UK teachers are told to add mandatory phonics tests to the ever-expanding list. Remember when teaching was about engaging the students not test practise?
This time next year, every year 1 pupil in England is likely to encounter a new national test assessing a central aspect of their ability to read.
The children, aged five and six, will be presented with 40 individual words on paper, and asked to sound them out to their teachers or to another adult. Some words will be familiar to most, while others will be made-up or “non” words such as “mip” or “glimp”, designed only to assess the child’s ability to follow the pronunciation rules, such as they exist, of written English.
The results of this test, or “screening check”, will then be collected, given to the child’s parents and also used to produce statistics on national and local performance and to inform Ofsted inspection judgments on schools.
One leading literacy figure has described the new test as potentially “disastrous”, while another told this newspaper it was an “abomination” and likely to be a major waste of taxpayers’ money. A petition with more than 1,000 signatures against it has been collected.
The debate surrounds the principle of teaching phonics, another boring, routine and old-fashioned way of teaching content that could be conveyed in a far more exciting and engaging way.
Beyond this debate, I feel there is another issue at stake. The rise of obsessive testing inevitably leads to the curriculum being hijacked by test practise as well as pressure needlessly put on Primary aged students. These students deserve to have their crucial first years of schooling without the stresses they will confront later on down the track.