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

RRF Newsletter 46 back to contents
Newsletter 46 EditorialDebbie Hepplewhite

Dear Readers,

I have been overwhelmed by your positive responses to newsletter no. 45 from both longstanding and new friends. Many thanks for your phone calls, e-mails and letters. I look forward to receiving your research results and articles for future editions. Several LEAs have requested bulk copies of the newsletter to distribute through their internal posting systems. Sadly, others refused, saying the newsletter was too ‘political’. No one should be deprived of the chance to read the invaluable suggestions, information and research results we are disseminating. Please subscribe and tell your friends and colleagues about the Reading Reform Foundation newsletter.

Just in case you are wondering – I can assure you the RRF have no political affiliations. We are concerned entirely with matters of evidence-based teaching effectiveness, justice, equality and accountability in literacy education. Why should the literacy health of our nation be considered any less important than the physical health of our nation? Yet, in the medical domain everything is tested with the utmost rigour. This is just not so in education. Fads and philosophies have prevailed over common sense and statistics for decades.

It is only a question of time before synthetic phonics programmes reach most settings. Indeed there are signs that influential people may well be recommending them covertly. This is not good enough! Our concern is that our nation’s children are all entitled to it now. The longer it takes to spread, the greater the number of children who will get left by the wayside. Who would want that on their conscience?

In newsletter no. 46 we ask just how many of the children on our special educational needs registers are there as a result of flawed literacy teaching practices. When some schools lead the way with only the smallest percentages of their pupils classified as having special educational needs (following a change in their literacy teaching), shouldn’t we all be sitting up and taking notice? We all need to learn from the five-year journey described by Marlynne Grant and take advantage of the experiences within St. Michael’s Primary School. Having visited the school and seen the results, I have a clear vision of what is achievable for virtually all children by the end of reception and believe me - it is inspiring!

Note also the invaluable conclusions drawn in Bonnie Macmillan’s article about the effectiveness of different literacy-related activities. Practitioners may wish to adjust the time weightings of their literacy programmes in the Early Years. We have included a revealing chart to compare the rate of synthetic phonics teaching with the National Literacy Strategy ‘Progression in Phonics’. This should clarify the main differences and aid practitioners in their planning.

It is increasingly acknowledged that inappropriate literacy teaching results in high levels of illiteracy. It also leads to child misbehaviour which may deteriorate to the point of disaffection, delinquency and crime. One much noted advantage of synthetic phonics teaching is a significant improvement in behaviour, including that of children from the most deprived backgrounds. No one is trying to deny the difficulties of teaching children with poor social and economic antecedents, but all the more reason to ensure that we afford such children the best possible opportunities to surmount their circumstances.

We could change the picture of special educational needs dramatically  -  if we all had the will and the information we need to do so!

Debbie Hepplewhite




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