You'll notice, I'm sure, several fallacies about this, not least the one that implies reading words in lists, out of context tells you whether people are 'good' or 'bad readers. Another is the one that implies reading words in lists tells you anything more than if a child is good at what we now call 'decoding' ie finding the correct correspondences between letters and sounds. In other words, those word lists paid no attention to meaning.
I may have overlooked this in the document, but it rather seems as if we are once again in this zone. Lists of words - without their meanings attached, either in terms of their 'dictionary definitions' or in terms of their contextual meanings (ie in sentences, paragraphs, chapters or wherever). It's as if this and most word-list compilers have suddenly dropped an interest in the idea that we use language as a way of making meanings.
What then is the point of the Word List? What's it for? Yes, rather obviously for spelling. In a stroke, by making a word list specific, important and ultimately related to tests, we raise the reading for spelling and reading for phonic correctness as more important than understanding and meaning.
Is this 21st century education? It is of course highly problematical trying to predict what present 10 and 11 year olds will be doing in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years time. However, certain shadows and shapes of what kind of world they might live in and what kind of skills and critical apparatus they might need in order to negotiate it have appeared before us.
Is this a fair list?
1. The ability to distinguish the significant from the not significant.
2 The ability to adapt and be flexible to deal with the unexpected and/or the highly temporary.
3. The ability to be never-endingly curious.
4. The ability to co-operate with people around you.
5. To be able to show empathy and compassion.
6. To be able to co-operate with others and/or to engender co-operation between people
7. To be able to to understand 'process', 'principle' and 'theory' - that's to say, an ability to understand how and why systems operate and how they are different from or similar to each other.
8. The ability to be able to create and invent things in any medium using what is around you.
In this draft proposal I see very little, if anything at all that corresponds to this list. Instead, I see pages of instructions and commands, from anonymous government priests to teachers and an implied set of instructions and commands to pupils.
I think I know where this comes from: a) a misremembered past and b)a false description of an aspect of the present. The past is written all over the document whether that it's in the word lists, grammar lists or the enforced recitation of poetry. It's misremembered because that past (which I lived through) was highly discriminatory and guaranteed failure to the majority of pupils.
The false description of the present lies in the present obsession and addiction to the international league tables. What is the point of these? What point do they prove? Has someone discovered a mathematical formula that proves a causation between position on the league table and a nation's sucess? How significant are the positions anyway? Do they really compare like with like? And what is the point of importing another country's way of running schools solely on the basis of a position on the league table.? Aren't cultures and morees significantly different from country to country and continent to continent? Attitudes and access to print, magazines, books, screens, and visual imagery are embedded in centuries of habit and custom.
All this magically fades away in the face of the international league tables. Whole countries-ful of people are designated as not functioning properly on the basis of them. Indeed, we have governments (like ours) creating programmes of study on the basis that doing them will get 'our' exam results higher than 'theirs'. If we don't, the argument seems to run, we will fail to compete, our capitalists will not be able sell their stuff as easily or as well as theirs.
I'm not an expert on what it takes for one capitalist to outdo another, but in the time coming up, is it really the case that spending time learning how to decode dictated and government sanctioned word lists which will give our chaps a competitive edge over all the foreign chaps?
I don't think education should be shaped as a tool with which British capitalists hammer foreign Jonny capitalists' companies into the ground. However, the thought that learning sanctioned but anonymously authored word lists is going to give us the competitive edge is to my mind a complete nonsense.
Word List for Years 5 and 6