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Literacy Research Discussion Group: Phonics or Fun?

Date: 25 October 2011 Time: 1 -2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Helen Horton (University of Sunderland) speaks on:

Is our preoccupation with decoding and analysis in the teaching of reading killing our children's sheer enjoyment of engaging with books?

The announcement of Michael Grove in November 2010 that there will be 'a light -touch phonics-based test for all year 1 pupils in England' is predicated on the premise that failure to achieve in reading is directly correlated to phonemic awareness. This initiative follows as a direct result of the recommendations of the Rose report (2008) that the Searchlights approach to the teaching of reading should be replaced by programmes designed to teach purely synthetic phonics.

In direct contradiction, however, are the findings of the recently published Tickell Review of the early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) recommending that such testing of 5 year olds should be scrapped. The findings of the review acknowledge that, whilst recent early years strategies for the teaching of phonics had been successful this has not led to an increase in standards of reading.

In considering these diametrically opposed recommendations, there is a need to consider both the true purpose and process of children's reading. It is imperative to remember that the process is much more than a subset of task analysis type skills. As the analytic versus synthetic phonics debate rumbles on we need to be mindful of Vygotsky's theory of analysis.

Current literacy policies seem to be regardless of the raft of pedagogy which underpins our knowledge of children's reading and allow only cursory acknowledgement of children's Readiness to Learn. Sustainability will only be achieved if we take a pragmatic approach to fire children's enthusiasm for reading.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Karin Tusting

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Education, Literacy, Policy


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
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