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

RRF Newsletter 47 back to contents
New Zealand opts for phonics to teach reading Press Release

“The New Zealand House of Commons Select Committee has just reported on its inquiry into the teaching of reading (end August 2001). For the country that is credited with starting the trend to the failed ‘whole language’ methods, the recommendations are a shock. Schools are now being told to incorporate successful phonics programmes into the classroom. (Recommendation No. 4)

The recommendations come after the committee saw the evidence from school practices and research studies in New Zealand.  They especially mentioned Don Buck School (page 10 of the report) which was stated as using a ‘fun’ commercial phonics programme, and the research of Chapman and Tunmer similarly with ‘fun’ commercial phonics programmes.  Both of these are users of Jolly Phonics, the UK based phonics programme.

Jolly Phonics is used in 22% of New Zealand Primary Schools (Source: Consumer Link, December 2000).

Says Val Barnett of the educational suppliers Every Educaid “Yes, New Zealand has been told to get back to phonics – it will be compulsory – great news!” New Zealand schools are also being told to use the successful ‘synthetic’ phonics methods.  Writing in The Press, Rowan Taylor says “Choosing the right phonics programme is vital.  Our schools don’t just need phonics – they need synthetic systematic phonics.” 

These recommendations from New Zealand set the scene for the initiatives expected from President Bush’s pro-phonics Education Secretary, Rod Paige.  They also have messages for the UK’s new head of the National Literacy Strategy, Stephen Anwyll, who has joined at a time when the strategy is coming under criticism for failing to provide effective phonics guidance.”

Editor’s comment:

We bring news from New Zealand in the form of Rowan Taylor’s article and a press release. Although a clear step in the right direction, the New Zealand Education and Science Committee inquiry into the teaching of reading irresponsibly fails to note the specific phonics programme (Jolly Phonics) which is turning reading results round in New Zealand (e.g. special needs reduced from 40% to zero in Don Buck school in 1997). Did the committee not consider that this was invaluable information for parents and teachers alike? In contrast, there was no such reluctance to acknowledge the impact on reading of the Harry Potter books – named specifically. This anomaly has to be questioned.

Here in the UK, the Reading Reform Foundation continues to query the inconsistent policies (or lack of policies) of the DfES and LEAs regarding the endorsement of some commercial materials by name, but not others. It is clear that both the First Steps and Reading Recovery whole language programmes are highly influential in NLS material and training - confirming our analysis of the whole language mindset behind the National Literacy Strategy. Is this what the general public would expect or want in their infant schools? Rowan Taylor rightly points out that there are distinct differences in both approach and subsequent outcomes according to the exact phonics practices that prevail. We need to know precisely which programmes are the most effective.




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