Eng: 'Phonics developments in England from 1998 to 2018' by Jenny Chew

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Eng: 'Phonics developments in England from 1998 to 2018' by Jenny Chew

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue Apr 14, 2020 4:12 pm

Geoff Vaughan of 'InspireEd Consultancy' (@Edinspire) flagged up this very interesting piece via Twitter describing official developments in England with regard to phonics provision:

Phonics Developments in England from 1998 to 2018 by Jenny Chew

https://rrf.org.uk/2018/07/30/phonics-d ... enny-chew/

Phonics Developments in England from 1998 to 2018

The first UK government attempt to give phonics a higher profile in England was in the National Literacy Strategy (NLS), introduced in 1998. Whole-word and whole-language approaches had dominated before that, and their influence did not disappear overnight, so for that reason and others progress from then on was often erratic.

In 1998, it was just a matter of ‘phonics’, as the term ‘synthetic phonics’ was not yet widely used. The NLS did raise the profile of phonics, but there was considerable emphasis on onset and rime, one pre-requisite for which, according to Goswami, was that teachers should foster ‘good sight word knowledge’ (p. 184 in Reading Development and the Teaching of Reading, 1999, eds. Oakhill and Beard). Some look-and-say teaching therefore continued, and there was also great emphasis on the ‘searchlights’ model, which presented phonics as just one of several strategies to be used in reading. One activity in the May 1998 NLS training pack provided a defaced text in which some words or parts of words were missing, and the accompanying audiotape informed teachers that the words could be worked out by ‘a contextual or syntactic strategy in the instances of first letter or letters and guess’. Whole-language supporters were reasonably happy with the implication that what could be done by proficient readers in an abnormal situation was a good guide to what should be normal for young children – systematic phonics supporters were not.

Do read the whole piece as we are very lucky in England to have now achieved a much greater adoption of systematic synthetic phonics and the uptake of cumulative, decodable reading books for beginners. England's Ofsted inspectorate look for a high level of professional understanding in the teaching of reading and the reading culture in schools:


The UK Reading Reform Foundation played a significant role in challenging the, then, government in 1998 in its promotion of the 'searchlights' multi-cueing reading strategies. Anyone interested in the history and developments in England can gain a reflection of the debate via the RRF newsletter archive here:


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