Some have tried to dismiss out of hand what the RRF is promoting by seeing it only as an undesirable extension of the notorious Reading Wars. No one can deny the chasm of understanding between people who think the teaching of reading is best taught in entirely different ways.
The question could be asked ‘Well is it as long as it’s short? Are the eventual outcomes pretty much the same?’ And that is where attempts at compromise, balancing, and advocating a mix of everything to address different learning styles becomes a dangerous mish-mash tantamount to gambling – rather than basing the teaching of reading on evidence of what works best. Currently some children will thrive however they are taught; some survive and do ‘get there’ eventually; others get well and truly left by the wayside.
The very strategies which the RRF describes as damaging to children are at the very heart of how most teachers have been, and are being, trained to teach reading and in reality these strategies are inevitably used as a resort to cope with the current look/say and whole language reading books.
This is how the evidence is looking:
- Synthetic phonics schools expect virtually 100% of their Year 2 children to achieve level 2 or above in the end of key stage 1 tests for reading, spelling and writing.
- However, many people in authority consider an 85% reading success rate excellent. The implication is that those schools where reading and writing success is substantially less than 100% need to address how they are teaching reading. If schools following the NLS advice closely are not achieving almost 100%, they need to appreciate that they are failing many of their children and recognise that the NLS eclectic advice is at odds with scientific research.
- If there is a big discrepancy in the end of key stage 1 results with maths being much stronger than literacy, schools need to consider looking at their method of teaching reading.
- America, Scotland, Canada and New Zealand have concluded that evidence-based synthetic phonics teaching is the most effective and inclusive. Synthetic phonics teaching programmes are spreading rapidly throughout these countries. In the light of this, should all schools be investigating synthetic phonics teaching for themselves?