Something amazing happened yesterday. The Education Secretary Nicky Morgan gave a speech about education that was in fact about education. For a short time, at least, schools will be used to teach children the basics – reading, writing and arithmetic.
Somehow in between the propaganda about British values, FGM, same-sex marriage, black history and all the other garbage that gets thrown at children, schools they will also have to teach them to read. National tests, instead of teacher assessment, will return for seven-year olds.
I have a big interest in this as my six-year old, three-year-old and ten-month-old must endure this middle of the road English education system. I expect the six-year-old will be spared, but the other two will have the national tests so a little compare and contrast is coming my way.
The reaction has been predictable – down with national tests. There was this piece so full of fuzzy meaningless language it makes me want to start drilling the baby (never mind the 6-year-old) in her times tables.
Please, dear reader, follow the link and read it. It starts thus:
“We all had a favourite book as a child. Many of us remember snuggling up on the carpet, watching our teacher’s animated face as they put on funny voices and brought a story to life.
“For some, it was the tale of a bear hunt, for others the story of the way wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes. For many, eyes lit up with wild excitement by going into the dark, dark house, down the dark, dark staircase into the dark, dark cellar where some skeletons live. Young children across the world enjoy stories, and teachers enjoy sharing them, because it is at this moment the flame is lit, the brain is inspired and learning begins. When a child is engaged, they can be taught anything.
“But this could all be over – again – as Nicky Morgan considers plans to reintroduce national tests at key stage 1.”
Did you spot that folks? Quite a leap, eh? A leap only a gazelle could make. If we introduce national tests at seven then children will never be read to again, ever.
Not by a teacher and not by a parent. Throw out your Grufallo – give up your Percy the Park Keeper, burn your Horrid Henry! Tests mean reading aloud will be abolished! What nonsense! Of course, children can be read to; it is just in addition to this they will have to be taught to read – a very different and difficult task.
This is the hard fact that sometimes middle-class parents don’t want to know. No matter how much you read to your children, this will not in fact teach them to read. It will encourage them to want to learn to read, sure. It will inspire and spark their imagination, but it will not teach them all the sounds in phonics, how they blend, and the hundreds of alternative spellings and ‘tricky words’. This they have to be taught in school by teachers.
I also laughed out loud at the line – “When a child is engaged, they can be taught anything.” Gosh I though, anything? You mean I can teach my child Pythagoras’s theorem just because she is ‘engaged’. Amazing!
This is the kind of progressive myth-making that has let down thousands upon thousands of poor children every year. Children are not naturally imbued with knowledge – they have to be taught it. And this requires work on the part of the teacher and effort on the part of the child.
I am not saying national tests are problem free – but this piece does not really highlight any. There is always the danger teachers will teach just to test and pile pressure on pupils. If this happens parents should object.
I have heard primary schools asking all pupils to come in over half term in year 6 to improve Sat scores. To which I say – no chance. You are not stealing my child’s half term. If you cannot teach them to pass in the very lengthy school day and school year you are given then that is your problem, not mine.
National tests do not have to spell disaster. Teachers and parents should resist an arms race but teachers should also quit their carping and do some teaching. It is their job.