Britain Goes Back to the Future with Phonics

The Telegraph:

David Blunkett, the Education Secretary who introduced the Literacy Strategy, promised to resign in 2002 unless 80 per cent met the expected standard of English on leaving primary school. The target has never been met, but Mr Blunkett long ago moved on to higher things. Instead, it is the nation’s children who have suffered: between 1998 and 2005, well over a million children have failed to achieve basic standards of literacy. A quarter of a million 11-year-olds are unable to read and write properly.
Yet, as Mr Burkhard and the CPS reported recently, if schools had been allowed to employ the phonics method, illiteracy at age 11 might have been eradicated altogether. Judging by tests in Clackmannanshire, where synthetic phonics have been taught since 1998, the method reduces the rate of reading failure to near zero. The evidence suggests that pupils taught using phonics are over three years ahead of their peers taught by other techniques.

The SUN and Joanne Jacobs have more. I agree with the Telegraph’s perspective on decentraliziation vs. a top down approach.

One thought on “Britain Goes Back to the Future with Phonics”

  1. The sorry state of education in UK, it seems to me, is caused by the lack of real science in the educational field. What is shocking to me, and as pointed out in the above articles, is that whole-language was instituted in the 60’s. Only now are the politicians (and educators?) determining if the approached worked! Forty-five years, and more than 2 generations have been subjected non-functioning educational models, when they could have and should have detected this failure within the first year.
    Of course, can they or we be certain that the “science” has truly shown phonics to be superior to whole-language?
    We, the UK and US, have in common educational systems driven by educational philosophies and the exercise of office politics within educational departments. I hope there has been some scientific progress in education since I worked the area in the 60’s and through the 70’s. Study in the area over those years did not leave me impressed. And I haven’t seen much evidence to date that gives me hope that progress has been made.
    I’m reminded of a quote from Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman:
    “The theoretical broadening which comes from having many humanities subjects on the campus is offset by the general dopiness of the people who study these things.”
    In one of my recent entries, the included paper cited the What-Works Clearinghouse. WWC reviewed studies in Math curriculum and found little research that was not seriously scientifically flawed.
    It seems therefore, that we cannot rely on this “science” but instead must constantly review assessments of student progress, putting our efforts into at least ensuring some validity and reliability in the assessment process. Does the educational establishment have the ability to perform even this function?

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