Infants will be given a reading test after just a year of school to identify
children struggling the most with basic literacy, it emerged today.

Six-year-olds will be asked to identify simple words such as “mum”, “dad”,
“dog” and “cat” under a Coalition plan to boost standards in primary

Ministers claim that failure to master reading in the first few years of
school can seriously undermine children’s long-term development – impacting
on all subjects and holding them back throughout compulsory education.

According to figures, almost one-in-five pupils currently start secondary
school without a decent grasp of reading.

Government reforms – to be outlined in an education White Paper being
published on Wednesday – will introduce a reading test for 600,000 children
at the end of Year 1.

Schools will be required to offer extra tuition for those failing to master
simple words.

It was claimed teachers would not be encouraged to “drill” pupils to pass
because school-by-school results would not be published – giving a true
gauge of children’s reading skills.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said: “A solid foundation in reading is
crucial to a child’s success as they progress through primary school, into
secondary school and then in later life.

“But, in spite of the hard work of teachers and pupils, too many children are
currently not reaching the expected reading levels at age seven and age 11.

“We are determined to raise literacy standards in our schools, especially of
those not achieving the expected level – a light-touch phonics-based check
will provide reassurance that children in Year 1 have learned this important
skill, will enable us to pinpoint those who are struggling at an early age
and will give them the help they need before it is too late.”

Tests will be piloted next summer being introduced to some 16,000 state
schools in 2012.

Ministers also want all primary schools to teach reading using the
back-to-basics synthetic phonics method. Under this system, children are
taught to break down words into individual sounds.

Extra training in phonics will be offered to all practicing and trainee
primary school teachers, it was disclosed.

According to the latest figures, 15 per cent of seven-year-olds failed to
reach the standard expected of their age group in reading in 2010.

Some 19 per cent of 11-year-olds also fell short of official targets – meaning
almost one-in-five pupils started secondary school this term lacking good
reading skills.

The reforms were backed by Ofsted which published research earlier this month
that said standards of reading and writing among primary school pupils fell
"stubbornly short" of acceptable levels.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: “The foundations for
fluent reading and writing are established between the ages of three to

“A test for six-year-olds should not only prioritise reading for primary
schools, but should also enable early support to be given to schools who are
finding it difficult to get all their children reading.”


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