A senior government adviser will demand today that every pupil be given a reading test when they start secondary school.
The new test for 11-year-olds will show how much work teachers will have to do to bring all pupils up to scratch, Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, will tell a conference of reading experts.
Sir Cyril is alarmed that by the time they reach the age of 14, 26 per cent of children fail to reach the required standard in reading. The problem is particularly acute in boys, where only 67 per cent reach the required standard in English. The failure rate in national curriculum tests for 14-year-olds is higher than in tests for 11-year-olds, where the figure is 20 per cent.
Sir Cyril will tell the conference in Stansted: "There is also concern among our schools that some 11-year-olds arrive in secondary school with the requisite standard in English but still have a reading problem – possibly because some schools spend too much time coaching for the test."
He also believes secondary schools should adopt an initiative trialled in the US, where children are given an hour's silent reading every day followed by a comprehension test to see what they have learnt. One school in the UK, John Kelly Girls' Technology College in Brent, north-west London, has seen a remarkable improvement in reading standards through the scheme.
As a first step, Sir Cyril is urging that all secondary schools introduce 30 minutes of silent reading every day. He says he will recommend that all of the Government's flagship new academies introduce the initiative. "Many of the students we most want to help don't read at home," Sir Cyril will say. "Many homes in socially disadvantaged areas have no books and the TV is on for seven hours a day."