An article on today’s BBC News website cites research by Andrew Davis from Durham University which claims that teaching certain children synthetic phonics at school may be damaging their reading ability.
Mr. Davis claims that children who are already able to recognise words and/or read simple phrases who are used to using the ‘whole word’ method of reading, or other reading tools, which mean that they are more advanced at reading than their peers, could be held back by being forced to relearn strategies using synthetic phonics once they get into school.
Mr. Davis claims that making such children revert to splitting words down into sounds and/or reading texts which are too simple for their ability, simply to keep them in line with the government’s phonics requirements could put them off reading at a time when it is crucial to engage them with the reading process and actually push them further.
Mr. Davis does not dispute the fact that using synthetic phonics systems in school can be an enormously beneficial tool for some children, but his concerns are with the over reliance on phonics, and the blanket application of the phonics system on all children regardless of their ability or other strategies which may be helping certain children more.
Material gathered from the union NATE suggests that broadly speaking, many teachers are concerned about this over emphasis on what phonics can do. There are particular concerns with the problems many teachers see with teaching children made up words.
What do you think?