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According to newly published figures, 120,000 more children are now on track to become excellent readers as a result of the Government’s focus on phonics, thereby vindicating the reforms to transform the way young people learn to read.
Since 2012, when a phonics reading test was introduced, the Government has made more than £20m available for schools to buy and develop resources for teaching phonics.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the results show that concentrating educational resources on this method of teaching readers is ensuring more children are becoming “confident, inquisitive and fluent readers”.
The minister said the introduction of the phonics check in 2012 helped to replace “ineffective methods” of teaching that meant children were being “denied the joy of reading”.
The figures show that for 2015, the proportion of six-year-olds achieving the expected standard of reading has risen by nearly 20 per cent since 2012 to 77 per cent (nearly 490,000 pupils), which is equivalent to 120,000 more children doing well.
Furthermore, the proportion of six-year-olds achieving the expected standard in only the last year rose by more than three percentage points, equivalent to more than 16,000 additional children in just twelve months.
Phonics is a method of teaching reading that encourages children to decode words by sounds rather than recognising whole words. The emphasis in early years teaching is on synthetic phonics, in which words are broken up into the smallest units of sound, or phonemes as they are known.
The check, given to all pupils in year 1, ensures pupils are making the right progress in learning to read and allows teachers to identify those in danger of falling behind.
Mr Gibb added: “The results demonstrate the effectiveness of the government’s continued focus on phonics as the primary way of helping young people to read.
“For years, children were being denied the joy of becoming fluent readers because of a reliance on teaching methods that failed too many children. We will continue to challenge those local authorities whose phonics results are below the levels achieved elsewhere.
In line with the Government commitment to ensuring every child is able to reach their potential, Mr Gibbs will be challenging local authorities with the poorest results in the latest phonics check results to swiftly demonstrate how they plan to improve.
Those who do not reach the threshold in the check are given extra reading help by their teachers so they catch up early in their school career, before it is too late.
The figures also show that the proportion of pupils reaching the expected phonics standard a year later at the age of seven has also increased, meaning those having to retake the check are benefiting from increased support from teachers. Nine out of 10 children now have a firm grasp of phonics by age seven.
The worst ten local authorities for phonics results included Nottingham, Peterborough and Wakefield, while of the top ten, nine were London boroughs including Richmond-upon-Thames, Kensington and Chelsea and Lewisham.