TES anti-phonics article

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Susan Godsland
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TES anti-phonics article

Postby Susan Godsland » Fri Jun 26, 2015 3:23 pm

This week’s TES anti-phonics piece is snuck into an article which is mostly about maths.

https://www.tes.co.uk/news/school-news/ ... -how-teach

There is strong evidence supporting the use of phonics to teach reading. But the government did not let that speak for itself. Phonics was sledgehammered into primary schools, with changes to legislation, inspection and millions spent on a new statutory test, in a way that risked alienating the government’s trusted professionals from a teaching method that had long enjoyed much support, albeit not uncritically.

I have a few things to say about this.

Firstly, I didn’t notice an endless stream of angry comment about the ‘lack of freedom to teach how they chose’ coming from teachers when the mixed methods, multi-cueing decoding strategies of the National Literacy Strategy were 'sledgehammered into primary schools'. The NLS ‘searchlight’ strategies were strongly reinforced by Ofsted inspectors.

Secondly, has synthetic phonics really been ‘sledgehammered’ into schools in the last few years? The NFER phonics screening check reports clearly show that the vast majority of teachers are still freely using multi-cueing for decoding, albeit alongside discrete synthetic phonics lessons.

Should the public trust the professionals when it comes to the teaching of reading? The ‘’strong evidence supporting the use of phonics to teach reading’’ has been available and building in strength since the 1960s, yet phonics has had a very minor role since the 1920s, disappearing almost completely during the decades when ‘whole language’ held sway, only returning, although relegated to last choice in a range of decoding strategies, with the NLS.

Today, the situation is that, despite a slew of international reports advocating systematic phonics and England’s Rose Report and the Clackmannanshire research pointing directly at synthetic phonics as the most effective form of systematic instruction for early readers, many professional educators in schools of education provide trainees with a subversive subtext to undermine the mandated synthetic phonics course content and continue to teach that children require a variety of approaches.

Helen Ward’s description of synthetic phonics being, ‘(A) teaching method that had long enjoyed much support’, makes me laugh.

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