A former teacher, special needs teacher and headteacher, Debbie has campaigned extensively over many years to achieve national, research-informed, systematic synthetic phonics teaching in primary schools. As a representative of the UK Reading Reform Foundation (former editor of the RRF newsletter, founder of the RRF website and Honorary Committee Member), she advised the British Government for the parliamentary inquiry ‘Teaching Children to Read’ (March 2005) and she helped to inform Sir Jim Rose’s ‘Independent review of the teaching of early reading’ (Final Report, Jim Rose, March 2006).
In 2012, Debbie was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List for services to education.
Debbie is known to be a controversial and inspirational speaker and has spoken alongside Sir Jim Rose at literacy conferences.
She currently provides phonics consultancy services internationally including training in schools and universities. Debbie has written many challenging and informative articles for educational magazines and parents’ magazines, and for many years she has provided highly practical advice for parents, teachers, teacher-trainers, politicians, publishers, manufacturers and television programme producers. She is author of the online Phonics International programme for all ages (Phonics International Ltd) and phonics consultant for the Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters programme designed for infants (Oxford University Press).
Debbie is currently a member of the Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy (DDOLL) Network Group and a founding member of the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction as she strongly recognizes the value of international connections and the need for further campaigning to raise awareness of the ‘disastrous disconnect’ between research findings and actual teaching and provision for learners. Various researchers, politicians and governments have already played their part to formally and legally embed and promote research-informed teaching practices – but much more is required to guarantee high-quality, evidence-informed teacher-training and continuing professional development, and to promote delivery of effective literacy instruction for every child in every classroom – regardless of any learning difficulties or challenges arising from learning English as an additional language.
“There is great need to work harder still, on an international level, to ensure that teaching in all settings where English is taught for reading and writing is based on what we know, to expose where research-informed reading instruction is yet to be promoted or established, and to provide practical information and support for those who are really trying hard to be the best teachers of reading and writing that they can be. Where phonics is concerned, my view is that the starting point is understanding the ‘alphabetic code’ through a visual aid that makes the code ‘tangible’. The ‘Alphabetic Code Chart’ should be as well-established as the notion of ‘The Alphabet’.” Debbie Hepplewhite, March 2015