Response to the BDA campaign to reverse government policy on SSP teaching - Dr Marlynne Grant

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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Response to the BDA campaign to reverse government policy on SSP teaching - Dr Marlynne Grant

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England is ahead of the world in its official guidance, promotion and establishment of 'Systematic Synthetic Phonics' provision for reading (and spelling) instruction. This approach is based on the Simple View of Reading (the need to have the technical knowledge and skills to lift the words off the page, and the language comprehension to understand the words that have been lifted). Systematic Synthetic Phonics within a language-rich and literature-rich context is both evidence and practice informed - and in England this progress and guidance for the teaching profession has been a development over decades.

The original founder of the Reading Reform Foundation, Mona McNee, challenged the orthodoxy of reading instruction way back in 1989 through her own hand-typed RRF newsletters. She promoted phonics based on research findings (largely from the United States) and her own experiences teaching her Downs Syndrome son to read through phonics where his school had previously failed through a 'look and say' whole word approach. The work of the RRF came to the fore in challenging the 'searchlights' multi-cueing word-guessing strategies which were the basis of the 'National Literacy Strategy' rolled out in England in 1998.

After a House of Commons enquiry in 2005, and Sir Jim Rose's independent national review of early reading in 2005/6, the then government accepted Sir Jim Rose's recommendations which included the adoption of the Simple View of Reading (Gough and Tunmer, 1986) as the professional understanding of the two main processes of being a reader in the full sense; and the need for systematic phonics provision (of which he described the approach of 'synthetic' phonics as being superior wherever he and his team of inspectors found it in practice with various SSP programmes and practices).

Nick Gibb MP took up the baton and, over the years since then, he worked to introduce various initiatives in phonics including funding for phonics programmes and decodable reading books, the statutory Year One phonics screening check (2012) and more latterly, the English Hubs initiative and the re-opened window for SSP programmes to apply for 'DfE validation'.

You can see the latest DfE 'Reading Framework' for which a link is provided in Dr Marlynne Grant's post below - her response to the challenge of the British Dyslexia Association. Marlynne's response and findings also represent the position of the UK Reading Reform Foundation.

Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaches the letter/s-sound correspondences of the English alphabetic code at the level of the smallest unit of sound in speech called the 'phoneme' - and 'all-through-the-word' phonics skills for both decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling). The BDA approach is to suggest that dyslexic children are better served by 'onset and rime' phonics and not SSP 'alone': ... -teaching/