Children’s authors protest against phonics reading test

Primary school phonics tests damage kids’ interest in reading for pleasure, warns author Michael Rosen

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Former children’s laureate Michael Rosen has kickstarted an attack on primary school phonics tests, warning the tests will stop children reading for pleasure.

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Over 90 children’s authors, including Meg Rosoff, Philip Ardagh and Alan Gibbons have signed an open letter to The Guardian, supporting Rosen’s claims that the phonics system should be abandoned as it won’t help children understand what they’re reading.

The proposed phonics programme would see children undertake a screening test at the end of year one, with a further punctuation and grammar exam, called a Spag test, at the end of Year 6.

Rosen told The Guardian, “They have no evidence that any of this stuff they’ve imposed will actually improve children’s writing. If they produced it, perhaps we’d have to shut up, but they don’t.”

The Government’s proposed plans aim to improve grammar and spelling, but Rosen claims it’ll lead to a “drill, skill and kill” method.

“Anyone who has a Year 6 child will know that for the past six months up until the Sats test, our children have been drilled and drilled, doing paper after paper, when they could have been writing, reading and playing with language in all kinds of ways,” said Rosen.

Rosen also attacked the idea of learning nonsense words. “Many [children] were failing because they were trying to correct the nonsense words, he said, for example saying ‘strom’ as ‘storm’.” Rosen added, “It is incredibly baffling to most parents because it sounds as if they are being told that their child has failed at reading, which is not the case.”

A recent Ofsted report, Moving English Forward, recommends the Government looks into policies to encourage reading for enjoyment. No plans have yet been proposed. Rosen claimed, “As a result, more school time will be devoted to reading as an academic, test-driven exercise; less time will be available for reading and writing enjoyment.”

Has your child had a phonics screening test? What are your thoughts? Let us know below…

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