Call My Bluff: Junior Edition

When I saw this report, I had to double-check the date to make sure it wasn’t someone at the ‘Mail’ jumping the gun with an ‘April Fool’:

A Government initiative to test school literacy levels will see more than 500,000 six-year-olds asked to read ‘words’ such as jound, terg, fape and snemp.

During the summer term, teachers will sit down individually with every Year 1 child and ask them to read the so-called ‘pseudo-words’ as a way of gauging reading levels.

And if you were worried that there might be an obvious problem looming, well, worry not; they are waaaaay ahead of you there!

Officials preparing this year’s test are having to ensure that none of the non-words is offensive or rude in the mother tongue of pupils whose first language is not English.

There is, however, another obvious problem:

The non-words will have a picture of an imaginary creature next to them as a signal that the word is made up and could be the name of the pretend creature.


Let’s recap, then – these are Year 1 children. Reared on a diet of imaginary creatures in things like ‘Ben 10’ or Disney movies. They are probably just as ‘real’ to them as their dog or cat, if they have one.

Probably more real than the animals that produce their bacon and eggs at breakfast, if the rumours around children’s lack of knowledge of farming are true, and if there’s an industry grown up around that, why shouldn’t it be?

So how are they going to recognise an imaginary creature as imaginary?

Professor Dominic Wyse of the Institute of Education said: ‘Clearly, non-words don’t have any meaning. Understanding meaning is the essence of reading so we must ask if this test really assesses reading.

‘Attention to other aspects of reading such as enjoyment and comprehension are likely to be restricted because of the focus on phonics.’

Ahhh, prof, no-one reads for enjoyment or comprehension any more! Get with the programme!

8 comments for “Call My Bluff: Junior Edition

  1. Voice of Reason
    April 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Just have them read ‘Jabberwocky’. This is exactly why Dodgson wrote it.

  2. April 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    splid noft a narpiled sploag! Bloody idiots!

  3. April 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    “a signal that the word is made up and could be the name of the pretend creature.”

    Such as “adult”.

    • April 11, 2012 at 5:44 am


  4. David A. Evans
    April 11, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Phonics is bovine excrement anyway!
    Seems to have worked well so far! /sarc

  5. john malpas
    April 11, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Why use made up words. If you must why not test them in Persian or chinese dialect.
    It used to be that literacy meant you were literate innit.

    • April 11, 2012 at 5:44 am

      And now it means….well, I haven’t quite figured it out, myself.

  6. formertory
    April 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t see the problem with “non-words”. Any word in the English language (or any other language for that matter) that one comes across and doesn’t know the meaning or pronunciation of, has all the characteristics of a “non-word”.

    At age 10 / 11 in the village Primary School I went to (and left for Grammar School in 1964) we had regular reading tests, working down a list of words which got progressively more difficult. I had no clue what many of them meant, but I do remember the last / most difficult word in the book, with the headmistress’s finger pointing at it: phthisis. Now there’s a non-word if ever there was one, unless you happen to suffer from tuberculosis or are studying for a medical degree.

    I also remember going and looking up the meaning of really peculiar-looking words in one of those archaic things called a “dictionary”, which seems not to exist these days for anyone under the age of about 50 🙄

    So what if a kid finds a non-word? Any kids book, comic or film is full of the damn things. Only the top-down socialist style of teaching could find an objection, surely? Words Not Approved By The Politburo And Our Glorious Leaders!

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