Although phonics – breaking words down into their constituent parts – has been one of the main ways in which parents and teachers teach children to read for many years, new research from the London School of Economics (LSE) has shown that the method is not demonstrably better than other ways of learning to read.
The study looked into the impact of phonics on pupils’ attainment in teacher assessments and tests at age five, seven and 11. They found that while those taught to read using the phonics method tended to have a higher reading age at the ages of five and seven, by the age of 11 the gap between phonics-taught children and those taught to read by other methods had closed.
However, the study did find that the use of phonics could help particular groups of pupils who may be more likely to be disadvantaged in learning to read, such as those from deprived backgrounds or children who have English as a second language. The study also gave phonics as a teaching method its broad approval, noting that it was a simply and cost-effective way of teaching children to read.