In a letter to publishers of phonics programmes, Lord Adonis, the schools minister, said that the list of approved programmes would be published next spring, following consultation with publishers and literacy consultants.
He said his department is committed to ensuring schools have access to high-quality support for teaching phonics.
"It is our intention that an independent panel will assess commercial schemes against a set of criteria," he said.
The Department for Education and Skills has drawn up this list of criteria with the help of Jim Rose, former head of primary for Ofsted, and author of the Rose review, which advocated teaching children synthetic phonics.
According to provisional criteria sent out for consultation, high-quality phonics programmes will present synthetic phonics as an "optional" method rather than as "essential knowledge, skills and understanding that has to be taught and learnt".
The Government also recommends that programmes should be organised to deliver daily, fixed-length lessons. They should teach children to recognise and say the names of letters of the alphabet. And they should introduce children to consonant-vowel-consonant word patterns.
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