The Future of Letters and Sounds

     Jolly Phonics, and others interested in the consultation process around phonics, received an email today saying that after careful consideration the government is no longer going to pursue the revision of Letters and Sounds and are now opening a new validation process.

     The Department for Education stated that the move ‘in no way reflects the quality of the work produced, but the Department’s current policy is that SSP programmes should be created by teachers and phonics experts. This means that the Department will not publish a full Letters and Sounds programme, nor an updated progression.’ They also stated that the ‘2007 Letters and Sounds is not fit for purpose.’

     In response to the Department of Education’s announcement that they will not now be revising Letters and Sounds, Chris Jolly, publisher of Jolly Phonics, says:

     “We are pleased to see the government’s decision today to cease work on their planned revised Letters and Sounds phonics programme and the acknowledgment that the use, and future development of phonics programmes, is better in the hands of the phonics experts and schools themselves.

     “The UK publishing industry leads the world in the production and development of phonics programmes and the effective use of these has led to improvements in literacy. However, a large number of schools still use the sidelined Letters and Sounds programme and we look forward to working with the Department of Education as part of their validation programme to offer choice as the government rolls out excellent training and effective materials to bring about a much-needed further rise in literacy attainment.”

     Chris Jolly points to the importance of choice:

     “In countries where literacy rates have improved and the country has climbed the PIRLS scale, the determining factors include schools having more freedom of choice, instead of following a curated one. If we take Ireland as a good comparative, in 2010 the UK and Ireland were doing 10th in the PIRLS table for 2011. Since then, policy and achievement have been radically different. England managed an increase to joint 8th in 2016, but it was tenuous. A loss of one point in 559 would have brought it back to joint 10th. Ireland however made a huge gain to 4th position, the highest in Western Europe. We know, from training many primary school teachers in phonics there, that the system in Ireland embraces choice, and schools are able to choose the publications (and training ) they believe best suit their needs.

     “This welcome announcement will give schools more choice. While it recognises the effectiveness of commercial phonics schemes, it also puts the onus on schools to work with publishers to improve the stalled standards in the teaching of reading. This is an excellent basis for improving achievement, and one we look forward to.”

     Sara Wernham, co-author of Jolly Phonics, adds: “This is extremely good news as it will allow schools to choose from independently researched literacy schemes which have proven records of success.”

     You can find out more information about how Jolly Phonics is so much more than just letters and sounds by clicking here.