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DfE moots overhaul of KS1 reading assessment

Changes to the reading assessment of seven-year-olds are still on the table, despite assurances that the slimline phonics check will not replace it.

Around 10,000 pupils took the pilot phonics check last week, which involved reading aloud 20 words and 20 non-words.

The controversial new test has met with opposition from unions and literacy groups, who fear it could narrow the reading curriculum for the youngest children.

In the consultation, only 28 per cent of people agreed the screening check should be focused on phonic decoding.

But the Department for Education has argued that, by keeping the test focused on phonics, the burden of assessment is limited and the "whole range of reading skills" would continue to be taught and then assessed in Year 2.

It has also confirmed that this test could be subject to reform. "It is crucial to identify any children struggling with phonic decoding before Year 2 - that's why we are piloting the Year 1 phonics screening check this week," the DfE said.

"Assessment in key stage 1 should be appropriate and proportionate. Following the introduction of the phonics screening check, and the reviews of the EYFS and the national curriculum, we will look closely at the assessment and reporting burdens in the early years and KS1."

In 2009, education secretary Michael Gove told the Royal Society for the Arts: "We will replace the KS1 tests with a simple reading test at the end of the second year of primary so that parents know whether their child has been taught to read properly or not."

But Claire Axten, head of Brookside Primary in Street, Somerset, which trialled the pilot this week, said: "I think the KS1 assessments are bound to stay because we have to know what progress children are making between KS1 and KS2. The phonics check is not a progress measure - it is a phonics check. If they got rid of the KS1 assessment, that would really be worrying."

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