Home England government Schools in England ‘must reform the way children learn to read’

Schools in England ‘must reform the way children learn to read’

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The way children learn to read in England needs urgent reform, more than 250 experts said in a letter to the government.

According to research by academics at UCL England, teachers now focus more on teaching children to read by mixing sounds – known as synthetic phonics – than on reading and appreciating entire texts.

UCL researchers have joined more than 250 signatories to an open letter calling on the UK government to change its policy on reading.

In the letter, they demand that the reforms “focus on a broader range of approaches to teaching phonics and reading, allowing teachers to use their own judgment to determine what is best for their students. students”.

For the first time in over 100 years, we find that a balanced pedagogical approach to teaching reading is no longer the norm in England

He adds that children should learn phonics as part of reading whole texts and that teachers should be able to use their own judgment to decide what is best for students.

Co-author Professor Dominic Wyse, head of the learning and leadership department at UCL’s Institute of Education, said teaching children to read is “crucial” to improving their life chances. life.

“Teaching children to read and make sense of texts is crucial to improving their chances in life and is one of the most important tasks of primary schools and early childhood settings,” he said. .

“While England’s current approach to teaching reading has some strengths, our new research shows government policy is misinformed as it is not supported by the latest strong evidence.

“For the first time in over 100 years, we find that a balanced pedagogical approach to teaching reading is no longer the norm in England.”

Professor Wyse said teachers now use the “narrower” synthetic phonetics approach more frequently.

“Our view is that the system does not give teachers enough flexibility to do what they think is best for their students, or to encourage students to enjoy reading,” he added.

The research found that 66% of 634 teachers who answered a question on the topic said synthetic phonics was their main focus, compared to 1% (nine) who said they focus on whole texts.

In line with the evidence, our reading tips make it clear that phonics is just one part of becoming a fluent reader.

The phonetic screening check, administered to 2nd grade students, proved highly unpopular with teachers interviewed by the study.

Some 935 of the 936 written comments from the teacher survey were negative about the test.

Commenting on the UCL paper on the government’s approach to teaching reading, Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was important that phonics be combined to help children develop a love of reading.

“There is clear evidence that synthetic phonics provides a strong foundation for helping children learn to read,” she said.

“But it’s important that this is combined with approaches that help children enjoy stories and develop a love of reading.

In a press release, the Ministry of Education defended the use of phonics to teach children to read.

A department spokesperson said, “We are committed to raising literacy standards by following the evidence. The systematic teaching of phonics has proven worldwide to be the most effective method of teaching children to read.

“Since the introduction of the phonetic screening test in 2012, the percentage of first graders reaching the expected standard in reading has increased from 58% to 82%, with 92% of children reaching that standard in second grade.

“Consistent with the evidence, our reading guidance makes it clear that phonics is just one part of becoming a fluent reader. In addition to teaching phonics systematically, teachers should also focus on speaking and reading stories to foster a love of reading in children.