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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 11:47 GMT
Phonics alive and well in schools
Boy writing
Supporters of synthetic phonics report big improvements
Many schools already use synthetic phonics - a method of teaching children to read advocated by a government review.

Some use it in combination with other methods - such as teaching children to recognise common words.

A report by former Ofsted inspector Jim Rose calls for all schools to teach children to read using synthetic phonics "first and fast", before the age of five.

Woodberry Down Community School in Hackney, London, has been teaching reading through a system of synthetic phonics for three years.

Head teacher Greg Wallace said the school had seen a marked improvement in children's reading and writing.

"It has made a dramatic difference to standards in Key Stage 1 (infants).

"We have the second highest percentage of children with free school meals in Hackney and some of the highest Key Stage 1 results for reading in the borough.

Greg Wallace, head teacher
Greg Wallace says synthetic phonics has particularly helped boys

"We are also above the national average for reading."

He said one strength of the system was that there were very clear rules, which made de-coding of words easy - and this was something which boys in particular had found useful.

"It has made a big difference to boys in particular. At Key Stage 1 this year boys did significantly better than the girls."

Mr Wallace puts some of the system's success down to building confidence in children. Before they are given a particular book to read, they will have been taught how to decode the words in it. And there is an emphasis on reading aloud in class.

His school has been using a synthetic phonics system called Read Write Inc., developed by Ruth Miskin.

Patricia Sowter, the head teacher of Cuckoo Hall School in Edmonton, north London, introduced the same system two years ago.

It has made a huge difference to standards of reading
Patricia Sowter, head teacher

"It has made a huge difference to standards of reading in particular. We now have a 100% success rate at level four in Sats tests for reading, including children with special needs," she told the BBC News website.

A total of 31% of children at the school have special educational needs, she said.

"Almost half of our children have English as a second language and it helps them because it is a systematic approach to reading, writing and spelling."

Newcomers to the school who do not speak much English are put into "catch-up" programmes and small group work is used to bring children on at their own pace.

The head teacher believes the success of the system is also due to it being followed across the school, by teachers and learning assistants alike.

See how synthetic phonics gets children reading

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01 Dec 05 |  Education
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01 Dec 05 |  Education
Phonics plan for literacy review
26 Jul 05 |  Education
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26 Jul 05 |  Education
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03 Jun 05 |  Education
New reading system wins backing
26 Aug 05 |  Scotland

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