A discussion paper from the Centre for Economic Performance considers the impact of the introduction of synthetic phonics in English schools.
In the wake of a major report in 2006 (the Rose review),
172 schools in 18 local authorities introduced training in synthetic
phonics as part of a pilot programme. The following year, a further 32
local authorities joined a similar scheme. Another 50 local authorities
joined 18 months later, and the final 50 a year after that. For each
scheme, the model was very similar – a literacy consultant would provide
coaching support for at least ten schools in their area. The consultant
worked mainly in the Reception year (age 4-5) and Year 1 (age 6-7), but
also in Year 2 and nursery.
In this new working paper, using data from the National Pupil
Database, researchers have been able to assess the impact of this phased
introduction. It shows a substantial leap (an effect size of more than
+0.2) in children’s “communication, language and literacy” scores at age
5 when the training is introduced. This effect is maintained even after
the initial year of training.
The researchers were also able to follow cohorts as they progressed
through primary school to see if any initial effects lasted until age 11
(phonics teaching stopped at age 7). There were no average effects at
this age for reading, a broader measure of English attainment, or maths.
However, there was a persistent effect (an effect size of more than
0.1) for those classified as non-native English speakers and
economically disadvantaged (as measured by free school meal status).
Source:"Teaching to Teach" Literacy (2016), Centre for Economic Performance.