State education failure: reading

A report published by the Cambridge Primary Review, the biggest inquiry into primary education for decades, has found that the National Literacy Strategy has had almost no impact on children's reading skills. The research was carried out by academics at the universities of Bristol and Durham and the National Foundation for Educational Research. The Times continues:

"The Durham University study, led by Peter Tymms, concluded that the National
Literacy Strategy, which includes the “literacy hour” daily English lesson,
had made a “barely noticeable” impression on reading standards, which had
barely improved since the 1950s.

"The report said: “£500 million was spent on the National Literacy Strategy
with almost no impact on reading levels.” The apparently dramatic rise in
primary school test results “exaggerated the changes in pupils’ attainment
levels and were seriously misleading”.

"Professor Tymms has in the past criticised ministers for suggesting that tests
do not reflect the true nature of rising standards. But the independent
statistics watchdog has backed his conclusions.

"Wynne Harlen from the University of Bristol gave warning in his report that
primary school national tests were too narrow. “There is considerable
research evidence that high- stakes tests put teachers under pressure to
increase scores, which they do by teaching to the tests, giving multiple
practice tests and coaching pupils in how to answer questions,” he said.
“There is firm evidence that this results in considerable stress for pupils.”

"The report calculated that pupils spend about nine school days in Year 5 and
13 school days in Year 6 practising for and taking tests. “This is time that
teachers and pupils could use in other ways,” it said."


What an indictment of government educational policies. But unfortunately, reports such as this will continue to be written no matter how much money is spent on education so long as politicians continue to manage the system. The sooner they realise that they have neither the management experience nor the in-depth knowledge to manage state education, the better for all.


Meanwhile, the madness and hypocrisy continues. Philip Hunter, the Chief Schools Adjudicator, has backed lotteries to allocate places in over-subscribed schools. This move would strip further powers from parents to help their children to get a good education, something any caring family strives for. Does he not realise that the only reason that good state schools are over-subscribed is that there are not enough of them? And the reason there are not enough of them is that good schools are prevented from expanding and new schools are prevented from opening.


At the same time we read of the £20 million a year that taxpayers have to fork out to send the children of Foreign Office diplimats to top private boarding schools, including Eton and Winchester. An admission, if ever there was, that state education is failing.

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