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Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) - Promoting Synthetic Phonics : Page Title

RRF Newsletter 58 back to contents
EditorialJennifer Chew

Jim Rose’s final report, Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading, was published in March 2006 and lived up to the promise of the interim report published in November 2005. The RRF congratulates Jim Rose and his team on the good sense of their conclusions and the carefully reasoned way in which these conclusions are presented. Our response to the final report is printed in this Newsletter.

It is clear, however, that not everyone accepts the Rose recommendations, and there is continuing resistance to the idea that synthetic phonics is the best approach for beginners. A study published by the Department for Education and Skills early in 2006 and intended to inform the Rose review concluded that there was no research showing definitely that synthetic phonics was better than analytic phonics (Torgerson, Brooks and Hall: A Systematic Review of the Research Literature on the Use of Phonics in the Teaching of Reading and Spelling). There are problems with this study, however, as is clear from a critique by Prof. Diane McGuinness, one of our RRF committee members, which is briefly summarised in this Newsletter (but available in full on the RRF website) and from comments gleaned from elsewhere. It also needs to be stressed that even if Torgerson et al. are correct in saying that the research in favour of synthetic phonics is inconclusive, the other side of the coin is that the research in favour of other kinds of phonics, including the kind embodied in the National Strategy, is also inconclusive. Jim Rose’s very reasonable solution was to trust his own observations. These convinced him that the case for synthetic phonics was very strong.

A month or so after the final Rose report came out, a draft framework was sent to schools for consultation. The RRF understanding was that this framework was supposed to reflect the Rose recommendations. Frustratingly, however, it was Year 3, not Reception, which was chosen to exemplify the detailed guidance in the framework, so the consultation period came and went with the detail for Reception remaining an unknown quantity. This seems very odd, given that the Rose report is about early reading and should bring about greater changes in Reception than anywhere else. Is it possible that those drafting the framework still have not grasped a point which was clearly made in both the interim and final reports of the Rose team: that the initial stage of learning to read is very different from the kind of reading which children do once they can read? The RRF response to the draft framework is included in this Newsletter.

We can only hope that the version of the literacy framework which is finalised between now and September 2006 will be faithful to the Rose report in its guidance on early reading. There should be no alternative: the Rose report has been accepted in full by the government and if the new framework is not faithful to it, the government’s intentions will not have been fulfilled.

And now an important announcement: the RRF will be holding a conference on 3 November 2006 at Birkbeck College in London. We are delighted that Jim Rose has agreed to speak. Please see inside the back cover of this Newsletter for further information.




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