Secretary of State for Education in England
United Kingdom

The English government intend to impose a specific type of phonics teaching in the nursery and reception years and a proposed phonics test in Year 1, neither of which are supported by research evidence nor by teachers’ experience.

Phonics is undoubtedly an essential element of learning to read, but the timing of the introduction of a systematic programme is crucial. The White Paper is introduced by a comparison of educational standards in the UK, which appear to show a fall in relation to other OECD countries. Yet, contrary to the clearly more successful models elsewhere, where formal schooling and the teaching of reading are not begun until children are 6 or 7 years of age, increased and earlier emphasis on basic phonic skills is to be imposed.

Children who are given plenty of time to develop their communication skills and to enjoy books so that they understand the purposes of reading and writing before they are expected to crack the irregular phonic code for English do just as well at age 11 as others whose motivation to read and enjoyment of literacy are undermined by premature pressures to decode text.

Training children of five or six (many of whose first language may not be English and who may use different alphabets) to decode text without regard to their understanding is not best use of time and can result in children losing confidence in themselves as readers. It is essential to include comprehension and reading for meaning and enjoyment into the mix from the start.

We, the undersigned, call on the English Government to abandon its current intention to introduce phonics teaching to children in nursery and reception classes and to test phonics in Year 1.

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The Say No to phonics tests for young children petition to Secretary of State for Education in England was written by Janet Moyles and is in the category Education at GoPetition.