Leading article: A teaching method that works

Share

Things have reached a pretty pass when something as basic and necessary as learning to read becomes politicised. But this is what happened after a study in Scotland showed that primary school pupils taught by a method known as synthetic phonics learnt to read faster than those taught by other methods. The Conservatives called for the system to be adopted nationwide. The Government demurred, and then set up a review.

The interim results of that review, conducted by Jim Rose, a former director of inspections at Ofsted, bore out the thesis that synthetic phonics helped more children to read more quickly than other currently used methods. The Government, to its credit, responded immediately. The Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, announced yesterday that she was accepting the findings. Synthetic phonics is to be the preferred method of teaching reading in primary schools in England.

Almost anyone now above or approaching 50 would wonder what all the fuss was about. Synthetic phonics, although mostly not known by that name then, was the way that most learnt to read. It was only later that other methods were used, instead or in combination, as part of the rethink of primary teaching undertaken in the Sixties and thereafter.

As with so much in education, the very brightest children and those whose families prize education tend to do well in the end, whatever methods are used to teach them. It is those who are less bright, or enjoy fewer advantages, who are most penalised by poor or ineffectual teaching. And for all the target-setting and national testing that this government has introduced, the primary school literacy targets have remained stubbornly elusive - even though they are arguably the most crucial. Children who have difficulty reading or writing at 11 will be handicapped for the rest of their school career, unless remedial action is taken. At present, this is as many as one in four.

Synthetic phonics may not be the whole answer to the teaching of reading. But some education specialists surely protest too much when they object that this method does not suit all children and could detract from a child's enjoyment of reading. The review findings show that even if this method does not suit all, it suits a greater proportion than the combination of methods currently employed. As for enjoyment, what is there to enjoy about not being able to read at all?

The guiding principle in schools, which is surely applicable further afield, must be "what works". If, as seems clear, synthetic phonic works better than other methods, it should be used.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Pentagon has suggested that, since the campaign started, some 10,000 Isis fighters in Iraq and Syria have been killed  

War with Isis: If the US wants to destroy the group, it will need to train Syrians and Iraqis

David Usborne
David Cameron gives a speech at a Tory party dinner  

In a time of austerity, should Tories be bidding £210,000 for a signed photo of the new Cabinet?

Simon Kelner
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy