literacy Association and other representatives have asked Mr Gove 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.

The concerns stem around the decoding of words - some of which are made up - by sounds, instead of asking children to recognise whole words, and follows a recent government-commissioned report on the test, which uncovered that many teachers had concerns, and that 72% of pilot schools said made up words caused confusion for some, or most, of their pupils. More than half of schools did not think the test helped to identify pupils with reading problems.

The letter says that the finding about "pseudowords" confirms their worries that a reading test based only on decoding could harm standards in the long term.

The letter 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 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.

"In the light of the findings from the evaluation of the pilot we are sure that ministers will be reconsidering the need for the phonics test for six-year-olds.

"The signatories of this letter would welcome an opportunity to discuss how teacher assessment of reading would identify and help young readers who are slow to start."

However, 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."

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