Thursday, December 01, 2005

Primary Reading Set for Overhaul

The way children are taught to read in primary schools in England needs to be changed, says a government review.
It has backed the method synthetic phonics, which teaches children the sounds of letters and combination of letters before they move onto books.
The review, by an ex-Ofsted director, says this should be the first strategy used by primary schools for all pupils.
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said she accepted the findings and saw a "real opportunity" to teach the system.
She would make sure the system was taught as early as possible in schools, she told BBC Breakfast.
"There is a real opportunity to teach synthetic phonics systematically, but also other skills so necessary to children learning to love reading and learning to speak and communicate effectively."

Phonics is practised in most schools but in various forms.
The review, the full details of which are being published later, was carried out by a former director of school inspections at Ofsted, Jim Rose.
It is expected to recommend teaching of reading must go hand in hand with developing children's speaking and listening skills.
The review will call for "early systematic, direct teaching of synthetic phonics" to be the first strategy taught to all children learning to read, introduced by the age of five.
It will also focus on the need for some children to have intensive "catch-up support".
Mr Rose is expected to say there is general agreement phonic work is "essential though not sufficient" in learning to read, but that there is also much debate about the best way to do it.
"Despite this positive consensus about the importance of phonic work, there are deeply divided professional views about how phonic work is best taught," he will say.
"The review is therefore centred on judging the best way forward from the standpoint of the learners, that is to say children who are beginner readers and writers."

The final version of the Rose review, expected early next year, will inform the government's redrafting of its literacy strategy, planned for 2007.
In pure synthetic phonics, children learn to read using the sounds of letters rather than the names.
So a letter "D" is said "duh" not "dee". They learn to put the sounds together to make simple words such as "c-a-t".
They also learn blends of certain letter sounds, such as "ch" or "bl".
Only once they have learned all the letter sounds and the blends do they progress to reading books.
The system also helps children to break down unknown words, experts say.
Many schools in England already use phonics, combined with other methods to help children to read, but proponents of synthetic phonics argue it should be followed strictly and not be mixed with other approaches.
In Scotland, schools are already being encouraged to take up synthetic phonics.
The success of a pilot scheme in a school in Clackmannanshire brought widespread attention to the system of teaching.

Patricia Sowter, head teacher of Cuckoo Hall School in Edmonton, north London, has been using a synthetic phonics system called Read Write Inc., developed by Ruth Miskin, for two years.
"It has made a huge difference to standards of reading in particular. We now have a 100% at level four in Sats tests for reading, including children with special needs," she told the BBC News website.
A total of 31% of children at the school have special educational needs, she said.
"Almost half of our children have English as a second language and it helps them because it is a systematic approach to reading, writing and spelling."
Newcomers to the school who do not speak much English are put into "catch-up" programmes and small group work is used to bring children on at their own pace.
The head teacher believes the success of the system is also due to it being followed across the school, by teachers and learning assistants alike.
Story from

Is it me? It would appear I have always instinctively used 'synthetic phonics' when teaching children to read - I just didn't know it had a snazzy name!
And another question - does anyone actually remember learning to read? I don't, it feels like I've always been able to read....



OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Hi CQ..
I don't remember the details of learning to read but I do remember that they way I was taught to read was a very difficult and painful process and the school system where I grew up had tried some 'new' way to teach kids to read that lasted only about two years because it was a colossul failure! The consequesces for me? I really had to struggle to read and did NOT enjoy it nor did I get much out of it for years and years!! Thank You Great Neck School System for experimenting with me, and failing! (lol..except it really isn't funny, you know?)

craziequeen said...

I guess it must have come naturally to me - I don't remember learning to read, and I've always enjoyed reading. I come from a family of literature buffs and was always ahead of my schoolmates in reading.

I am reliably informed I didn't start with 'Janet and John', I started with Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit :-)


MuppetLord said...

Apparently I read the paper at home.

Juggling Mother said...

I don't really remember learning to read, although I can remember the first time I "sight read", in that I just glanced at some words & I could read them without having yto spell it out:-)

I was mostly taught using the phonetics system, with a bit of shape recognition thrown in for "th", "gh", "knife" etc. I could read fluently by 5 years old.

I remember trying to teach my youngest sibling to read using the then "approved" word recognition system - it was rubbish, as they could only read the words they were taught & not any new words they came accross.

Mstr A was taught phonetics at pre-school & school, so it's obviously ben the dominant form round here for some years.