Fears that just one in 50 children can spot ‘fake news’ stories, is worrying school leaders.
The National Literacy Trust found that when 2,200 pupils aged eight to 16 took a fake news quiz, only a handful were able to identify all the made up stories.
The data was revealed in a report from the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools.
Now, the National Association Headteachers wants to see the rigid school curriculum relaxed so children can be taught “about real life issues.”
The report, Fake News and Critical Literacy, also showed half of children worry about not being able to spot fake news while nearly two-thirds of teachers believe fake news is harming children’s well-being by increasing anxiety, damaging self-esteem and skewing their view of the world.
Half of teachers don’t believe the national curriculum provides pupils with the skills they need to spot fake news or how to deal with it.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the NAHT, said: “It’s so important that we prepare children for the real world, teaching them not just the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to pass exams, but also to navigate the challenges of the digital age.
“Yes, we need to teach grammar and spelling, but we also need to instil a thirst for knowledge, a love of reading and the critical literacy skills that enable young people to make informed decisions as to what to believe and what to ignore. The rigidity of the curriculum and testing regime work against this,” adding schools are forced to focus on teaching only what will be tested, as that is what they are measured on. Heads want greater flexibility so schools can “properly equip young people with skills appropriate for the future not the past.”
Jonathan Douglas, director of the N LT, said: “The way young people experience news is changing rapidly.
“This transformation, which has been driven in particular by the rise of digital and social media, has given young people exciting new opportunities to become creators, curators and communicators of news – not just consumers of it.
“However, with these new opportunities come new threats. We have uncovered a dangerous lack in the literacy skills that children and young people require to navigate our digital world and identify fake news. If we don’t take urgent action to bring the teaching of critical literacy skills into the 21st century and to engage children actively with news, we risk damaging young people’s democratic futures, along with the well-being of an entire generation. ”