According to The Daily Telegraph, "All children will be subjected to a reading test at the age of six, it was announced today, despite huge opposition from teachers.
"Ministers are pressing ahead with a trial of a new-style phonics test". The test "will include a number of made-up words such as 'koob' or 'zort' in a move designed to ensure pupils can decode unfamiliar words using phonics".
"But the move has been criticised by the UK Literacy Association who claim non-words will leave children confused. Almost two thirds of respondents to an official Government consultation also opposed the decision."
This raises the question, what's the point of consulting on a policy if you ignore the strong advice from a clear majority of respondents?
The question of whether the tests should go ahead or not was not even open to consultation.
Voice is opposed to the test in principle and so, in our own response to the Department for Education's consultation, we had to respond on the basis that the Government had already set out its intention to introduce such a test.
When General Secretary Philip Parkin visited a primary school recently and asked a year 1 teacher about the phonics test, her reply was a mixture of hilarity and frustration: "If we didn't know where the children were with their reading we wouldn't be doing our job. We don't need this to tell us." It was seen as yet another nonsensical bureaucratic burden.
In its Official Response to the DfE's Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Consultation, Voice stated:
"Although phonics is important, it is not the sole indicator of reading ability. Not all children learn in the same way. We must recognise that for a few children phonics is not necessarily the only answer. For example, some dyslexics and dyspraxics may stumble if 'words' are not contextualised. Phonics should be used by schools as part of a wider toolkit to support children in learning to read."
"The test should comprise either totally of words or non-words. If there is a mixture, children may attempt to make real words out of all the items. There is a good argument against the use of non-words. Children tend to find 'abstract' difficult and non-words are unrealistic to a child without context or experience. This may discourage the enjoyment of reading from a young age. We are also concerned that the use of non-words only measures one approach to learning to read rather than the ability to read per se."