Tories for central reading tests

Seven-year-olds would sit a national reading test under the Conservatives’ new proposals to boost literacy.

Party leader David Cameron is set to call for existing procedures to evaluate primary school pupils to be changed from teacher-based assessment to external testing.

National tests will only apply to reading. Pupils’ knowledge of subjects such as mathematics and science will continue to be judged by teachers, according to the paper.

Writing in the paper today, shadow schools secretary Michael Gove said that every year thousands of children completed primary school without being able to read.

“Nowhere has the educational establishment’s influence been more damaging than in teaching reading. It is only once children have learnt to read that they can then go on to read to learn,” he said.

He added that poor reading skills could result in children dropping out of the education system at a later stage and becoming “disruptive and ill-disciplined”.

Mr Gove explained that education standards also had an effect on social justice considerations.

“Children who are born with high abilities but who come from poor backgrounds are overtaken in recorded levels of achievement at primary school by children of weaker ability from wealthier socioeconomic backgrounds.

“As these children pass through the education system the attainment gap widens. When compared with their peers, the performance of both boys and girls eligible for free school meals progressively worsens at every stage it is measured.

“By the time they’re 16 poorer pupils are performing at a level around 40 per cent below their contemporaries.”

He also called for a return to previous teaching methods such as synthetic phonics as a means to improve literacy.

School secretary Ed Balls stated that the government was promoting the use of the synthetic phonics method and accused the Conservatives of adopting old proposals by calling for external tests.