Warning as new tests for children go ahead

CONCERNS Iain Gilmour
CONCERNS Iain Gilmour

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CONTROVERSIAL tests for six-year-olds will go ahead this year but heads across Portsmouth will be on their guard to make sure they are not used in league tables, a union boss has warned.

Iain Gilmour, head of Isambard Brunel Juniors and the city’s branch secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), confirmed local heads would not boycott phonics screening checks in June.

Returning from the NAHT conference in Harrogate over the bank holiday weekend, he said: ‘We’re not against assessment, but we don’t like forms of testing that undermine the professionalism of teachers.

‘We will be very concerned if the results are used in league tables and other data to have a go at schools.’

The government says the tests will help schools identify children falling behind – but half of teachers involved in a pilot run said they didn’t reveal anything new.

Children who fail the test in phonics – breaking down words into sounds – will be asked to retake it, which Mr Gilmour says would prevent teachers using strategies they feel would work best.

He added: ‘The health minister would never tell a doctor how to operate, the defence minister would never tell a soldier how to fight, but our education secretary is telling us how to teach, and he’s not a teacher. It’s insulting.’