The authors argue that there is no evidence to support the fact that ‘systematic synthetic phonics training’ improves the reading level of children and if this policy for constant testing is pursued, little practical school time will be available for developing natural skills reading and writing so children can naturally progress. The authors want a return to what they call more “mixed methods” of reading methods such as basic phonics instruction and the use of real books in the classroom.
However, Nigel Hilton, deputy chair of the English Spelling Society argues that it is the English language itself that puts undue pressure on young readers rather than particular methods of teaching. Hilton states that until our ‘antique and irregular’ spelling system is addressed and modified, children throughout the UK will continue to fail to read and write to a sufficient standard – setting themselves up for failure for years to come.
Whatever the approach, all agree that something has to be done to tackle the rate of illiteracy in this country before it’s too late. International studies rank the UK at 25th in the world (significantly down from 7th place just 9 years ago). How this is addressed will continue to rage amongst academics, Government ministers and those who write and teach children for many more years to come.