Literacy: Teaching Methods

Department for Education written question – answered on 29th September 2022.

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Photo of Mohammad Yasin Mohammad Yasin Labour, Bedford

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what comparative assessment his Department has made of the reading and spelling levels of children taught through (a) the phonics approach and (b) alternative methods.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

There is significant evidence that systematic phonics works better than other methods for teaching early reading. In 2005, the Department commissioned a review into the teaching of early learning and the report from the review, led by Sir Jim Rose, was published in 2006. The Rose Review recommended that systematic phonics should be the prime approach for teaching children to read.

The review can be found here:

A review on phonics was carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Sutton Trust who are, together, the Government-designated What Works Centre for Education. They found that phonics is more effective on average than other approaches for early reading, when embedded in a rich literacy environment. Systematic phonics consistently supports younger readers to master the basics and the EEF considers it the most secure area of pedagogy.

The review can be found here:

The Department is committed to raising literacy standards, ensuring all children can read fluently and with understanding. Since 2010, the Government has accelerated the effective teaching of phonics, by placing it right at the heart of the curriculum. This has included introducing the annual phonics screening check (PSC) in 2012 for pupils at the end of year 1 and changing the national curriculum published in 2013 which requires schools to teach reading using systematic phonics. In 2019, 82% of 6-year-olds met the expected phonics standard, compared to 58% in 2012. Success in phonics is also predictive of later reading comprehension.

In 2016, England recorded its highest ever score in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, with a significant improvement compared to 2006 and 2011. This improvement is largely attributable to increases in the average performance of lower performing pupils and boys. These results followed a greater focus on reading in the primary curriculum, and a particular focus on phonics.

In 2018, the Department also launched a £26.3 million English Hubs Programme dedicated to improving the teaching of reading, with a focus on supporting children making the slowest progress in reading, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The 34 English Hubs in the programme are primary schools which excel at teaching early reading. The Department has since invested a further £17 million in this school-to-school improvement programme, which focusses on systematic synthetic phonics, early language, and reading for pleasure.

The teaching of reading now also receives greater focus in Ofsted’s inspection framework.

In 2021/22 the academic year, the Department introduced the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) to act as a baseline for primary progress measures at the end of key stage 2. The assessment will help determine a pupil’s experience prior to primary school, which will be influenced by various factors. At present there are no plans to publish interim progress measures as there is currently no data to assess the pupil’s progress in phonics between the RBA and PSC (the first cohort to have taken the RBA will complete their PSC in June 2023).

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