The children who took the Key Stage 2 tests in 2004 at St Michael’s School (Stoke Gifford) were the first to have had synthetic phonics right from the beginning of Reception. 94% achieved Level 4 or better in English (national figure 77%; statistical neighbours 80%), and, even more spectacularly, 65% achieved Level 5 (national figure 29%; statistical neighbours 28%). ‘Statistical neighbours’ are schools which are a close match in terms of size, numbers of children on free school meals etc. At St Michael’s, the children’s progress from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 was 13.7 National Curriculum points in both reading and writing, as against the national figure of 12.0 for each. This means that their good start enabled them to make even more progress from KS1 to KS2 than might have been expected.
A number of other schools are now also using Sound Discovery® as a Wave 3 intervention. One school reports a ratio gain of 3.8 for reading and 2.7 for spelling over a ten-week teaching period. The head-teachers commented that the programme was ‘cheap and easy to introduce’ and ‘economical in terms of time’. Staff were ‘highly motivated by its simplicity and the enjoyment expressed by the children. Quite simply, they were sold on the idea’. The head-teacher of another school commented that ‘previously children in the class would have sat “looking at a word” and would have expected an adult to read it for them, but after Sound Discovery® all Mrs Williamson had to say was “remember the magic word – blending” and the pupils were reminded to sound out the word and say it for themselves’.
And the programme has been succeeding with much tougher customers. A team has been using Sound Discovery® with young offenders, who find the fine-grained small-step progression in Step 1 of the programme particularly motivating. One said it was ‘the only thing which has ever made the slightest difference to my reading. The rest was ****’.
Marlynne Grant also draws attention to the OFSTED report Reading for purpose and pleasure: An evaluation of the teaching of reading in primary schools (December 2004), and points out that the case study on page 25 makes several references to Snappy Lesson® interventions as being part of successful interventions in years R, 1, 3 and 4. An HMI who inspected a Snappy Lesson® in November 2003 wrote a glowing report on it.