A reading test that's hard to comprehend

25th March 2011 at 00:00

The uncritical advocacy of phonics testing for six-year-olds is problematic in a number of ways. First, Ruth Miskin and her co-authors make the extraordinary comment that children doing the phonics test can have the nonsense words "presented as the names of imaginary creatures". It's surely no coincidence that the advocacy of teacher deception becomes the norm under this regime.

Next, there is predictably nothing whatsoever about age appropriateness in the article. It is just assumed that no harm will be done by a quasi-formal literacy-cramming regime cascading down into the early nursery years.

The Government's love affair with phonics is political and ideological rather than evidence-based. Meta-analyses of the research data, published in 2003, 2010 and 2011 by Professor Gregory Camilli and colleagues, and Dr Sebastian Suggate, suggest that an eclectic approach to reading, tailored to individual children, is more appropriate.

Basing national policy on a few methodologically dubious studies just won't do when the resultant policies are compulsorily foisted onto a generation of hapless child guinea-pigs.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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