Concerns for literacy teaching have once again risen after results showed an increase in the number of children leaving primary school unable to read or write. Immediately in response the government and teaching unions rush to explain away their failure to teach children as if it represents a mere blip. The inconvenient fact is that thousands of pupils enter secondary education ill-prepared for the work which requires competency in English. It is little wonder that many struggle with education and are turned off.

Schools minister Diana Johnson said the results were “disappointing”.

“Parents are going to be concerned about this blip, as are head teachers and governing bodies,” she added.

The Government is concerned as well. We have plans to deal with this.”

One in five 11-year-olds missed the target standard. It is the first time the results have dropped since 1995.

Parents will now have to look forward to new investigations by the Audit Office and a report from the Public Accounts Committee which investigated the matter just a few years ago. The predictable hand wringing by the professionals will attempt to absolve teachers of their responsibility but parents will rightly ask “what is the point of primary schooling if not to teach the building blocks of numeracy and literacy?”

 The teaching profession has been distracted by changes to the curriculum and play based approaches. These distractions must cease until the professionals produce acceptable outcomes.

Meanwhile teaching unions have called for the Sats system to be abandoned, with the National Union of Teachers warning one in five test scores could be wrong. The NUT has threatened to boycott the tests next time. There was anger in 2008 when administrative problems delayed results. This year’s scores were delivered to schools on time last month. Perhaps teachers just want to avoid examination of their performance. This can hardly be compatible with a profession that now has a General Teaching Council similar to doctors, nurses and midwives.

One in five children entering secondary school unable to read or write is an indictment which requires accountability action.

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