Letters Extra: Support for synthetic phonics

17th January 2003 at 00:00

I can endorse Jean Gross' response (TES Letters, January 10) tonbsp;Leslie Duffen's letter in which she put the case for systematic phonicsnbsp;supporting children's language and literacy abilities. I can report similar examples.

I am thinking of a special school for complex learning difficulties.

Following INSET to the whole school on synthetic phonics delivered bynbsp;educational psychologists and an advanced skills teacher, this school hasnbsp;decided to adopt a whole school approach to the teaching of literacy based on synthetic phonics.

I can also think of a large, three form entry, mainstream Primary School whose base line assessments show E* for language development and D fornbsp;social skills development at the beginning of reception.

They have a full range of children with complex language difficulties and moderate tonbsp;severe learning difficulties, yet all these children learn the skills tonbsp;read and write at least to their age levels, using synthetic phonics as the primary method for quality first-time teaching and for earlynbsp;intervention.

The school's latest OFSTED reported A*A for Key Stage 1 SATs (for a three form entry of about 90 pupils) and A for Key Stage 2nbsp;SATs.

An analysis of the bottom 25 per centnbsp;of reception children in the summernbsp;2000 cohort showed averages of 8 months ahead for reading and 11 months ahead for spelling.

This shows that even the least able children can have a flying start with their literacy. (For comparison the top 25 per centnbsp;of thenbsp;same cohort achieved an average of 26 months ahead for both reading andnbsp;spelling.)

I can report the results of 20 Year 7 pupils taught synthetic phonics in a whole class setting of a mainstream secondary school. They moved from nonbsp;measurable reading or spelling skills in September to reading ages in thenbsp;8.06 to 10.06 range in the summer term with spelling ages even higher.

Their teacher also reported impressive gains in their ability to listen to words and in their motivationself-esteem.nbsp;nbsp;

The research of Stanovich expresses the view that the greatest support for children's speech and language development is to get them 'off thenbsp;starting blocks as quickly as possible with literacy' which opens up thenbsp;world of the written word and books to them.

Synthetic phonics is the most effective way of achieving this.

Dr Marlynne Grant
Chartered Educationalnbsp;Psychologist

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