New reading test for primary school children

by Sara

In a couple of months time a new reading test for six-year-olds will be introduced that has fired much a debate between language experts and teaching unions.

The purpose of the check will be to confirm that all pupils have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard. Children who do not reach this level should receive extra support from their school to ensure they can improve their decoding skills, and will then have the opportunity to retake the test.

Systematic Synthetic Phonics is a teaching method that helps children learn to read. It begins with teaching the letter sounds and then blending these sounds together to achieve full pronunciation of whole words.

The tests are expected to take five to ten minutes and according to the Department for Education will measure whether pupils have a good understanding of phonics which is the key to helping children to read.

Year 1 children will be asked to read 20 words and 20 made-up words such as "zog" or "vot" to their teachers. David Reedy, President of the UK Literacy Association said the inclusion of non-words would be counter productive since most six-year-olds expect to make sense of what they read. Mr. Reedy also added that the test was sending out the message that all words are decodable using phonics when they are not.

Teachers fear the test will be used in league tables in the near future, although schools minister Nick Gibb confirmed that synthetic phonics will not be compulsory in schools. Teachers agree that they should be trusted to use their judgement to use a range of techniques suited to their pupils.

Only 32% of pupils passed the National Phonics Check during the pilot phase.

The Department for Education said: "Standards of reading need to rise. At the moment around one in six children leaves primary school unable to read to the expected level."

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