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Read for pleasure

Reaction to the publication of this year's key stage 2 Sats results has focused mainly on the marking fiasco and a drop in the numbers achieving Level 5 in English. The concern voiced by critics, that the pressure to `teach to the test' may lead to an overemphasis on Level 4 results, seems vindicated.

The results have thrown up another issue, however. Only 67 per cent of 11- year-olds are writing at the average level 4 standard. For boys, the figure is 60 per cent. Students who have major difficulties writing coherent sentences and sustaining longer compositions will have huge problems gaining access to the secondary school curriculum. The most rigorous test of reading standards is not a paper full of tick boxes but the ability to internalise the skills of reading and convert them into self expression through writing.

We have had SATs since 1992. At best, they have proved largely irrelevant to the task of raising standards in literacy. At worst, they have been an expensive distraction. Endless stale rehearsals for snap shot tests will not improve the situation. We urgently need to change course and concentrate on reading and writing for pleasure. In education engagement is everything. Nothing disengages children more effectively than the current Sats regime.

Alan Gibbons, Authors Against the Sats, Liverpool.

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