What do UK teachers think of Systematic Synthetic Phonics?

I'm completing doctoral work in the UK - after supporting teachers in Australia for about 10 years. See what Aussie teachers think about my work here.

Synthetic phonics became a legal requirement in state-funded primary schools in England in 2007, advocated for by the Rose Review (Rose 2006) The Labour government published a non-statutory programme Letters and Sounds (DfES 2007) to further promote ‘synthetic phonics’ and in 2010 this approach was again emphasized by the coalition government, publishing The Importance of Teaching (DfE, 2010). Self-assessed commercial synthetic phonics programmes were promoted on the DfE website between 2010 and 2014 and schools were encouraged to purchase them over non listed programmes, eg through match-funding.

In Sept 2021 The Teachers Standard (DfE 2011) required teachers to demonstrate their understanding and adherence to the underlying ‘alphabetic principle’, and to ensure compliance, a phonics screening check (PSC) has been undertaken since 2012. The test, undertaken towards the end of Year One, is to measure if students can ‘decode’ a set of real and pseudowords, based on around 85 high-frequency graphemes, to an appropriate standard.

According to 2019 National Curriculum Assessment data just over 1 in 4 (27%) of 10- to 11-year-olds did not meet the expected standard in reading in the 2018 to 2019 school year (DofE 2019)

So these are kids who have all been taught using synthetic phonics throughout primary school.

So if over a quarter of kids can't read before they go to high school, does anything need to change? It's mandatory, so it can't be that teachers aren't choosing synthetic phonics. Or that they are choosing 'whole language / three cueing over phonics' - which is the argument many academics still seem to be promoting. Everyone is being taught phonics.

But is it proving to be an effective way to teach phonics? Are some synthetic phonics programs better than others?

Do you know who I would ask? The teachers who have been told to teach this way for over a decade. No one seems to be doing that. So I am going to, through

Miss Emma

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