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Early Literacy: Phonics

Volume 662: debated on Monday 24 June 2019

4. What recent assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of teaching early literacy through phonics. (911507)

There is significant evidence that systematic phonics is a highly effective method for teaching early reading. In 2018, 82% of six-year-olds met the expected standard in the phonics check, compared with just 58% when we introduced the check in 2012. Furthermore, 88% of pupils meeting the phonics standard in 2013 went on to meet the year 6 reading test standard in 2018.

I agree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), who said earlier that early intervention is very important. I am pleased to see that, as a result of these phonics changes, England has risen to joint eighth place in the progress in international reading literacy study—up from joint 10th in 2011, and well up from the low of 19th position under a Labour Government.

My son Wilfred has just started learning his phonics—something he enjoys and that I know he will do well at, given the good base that the Government are offering. Will my right hon. Friend agree with me that boosting pupil literacy is key to getting our children the best possible start in life?

My hon. Friend is, of course, absolutely right. Reading is a fundamental building block for a successful education, and the fact that more children are now reading more effectively will help them develop a habit and love of reading and prepare them for the higher demands on their reading ability when they start secondary school.

The literacy rates of primary school children dramatically improve when they are read to in class on a daily basis. What is the Minister for School Standards doing to encourage that?

As my hon. Friend will know, we had this discussion when, with other Northamptonshire MPs, we met the local authority and the regional schools commissioner. It is important that children, at primary school in particular, are read to every day to improve their vocabulary. The better their vocabulary, the more easily they can comprehend what they are reading, and the more they can comprehend what they are reading, the more likely they are to read. That, in turn, will improve their vocabulary and knowledge.