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Volume 559: debated on Monday 4 March 2013

The phonics screening check confirms whether year 1 pupils can decode using phonics to an appropriate standard. In 2012, the first year of the national roll-out, 58% of children met the expected standard. We have commissioned an independent evaluation of the check over a period of three years, which will examine the impact of the check on phonics teaching.

I thank the Minister for that response, but many experienced, skilled and successful teachers of reading are a bit concerned about an over-reliance on phonics. What can she do to persuade them that the Government are not being a little doctrinaire in this area?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. A large body of research evidence shows that phonics is the most effective way of teaching literacy to all children. Last year’s phonics check identified 235,000 children who will now receive extra help, which is very important because PIRLS—the progress in international reading literacy study—showed that this country has one of the largest gaps between the strongest and weakest performers in reading. It is really important that we identify children who are struggling with reading early, so that they can receive help as soon as possible.