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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
New reading system wins backing
Teacher using synthetic phonics
Efforts are to be made to offer schools sound advice on the system
The first minister has outlined plans for an official to spread the word about the synthetic phonics system of teaching children to read.

The method was pioneered in Clackmannanshire and is credited with improving reading and spelling.

Jack McConnell said: "We will make sure every local authority is able to learn the lessons of Clackmannanshire's success."

It has attracted keen interest from education experts around the world.

The Scottish Executive is to pay for a development officer to spread the word and the education organisation Learning and Teaching Scotland will also highlight the scheme.

Jack McConnell
Where there is success, we must make sure it is spread quickly across the country
Jack McConnell
First Minister

The pioneering system, which involves teaching youngsters how letter sounds blend together to make words, has resulted in children being three years ahead for their age by the time they finish primary school.

An executive spokesman said: "These results were striking in that many of the pupils were from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Boys in particular appeared to thrive and there was some evidence that synthetic phonics might have specific benefits for under-achieving pupils."

Mr McConnell said: "Through dedication, hard work and no shortage of inspiration, teachers in Clackmannanshire are transforming children's lives.

"But we must not allow these new practices and innovations to stand alone and be isolated."

Cost question

He added: "Where there is success, we must make sure it is spread quickly across the country."

But Sue Ellis, a senior lecturer in primary education at Strathclyde University, is not convinced by the system.

She said: "The issue is, does it deliver in the long-term what employers need and what children need to be able to do when they study for their exams? And that's comprehension.

Synthetic phonics
Pupils were found to make more rapid progress under the system

"The evidence from the Clackmannan study is that it doesn't deliver comprehension particularly cost effectively."

Education Minister Peter Peacock said last year that he wanted schools across the country to consider adopting the system.

It was developed by Joyce Watson and Rhona Johnston while they were at St Andrews University.

Children learn the sounds that letters make and can make simple words very quickly, while also learning a strategy to read unknown words.

They use all of their senses to learn, by touching, singing and moving colourful magnetic letters around.

Using the system, they can very quickly make words and work out unknown words, without having to rely on memory and guesswork.

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28 Oct 04 |  Scotland
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30 Dec 03 |  Scotland
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09 Dec 03 |  Scotland
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09 Dec 03 |  Education
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02 Dec 03 |  Education


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