Saturday, 19 February 2011

Rant! Mant? Spant?!

child reading

This has to be one of the craziest things they have thrown at the teaching profession since the Coalition came into office. according to the BBC today, the Reading Test for Six Year Olds is to include made-up words [like koob and zort]

“The government said non-words were being included to check pupils' ability to decode words using phonics.”


“The UK Literacy Association said the plan was "bonkers" as the purpose of reading was to understand meaning”

Well, I know whose opinion I value more highly!

President of the UK Literacy Association David Reedy said the inclusion of non-words would be counter productive since most six-year-olds expect to make sense of what they read."The test is trying to control all the different variables so that things like meaning don't get in the way…He added that the test itself was sending out the message that all words are decodable using phonics when they are not. "There are many words with which you have to use a 'look and say' approach. This is the case with many common words such as 'the' and 'once'," he said. This was because the English language is not phonically regular like German or Finnish, he said.


David Reedy went on to say that “it might be useful for the Department for Education to explain why the Secretary of State's surname, 'Gove', did not rhyme with 'love'.”

In my limited experience [a teacher for over thirty years] I would say that the majority of children try really hard to make sense of the letters and words in front of them – and try to make them into a genuine word that they already know. This is an utterly ridiculous approach.

Exactly how are you going to use synthetic phonics to decode made-up words? Is ‘zort’ going to rhyme with ‘fort’ [a castle] or ‘wort’ [a type of plant]

Actually, it is very hard to make up new words. Gove and co obviously are unaware that…


 zort is a catchphrase word used in the kid’s programme “Pinky and The Brain” [I think similar to Bart Simpson’s Cowabunga!]


and koob is Ancient Nordic/Viking wood based throwing game, allegedly popular in Peterborough, and sometimes spelled kubb. 

But I would not expect many 6 year olds to know either word- I have only just learned them myself.


Here’s Molesworth’s rendition of “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” – which just shows where all this phonemes and graphemes stuff can lead you if you aren’t careful…

"Har fleag har fleag har fleag onward
Into the er rode the 600."


It is Half Term. No teaching for a week or more. I cannot stand the thought of these idiotic reading tests. I am going to bed before my head explodes!!!


  1. It seems all democratic governments are the same. What will they think of next :oS? Hope you slept well despite your frustration.


  2. ope you have a greta half term and that the idiocy gets taken care of :)

  3. Jane pinched my idea! Only she did it better. Leave the nonsense words to Stanley Unwin please.

    Froogollin madnyosis indeedle doodle

  4. Oh well said!
    I have a hatred of phonics, partly because I was taught to read by a scheme called ITA ( and have always struggled with spelling ever since and partly because my daughter does not get phonics at all, but once reading clicked with her around 8 has had a well above average reading age.

  5. Isn't it amazing what bureaucrats can come up with - out of no knowledge of how the mind works, how people learn, how children think! Add to that, 6-year-olds can't think abstractly yet either. Oh, my, I want to go back to bed, too!

  6. Maybe we should ask the 6 year olds to start teaching reading, I'm sure their approach would be better than this nonsense.

  7. Carolyn: I started primary school the year they got rid of the awful ITA. I remember my Mum being relieved that they had dropped it.

    Angela: I had a right ol' rant on Facebook about this stupid idea. Honestly, words aren't just sounds and markings on paper - they have meaning! I think it will confuse many children. As I said on Facebook, phonics have their place, but the English Language cannot be broken down entirely by phonics: as in plough, tough, through. The English Language is maddening, confusing, and difficult, but very beautiful. We should give our children a love of language and I don't think introducing non-words as a way of finding out if children are learning words by sight, will help one jot. Chuh! What's wrong with learning words by sight? As long as a child can read it and understand what the word means!! Grrrrr...I'll shut up now. :)

  8. Jabberwocky to them all. I tried to use that one with 11 year old girls in a very prestigious and highly achieving grammar school where I worked for nine years- and they made neither head nor tail of it. As mum to six and seven year olds, and with parents' meetings this very week, this just makes me seethe.


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