Last Friday I spoke with a parent from a local primary school about her 6-year-old daughter’s school report. The report stated that her daughter “has not met the expected standard for the Year 1 phonics screening check.” The parent told me how puzzled they both were by this, because her daughter could confidently read lots of written material by herself – including this very statement from her report.
As followers of my blog will know, my strongest interest is in children’s lives beyond the classroom. I claim no great expertise in teaching children how to read. However, this parent’s story echoes some of my wider concerns about the way we think about children and childhood.
I believe that we are losing sight of what makes for a rounded education. Our system has too many blind spots about the ways that children build their competences. It focuses too much on literacy and numeracy – important though these are – at the expense of other areas of learning. And it is preoccupied with testing and accountability.
The current emphasis on phonics for teaching reading skills is controversial, as shown by a look at the blog of former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen. However, I am not making any party political points here. The focus on literacy and numeracy, and on measurement and accountability, go back decades.
Neither do I have any easy solutions to offer. My hope is that this story will add weight to the calls to rethink the ways we foster children’s learning. Because if a child comes home and reads in her own school report that in effect she cannot read, then something is badly wrong with our education system.
Note: the parent wishes to remain anonymous, which is why I have not used names and not named the school.