Since Education Secretary Michael Gove revealed plans to introduce a phonics test for all year one pupils in England last November, education professionals have responded in extremely varied ways -some feel that the introduction of the test would have a positive impact on children’s learning whilst others have expressed strong concerns. Those opposing the plans have now taken things to a new level and implemented a petition against the plans.
The tests, set to be introduced next spring, are designed to test a child’s ability to follow pronunciation rules. Children aged between five and six will be required to sound out 40 individual words, some that are considered to be familiar and some that are made up, to their teacher to enable them to identify students that require reading assistance. The results will also provide Ofsted with local and national phonics statistics.
Phonics teaching is a requirement in schools and is widely considered to be a central factor in teaching children to read. The teaching requires children to sound out words by making the sound of each letter to lead them to the sound of the full word. However, despite pilot schemes passing without any issues, critics feel so strongly that the new test only emphasises one aspect of the complex reading process, that the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA), backed by 13 other organisations, has written to Michael Gove in an attempt to persuade him to abandon the plans once and for all.
Michael Gove promoted the introduction of the tests, saying that: “parents want to know how their children are reading and this will tell them”. With statistics from The Department for Education showing that, in 2010, 15 % of seven-year-olds and 16 % of eleven-year-olds did not reach the expected standard reading age, the introduction of the tests is welcomed by the government. These opinions are echoed by some literacy professionals who believe that the tests will ensure that children experiencing learning difficulties will be identified at an early age.
Only time will tell whether or not the petition will have any effect on Michael Gove’s plans to introduce the tests. In the meantime, you can read more about the introduction of the tests and those backing or opposing the introduction on The Guardian website: : http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jul/04/national-phonics-test-primary-pupils?commentpage=all#start-of-comments