Stop scaremongering about synthetic phonics

24th March 2006 at 00:00
* Kathy Hall fears that "some children may not be able to benefit from an approach based only on synthetic phonics". I am able to reassure her that evidence shows these fears are unfounded.

With good synthetic phonics teaching and early intervention with slow-to-start children (starting January of reception) there is virtually no "tail of underachievement".

For example at St Michael's school, Stoke Gifford, my research has shown average reading and spelling achievements 15 months ahead of actual age at the end of reception. This is with whole cohorts of about 90 pupils each year who have low entry assessments in language and social skills.

Longitudinal follow-up reveals the "tail of underachievement" is virtually eliminated. For example: KS2 English sats in 2004 yielded 94 per cent level 4+, and no children below level 3B.

I urge the United Kingdom Literacy Association to stop scaremongering, as the research and practice just do not support its reservations.

Dr Marlynne Grant Chartered educational psychologist, Bristol

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