Mills writes an interesting conclusion to his paper:
The championing of SSP under Gove was a bold policy that courted unpopularity and resistance but was supported by substantial research. That so much progress was made in its implementation and embedding by a coalition government with a shallow majority is testament to an unflinching, some would say dogmatic, belief in its righteousness and perhaps also in a genuine desire to turn the tide of reading failure in England particularly among the less privileged. That the policy has not resulted yet in evidence of universal literacy and England sitting atop the world reading tables may be more a result of inappropriate assessment and a failure of the system to ensure code mastery along with a hope that addressing one part of the phases of reading instruction would right the other parts.
Those faults do not condemn the policy to failure. There seems much to build on. A Phonics Screening Check at Year Three that assesses the entire code would go some way to militating against phonic deficits debilitating pupils in later years along with opportunity for and assessment of rapid word recognition for children in lower KS2. Furthermore, an understanding that reading fluency is not a proxy for reading comprehension may help schools prepare pupils more effectively for the demands of secondary school. With a few apposite developments and by entering the fray one more time, Gove and Gibb could arguably have done more for reading in England than any past ministerial team. It might even be their finest hour.
But there's a big BUT in this unfolding story in England's context...
Following the recommendations in Sir Jim Rose's world-renowned report in 2006, the Simple View of Reading model was accepted by the, then, government to replace the 'searchlights' multi-cueing model - and in the 2007, the DfES published 'Letters and Sounds' and entitled it 'a high quality, six phase phonics programme'.
People may know that I have been a vociferous critic of this move as Letters and Sounds provided an incomplete programme - including that there were no actual teaching and learning resources. This meant teachers adopting this as their identified 'core' programme would have to translate and equip it - which they did in various ways to various effect.
Some schools have achieved consistently good results in their Year One Phonics Screening Check such that they have been recognised and gone on to be 'English Hubs' in a more recent government initiative to raise the profile of teaching early reading. At the time of writing this, there are 34 'English Hubs' supporting weaker schools in their regions. I believe about a third of these may be identified as 'Letters and Sounds' English Hubs.
It is well know, but not talked about officially, however, that many Letters and Sounds schools have significant weaknesses along the lines that I have described in my 2015 graphic (constructed on the basis of the Simple View of Reading diagram):https://phonicsinternational.com/Simple ... chools.pdf
Earlier than that (2013), I was blogging about the apparent lack of transparent evaluation and comparison of 'Letters and Sounds' as the majority of infant and primary schools chose to adopt this as their core programme despite its absence of resources:https://debbiehepplewhite.com/2013/11/
And only this year (2021) after a long, hard battle to dissuade
the current Department for Education not
to publish a 'revised Letters and Sounds' (with resources this time), the DfE put out this statement:
https://phonicsinternational.com/forum/ ... php?t=1153
Thank you for your interest in the future of Letters and Sounds. We are now able to communicate a final position.
The 2007 Letters and Sounds handbook, published under the previous Government, has never been a full Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme. For a number of years, effective teaching using Letters and Sounds has relied on schools themselves building a programme around the handbook. Some schools have done this very successfully, and it was for this reason that schools achieving outstanding results using 2007 Letters and Sounds were included in the English Hubs programme in 2018. The Department recognises, however, that for many schools, especially those who need or want to improve their practice, 2007 Letters and Sounds is not fit for purpose and does not provide the support, guidance, resources or training needed.
I write about why governments, arguably, are right to provide informed guidance for teachers and others, but should not publish 'programmes':https://debbiehepplewhite.com/no-2-shou ... ifference/
Without serious observers and writers reflecting on the role - good and bad - that the publication of Letters and Sounds has played - there is an incomplete picture.
I consider one of the worst aspects of all with regard to the publication of Letters and Sounds is that it has led so many people to think of 'phonics' as the domain only of infant teaching - and that it is 'job done' by the end of Year One. In England that is the six year olds.
But the English language has the most complex alphabetic code in the world, and 'phonics' is subconsciously applied for reading new words in print, needing a pronunciation if the new words are to be added to spoken language, and to support spelling longer more complex words when writing or typing. Phonics is lifelong and for adults - not just infants. The whole teaching profession should be knowledgeable and trained to teach and/or support reading and spelling as a continuum.So - my thoughts are that no matter how far England has travelled in the last 20 years, it has much further to travel still.