Teaching to teach: literacy
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Professor Stephen Machin, Professor Sandra McNally and Dr Martina Viarengo

This study by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics is the first large-scale analysis of the effects of using the synthetic phonics method, in which teaches children to read by identifying and pronouncing sounds rather than individual letters.

Researchers tracked the progress of more than 270,000 pupils in 150 local authorities that introduced the policy at different times. The research found there to be stronger effects of the teaching technology (‘synthetic phonics’) at age five and seven. However, by the age of 11, other children taught under different systems had caught up and there are no average effects.

The research also found that there are long-term effects at age 11 for pupils with a high probability of starting school as struggling readers. The results from the study suggest that there is a persistent effect for those classified as non-native English speakers and economically disadvantaged (as measured by free school meal status) which the authors suggest may contribute to closing learning gaps based on disadvantage and (initial) language proficiency. 

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Professor Stephen Machin, Professor Sandra McNally and Dr Martina Viarengo

Published by:
Centre for Economic Performance (CEP)

Date of publication:
April 2016

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This study looks at the effects of ‘synthetic’ phonics teaching on different age groups and disadvantaged pupils, and will be of use to policy makers and education researchers. 


Record ID:
R251 / 355
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