During the past few months, the National Association for the Teaching of English has been receiving a steady flow of messages from teachers bewildered by the contrast between the hype about literacy standards rising and their own observations.
The new Durham figures will support these doubts about the key stage 2 tests and make them feel they are not alone in their concerns.
Of course we are all delighted by the idea that standards are rising and are proud of the hard work put in to achieve such improvements. However, it is a bit much for politicians and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to claim this improvement (which could be caused by massaging the assessment standards) without proper evidence, and then to sneer at anyone who questions the claim.
Obviously, we all need clear evidence of what is happening. The present assessment system is expensive, probably unreliable and possibly destructive. It distorts the curriculum and compels teachers to spend hours teaching to the test.
If it has to stay in place, teachers need to be able to make sense of the results it produces. They need to know exactly what today's pupils are judged to do better than yesterday's and what they do less well.
General and unsupported statements about government strategies having improved standards don't really give much guidance. And although teachers may have got used to goalposts moving, when the whole pitch lurches without warning they are inclined to lose heart.
9 to 14 committee
National Association for the Teaching of English 50 Broadfield Road, Sheffield