Reading test for all six-year-olds given go-ahead

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The DfE has confirmed that all six-year-olds will take a phonics reading test next June.


All children in England will take the test at the end of Year 1.

The announcement follows the pilot, which took place in 300 schools this summer.

Research published today by the department found that 43 per cent of teachers said they had been able to identify children who had reading problems that they previously did not know about.

The study of the pilot, carried out by Sheffield Hallam University, also found that:

  • the majority of teachers found most aspects of the check appropriate
  • most pupils found the check to be a positive experience
  • it took on average between four and nine minutes for each pupil to complete

The department said that if the rollout of the test is as successful as the pilot, thousands more teachers will be able to identify children who need extra help with their reading.

During the test, children are asked to read out 40 words, which include a mixture of real and made-up ‘nonsense’ words, to check that they understand how to use synthetic phonics to decode words.

The reading test has been criticised by early years and literacy experts, who say that it does not give a clear picture of children’s reading ability and comprehension.

TACTYC, the association for the professional development of early years educators, and the UK Literacy Association are campaigning against the test.

They say that while phonics has a role in teaching children to read it should not be the only method.

They also fear that introducing the test will inevitably lead to teachers ‘teaching to the test’ at the expense of fostering a love of language and books in young children.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said, ‘Ensuring that every child leaves primary school as a fluent and confident reader is key to raising academic standards overall and is important in closing the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds. It is unacceptable that 10 per cent of boys aged 11 can read no better than a seven-year-old.

‘The new check is based on a method that is internationally proven to help children learn to read and the evidence from the pilot is clear – thousands of six-year-olds, who would otherwise slip through the net, will get the extra reading help they need to become good readers, to flourish at secondary school and to enjoy a lifetime's love of reading.’

He added, ‘Overall the report provides sufficient evidence to roll out the check nationally next year. There are also some helpful suggestions from teachers, and we will consider making some amendments to the check when it is introduced for all Year 1 pupils next summer.’

The DfE has also launched a catalogue of approved phonics resources for teaching pupils and training teachers. Primary schools with Key Stage 1 pupils will be able to claim up to £3,000, if they match that funding, to spend on tapproved materials.

Schools will decide which of the resources will help them to deliver high-quality phonics teaching for their pupils and will be able to buy products and training with the match-funding up to March 2013.

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