Holyrood to hear bid to standardise literacy teaching

Written by Tom Freeman on 8 November 2017 in News

Synthetic phonics system of teaching reading developed in Scotland and adopted in England

Primary school - Barry Batchelor/PA

MSPs are set to consider a proposal to standardise literacy teaching so all schools offer the 'synthetic phonics' system of learning how to read.

Former teacher Anne Glennie, from the Hebrides, will present her petition to the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee tomorrow.

The technique requires pupils to sound out components of letters and words and was developed at St Andrews University in the 1990s.


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Letters and sounds are 'decoded' before children move on to books and then spelling.

Academics have been split over the scheme but research carried out in Clackmannanshire which ran the pilot found pupils who learned using the method were consistently ahead.

All state schools in England and Wales have been mandated to adopt the approach, but Scotland's Curriculum for Excellence leaves teachers' options open.

Glennie said despite the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy showing literacy rates in decline, ministers had shown "little interest in the evidence".

She added phonics should be part of teachers formal training.

"Systematic synthetic phonics works, for everyone, but especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds," she said.

"If we are serious about closing the attainment gap, we cannot afford to ignore this any longer. When it comes to the teaching of beginning readers, we’re still doing what we did in the 70s – and it’s not working. Reading research has moved on; Scotland has not."

In a reply to Glennie, Education Secretary John Swinney said: “I am not convinced it would be helpful to prescribe one particular approach to teaching reading. It would also contradict the philosophy of Curriculum for Excellence, which empowers teachers to choose the methods best suited to each child.”

Literacy results from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy show the standard of reading and writing in primary schools has dropped since 2012. 

 

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