The first Government funded review was carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Sutton Trust who are, together, the Government designated What Works Centre for Education. The EEF, which was set up in 2011 through a £125 million Government grant (with a further £137 million grant in 2022), carried out a comprehensive review of robust studies on the impact of phonics, which was last updated in July 2021. They found that phonics is more effective on average than other approaches for early reading, when embedded in a rich literacy environment. Phonics approaches have been consistently found to be effective in supporting younger readers to master the basics of reading, with an average effect of an additional four months’ progress.
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, launching the English Hubs programme in 2018 to improve the teaching of reading, with a focus on phonics, and publishing a list of Department approved phonics programmes in 2021 to support schools to choose a phonics programme.
Thanks to these reforms and the hard work of teachers, England’s 9-10-year-olds came fourth out of the 43 countries that tested children of the same age in the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), making our children the best in the western world at reading. This success in PIRLS follows the reforms brought in under this Government, in particular a greater focus on reading in the primary curriculum and a particular emphasis on phonics.