Schools Forced by Law to Use Phonics for Reading

Article excerpt

Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

PRIMARY schools are to be required by law to adopt a back-to-basics method of reading instruction.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was announcing today that synthetic phonics is to be incorporated into the national curriculum following the recommendation of a government review.

Synthetic phonics teaches children the different sounds of the English language and how to "blend" them into words. Publishingthe final report of former senior Ofsted inspector Jim Rose, who led the review, Ms Kelly was expected to tell MPs in a written Commons statement: "This is a clear roadmap for reading which draws on the experience of teachers and experts to show what works best for children in the classroom.

I am clear that synthetic phonics should be the first strategy in teaching all children to read."

Primary schools will have to start teaching synthetic phonics to children from the age of five.

They will have to set demanding targets for improvement in reading standards and provide catchup classes for low-achieving children.

Critics say the method is too restrictive and makes learning to read boring for many pupils.

Teacher unions say ministers should not dictate learning methods because different approaches may suit some children.

But supporters say synthetic phonics is the most effective way of teaching children of all social backgrounds to read, particularly those whose first language is not English.

Trials in Scotland showed children taught with synthetic phonics were months ahead of contemporaries who learned via other methods.

Ms Kelly launched a review of the national curriculum's reading component under Mr Rose after the Government missed its primary school literacy targets.

His interim report last year recommended using synthetic phonics as the main tool in reading lessons, backed up by a "rich" diet of books. …