International

Official in England to Order Teaching of Synthetic Phonics

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — December 13, 2005 1 min read

England’s education secretary has endorsed a plan that would mandate a more direct method of teaching phonics.

Read the British consultant’s report on literacy instruction.

Ruth Kelly, who took over the Cabinet post a year ago, announced this month that she would implement recommendations outlined in a new report on early reading instruction by Jim Rose, a prominent education consultant. The report recommends using synthetic phonics, which teaches letter sounds in isolation as a way of learning to read words, as opposed to analytic phonics, an approach that prompts pupils to analyze sounds in words they already know and then apply the skill to unfamiliar ones.

The change will be incorporated into the National Literacy Strategy, which was instituted in 1998. The strategy also emphasizes phonics instruction, but does not prescribe how to teach letters and sounds.

British expert Alan Davies, the author of a popular synthetic-phonics program, has criticized the new plan, saying it is too narrowly focused on phonics.

“It is madness to believe that you should start the literacy process by first doing only phonics,” Mr. Davies said in a statement. “It is wrong to believe that synthetic phonics is the ‘best route to becoming skilled readers,’ as stated in [Mr. Rose’s] report.”

While recent policies in the United States have also prescribed phonics instruction, England’s approach is far more prescriptive than what is required under the federal Reading First program, for example.

Research has shown synthetic phonics to be an effective strategy, but it is not necessarily better than the analytic method, according to Timothy Shanahan, a member of the influential National Reading Panel in this country.

There is also some question about whether the synthetic approach helps improve reading comprehension, said Mr. Shanahan, who directs the Center for Literacy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Events

School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: What Did We Learn About Schooling Models This Year?
After a year of living with the pandemic, what schooling models might we turn to as we look ahead to improve the student learning experience? Could year-round schooling be one of them? What about online
School & District Management Webinar What's Ahead for Hybrid Learning: Putting Best Practices in Motion
It’s safe to say hybrid learning—a mix of in-person and remote instruction that evolved quickly during the pandemic—is probably here to stay in K-12 education to some extent. That is the case even though increasing
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Building Equitable Systems: Moving Math From Gatekeeper to Opportunity Gateway
The importance of disrupting traditional American math practices and adopting high-quality math curriculum continues to be essential for changing the trajectory of historically under-resourced schools. Building systems around high-quality math curriculum also is necessary to
Content provided by Partnership for L.A. Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

International Pre-COVID Learning Inequities Were Already Large Around the World
A new international benchmarking highlights gaps in training for digital learning and other supports that could deepen the challenge for low-income schools during the pandemic.
4 min read
International Part of Global Trend, 1 in 3 U.S. High Schoolers Felt Disconnected From School Before Pandemic
UNESCO's annual report on global education progress finds countries need to make more effort to include marginalized students, particularly in the United States.
4 min read
International How Schools in Other Countries Have Reopened
Ideas from Australia, Denmark, and Taiwan can help American district and school leaders as they shape their reopening plans.
11 min read
Students at the Taipei American School in Taipei, Taiwan, perform The Little Mermaid in full costume and masks.
Students at the Taipei American School in Taipei, Taiwan, perform The Little Mermaid in full costume and masks.
Photo courtesy of Dustin Rhoades/Taipei American School
International Photos What School Reopening Looks Like Around the World
Here’s a look at how countries around the world have addressed the challenges of opening schools during COVID-19.
1 min read
School children play football at their school sports facilities in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, April 20, 2020. Schools reopened Monday in Belarus following an extended spring break, but authorities allowed parents to keep their children at home even though the country specifically steered clear of closures and restrictions on public movement during the coronavirus pandemic.
School children play football at their school sports facilities in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, April 20, 2020. Schools reopened Monday in Belarus following an extended spring break, but authorities allowed parents to keep their children at home even though the country specifically steered clear of closures and restrictions on public movement during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sergei Grits/AP