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Synthetic Phonics

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) if he will make a statement on the role of synthetic phonics in the National Literacy Strategy Searchlights reading programme; [117181](2) if he will make a statement on his Department's plans to strengthen the role of synthetic phonics within the framework of the National Literacy Strategy; [117174](3) when he plans to publish the report of the recent departmental seminar on phonics, as referred to in the recent Excellence and Enjoyment document; [117177](4) if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the Jolly Phonics programme. [117178]

The 2002 Ofsted report of the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) says that:

"there has been a marked shift in teachers' understanding of and attitudes towards the place of phonics and spelling."
This has contributed to the best primary school results ever. The NLS advocates the 'Searchlights' model of reading, and is based on the view that children should be taught to read using synthetic and analytic phonics as well as other strategies such as knowledge of grammar and context. The 'Searchlights' model emphasises the central importance of early phonics but also accepts that children will attempt to make sense of a wide range of print and texts in the course of mastering the phonic code and need to be helped to do so efficiently. This is particularly true with English where, because of its linguistic heritage, a significant proportion of words are not phonetically regular.The teaching of phonics in the NLS is based on international research over the last 30 years and on good practice seen in England and other countries. The NLS view is supported by international research such as The National Reading Panel Report commissioned by the US Federal Government, 'Teaching to read', in 2000.The Department for Education and Skills held a seminar on 17 March 2003 to review the latest research and effective practice in the teaching of phonics. An independent report on the seminar is being finalised and will shortly be published. We will then respond to that report and set out our plans for further strengthening the teaching of phonics in primary schools.The Jolly Phonics programme has been adopted by a number of schools, and some teachers have found it effective in helping children learn to read. Schools are able to choose from a range of phonics programmes including the NLS programme Progression in Phonics (PiPs). It is up to schools and teachers to decide which programme they consider most effective in meeting the needs of their children.I have today placed a copy of the Early Literacy Support programme video in the Library.