Aston evaluates Primary school reading programmes

Reading

19 November 2015

A study conducted by an Aston University researcher has found two synthetic phonics programmes - Letters and Sounds (L&S) and Early Reading Research (ERR) - used by English primary schools to teach young children to read, to be equally effective overall. 

Although the two programmes differ in the number of phonic skills that are taught, the simpler programme (ERR) was just as effective  for children who start school with a good understanding of the sound structure of words and to some extent more effective  for children with a poor understanding.

This is one of the findings of a study by Aston's Dr Laura Shapiro and Dr Jonathan Solity, of Optima and University College London that is published today, 19 November 2015, in the British Journal of Educational Psychology.

Dr Laura Shapiro said: “Synthetic phonics is the widely accepted approach for teaching reading in English: children are taught to sound out the letters in a word then blend these sounds together. In this study we compared the impact of two synthetic phonics programmes on early reading in children over their first three years of school.”

The study involved 17 schools in England who used either L&S (seven schools) which teaches multiple letter-sound mappings or ERR (10 schools) which teaches only the most consistent mappings plus frequent words by sight.  Researchers measured children’s phonological awareness (understanding the sound structure of words) and reading from school entry to the end of the second or third school year.

Although the programmes were equally effective for most children the results indicated potential benefits of ERR for children with poor phonological awareness (understanding of the sound structure of words).

Dr Shapiro said: “It will be heartening for many parents and teachers to know that these programmes are equally effective overall. However, their impact on reading skills was linked to a child’s phonological awareness when starting school. Although further research is needed to isolate the impact of each aspect of these programmes, our findings suggest that including a narrow range of phonic skills is sufficient and explicitly teaching children to use two strategies for reading (sounding out, or recognising by sight) may benefit children with poor phonological awareness.”

ENDS

For further information please contact the British Psychological Society press centre, Tel: 0116 252 9500, email: presscentre@bps.org.uk

Editors notes

Full paper title:‘Differing effects of two synthetic phonics programmes on early reading development’

About the British Journal of Educational Psychology

The British Journal of Educational Psychology publishes original psychological research pertaining to education across all ages and educational levels.

Visit wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/bjep for more information.

About the British Psychological Society
The British Psychological Society is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK.

The Journals of the British Psychological Society form an essential part of the Society's mission to advance and disseminate psychological knowledge. With a publishing history spanning over 100 years, our journals portfolio is at the forefront of the psychology community with international contributions and readership. For more information, please visit www.bps.org.uk.

About Wiley-Blackwell
Wiley-Blackwell is the international STMS publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world’s leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit www.wileyblackwell.com or our new online platform, Wiley Online Library (www.wileyonlinelibrary.com), one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.