THE INTRODUCTION OF SYSTEMATIC SYNTHETIC PHONICS INTO THE PRIMARY CURRICULUM AND ITS IMPLICATIONS OF THAT FOR SCHOOLS

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Systematic Synthetic Phonics 8

THEINTRODUCTION OF SYSTEMATIC SYNTHETIC PHONICS INTO THE PRIMARYCURRICULUM AND ITS IMPLICATIONS OF THAT FOR SCHOOLS

TheIntroduction of Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) into the PrimaryCurriculum and Its Implications of that for Schools

Systematicsynthetic phonics (SSP), also known as the inductive phonics, refersto a method and process of teaching reading that shows first theletter sounds, and later builds upon ensuring the sounds blend toattain perfect pronunciation. Jolliffe, Waugh, andCarss (2015) assert that the Systematic Synthetic Phonics programprovides an orderly, regular and different approach through whichchildren learn. Wyse and Goswami (2008) go further to say that theteachers use this technique to support the children in developing thephonic knowledge and skills (see Appendix). Learning to read andwrite in English is a complicated process for Key Stage 1 ( KS1)(Glazzard and Stokoe, 2013) owing to the complexity of the alphabeticcode, this, explains the need to use the SSP program especially amongthe early year’s practitioners (Medwell et al., 2014). SSP programtranscends from simple to complex (Glazzard and Stokoe, 2013), inthis way it can give the KS1 learners an appropriate time to learnsystematically. Children are thus able to grasp the basic structureand to work of the alphabetic writing before embarking on thecomplexities that are unavoidable in English (Doman, 2015).

The teaching of reading raises some important questions andchallenges in the education section (Stuart, Stainthorp, andSnowling, 2008) this is particularly a matter of utmost concern tothe Early Year’s Practitioners (EYFS) (Ofsted, 2010). Despite theinitiation of the National Literacy Strategy in 1998 and furtherimprovement of the reading processes attained by the KS1 learners(DCSF, 2009), the government was concerned about the high number ofEYFS lagging behind or failing to learn to read by the time theyturned eleven. One of the major researchers who have revolutionizedthe teaching process is Jim Rose whose 2005 proposition was adoptedby the government as explained by Roberts (2014). Jim Rose took intoperspective the views of other representatives including the lobbyistgroups who pushed for the adoption of Synthetic Phonics (Jolliffe,Waugh, and Carss, 2015). In fact according to critics, Rose’srecommendation was swayed by the intense argument fostered by thelobby groups (Roberts, 2014). Thus, this research paper seeks toexplore critically the introduction of systematic synthetic phonicsin the Rose Review and the implications of that for schools (seeAppendix 1).

According to Wyse and Goswami (2008) to compare different approachesit is crucial to have a set of criteria to assess. The researcherssuggest the use of dominant materials and dominant pedagogicalpractices as the two easily seen precepts (Brodie, Richardson, andBerry, 2006). The authors go a step further to illuminate that therole of teachers and KS1 learners in a learning environment willconstrue immense difficulties in comparing however, they can form asignificant comparison basis.

Wray et al., (2014) assert that the early form of teaching in the20th century was the synthetic phonics. Wray et al., (2014:65) statethat “the perspective ensured that children undertook variousexercises in a bid to learn letter names, sounds and blending…..”The role of the EYFS, in this case, was to ensure that they receivedthe curriculum from the teachers and practiced the skills theteacher’s role was to provide the best exercises (Watts andGardner, 2013). The approach instituted at the time to learning toread more of a simple view of reading as explained by Watts andGardner (2013). Thompson (2015) points out that it encompassed twomajor processes decoding and comprehending. In this case, the readerwas required to listen to what was decoded and understand it (Medwellet al., 2014).

Addition for SSP for schools has been helpful since its introductionespecially both for the teachers and the students (Watts and Gardner,2013). Learners have been able to benefit from a new approach when itcomes to teaching of language and vocabulary Watts and Gardner,2013). There has been remarkable improvements from the time ofinception of the project.

Screening tests assessments and time for teaching SSP

The test has served the purpose of identifying the milestones thathave been achieved since the implementation of the SSP projectGlazzard and Stokoe, 2013). In light of the same, assessments havebeen carried out as to the implications of the same as it has offeredinsights into improvements in the future.

Implications for training of teachers and teaching assistants

Training of the SSP for teachers and their assistants has had theimpact of making them understand recommendations of Rose Review andhow they can apply the same to the process of teaching how to readand right (Ofsted, 2009).

Teachers and their fellow teaching assistants have been able to learnabout the alphabetic code as a way of enhancing further theirdelivery of content when they are educating the students (Wyse andStyles, 2007:1).

Further, teachers have also been able to comprehend the criteria usedas an assurance for the best quality phonic work enabling themfurther understand how to recognize their connection with a range ofphonic programs (Ofsted, 2009).

Teachers and their assistants have been able to learn how to applythe knowledge and comprehension of how they can conduct an assessmentof the phonics by the use of the school’s phonic program (Glazzardand Stokoe, 2013).

Implications of the program when it comes to facilitation ofteaching of the English Language

Teachers have been able to understand the working knowledge and theoverall dynamics regarding the English language and role played bythe various components specifically grammar, coherence, strategies ofcommunication and meaning. SSP has enabled teachers to gain theability to understand the dynamics of language and how to apply thesame in a classroom set, an act that is essential for learning(Vacca, 2003).

Further, there has been the benefit of one recognizing the variationsthat come about with the aspects of language and the differencesresulting in dialect about learning (Glazzard and Stokoe, 2013).Through grasping of the SSP training, teachers have been well placedto understand how the entire process goes.

Training has been able to empower the teachers to understand theprimary differences and similarities that arise when it comes to thedevelopment of language (Vacca,2003). They have been better placed in furtheracquiring knowledge on the patterns that are common and milestoneswhen it comes to the development of language and any of the materialsrequired for the same to be achieved (Wallace, 2008). Teachers havealso been able to understand how to encourage competency among thevarious English learners as a way of enhancing their communicationcapabilities and other aspects related to the same (Punyapet,and Laohawiriyanon, 2014). Undergoing the SSP trainingincreases the teacher’s skills in achieving the stated goals.

Also, it has benefited when it comes to helping them make a properchoice of language that would be used for various tasks in theclassroom (Glazzard and Stokoe, 2013). Through training, teachershave had the advantage of learning differences that could ariseparticularly between academic language and the conversationallanguage (Showalter, 2006). Such has been identified as a primarychallenge when it comes to linguistics. Training has preparedteachers and their assistants in understanding the demands that arisewhen working with academic language and develop skills to help indealing with the same (Glazzard and Stokoe, 2013).

SystematicSynthetic Phonics (SSP)

The following formula below drawn from Adams (2014) is crucial tounderstanding what SSP is and how it arises.

SSP= Systematic phonics + Synthetic phonics

The above equation illustrates that SSP amalgamates the features ofthe two different approaches with an aim of improving teacher andlearner activity within the learning environment (Adams, 2014). Intheir research Jolliffe, Waugh and Carss (2015:34) state that “SSPbrings out the need to bring about comprehensibility among thechildren in reading and learning different letters and sounds attheir early age.” Young KS1 learners are often characterised bya short span of concentration but strong capability when it comes tograsping of what they are taught (Brodie, Richardson, and Berry,2006), it is on this basis that SSP is streamlined (see appendix 1).It essentially integrates learning by blending which is endorsed on aregular, discrete and sequential basis as pointed out by Ofsted(2010).

Synthetic Phonics is not an entirely new approach in teachinglearning in schools (Ofsted, 2010). The simple view of reading is anaspect that explains the synthetic phonics methodology integrated inthe learning curriculum in the 20th century (Ofsted,2009). The first third of the 20th century galvanizedmajor innovations in SSP segmenting the methodology into three (Cove,2012). The first segment is termed as analytic phonics (DfES, 2007),this is also termed as words to letters where the learners encountera whole word and asked to analyse the different sounds (DfE, 2013).The second innovation was termed as the look and say (DfES, 2006DfES, 2013),in this case words were learnt as sight vocabulariesbefore the analysis (Ofsted, 2014). The third innovation took intoconsideration a temporary measure of an invented alphabet (Jolliffe,Waugh and Carss, 2015).

So what is Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) and how is itassociated to Rose? Before answering this question it is crucial topoint out that in 1998 the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) wasestablished by the government in a bid to foster reading levels inthe country (DfES, 2006). The first recommendation brought to thelimelight by the newly formed body was for the teachers to teachchildren to be able to use four searchlights for reading (DfES,2013) this is termed as a knowledge context approach, grammaticalknowledge, graphic, and phonics and word recognition (Brodie,Richardson and Berry, 2006). The NLS recommendation was pegged on theanalytic approach (Doman, 2015). Despite the wide adoption of theapproach by the teachers, poor results were attained.

Systematic Synthetic Phonics connotes the teaching practice that isundertaken on a regular basis (Farokhbakht and Nejadansari, 2015),following a discrete approach and in an agreed and sequential manner(Cove, 2012). The combination of systematic and synthetic phonicsgives birth to SSP which integrates the features of both syntheticand systematic phonics (Waugh and Jolliffe, 2012). “SSP adopts asimple view of reading, discretely, sequentially on a regular basis”(Wyse and Styles, 2007:1) this means that readers are able todecode and comprehend the word by following a continuouspredetermined program instituted by their teachers (Glazzard andStokoe, 2013). By following SSP, the letter sounds are rapidly taughtplacing more emphasis on blending the sounds on a regular basis asundertaken by the described school in appendix 1 (Stuart, Stainthorpand Snowling, 2008).

SSP advocates for the means of decoding without a need forsegmentation a technique embedded in analytic phonic. PrometheanTrust Founder Burkard notes that skilled readers are not compelled torely on contextual information (Johnston and Watson, 2007). Burkardstates that it is only the poor readers who tend to guess fromcontext and deduce the meaning of the words (Wray et al., 2014). Intheir research Wyse and Goswami (2008:23) point out that “…isnot practical or pleasurable to assume that children will becomebetter readers by encouraging them to focus on guess work…”SSP calls for the teaching of the children to recognize andeffectively blend and articulate the English basic sounds beforebeing introduced to books.

After about nine weeks the learners are introduced to books which aredecodable books that contain only single letter phenomes. Accordingto a study carried out by Jolliffe, (2012) on teachers who appliedthis methodology, illustrated that they were directed not to show thepages whenever reading to avoid remembering of whole words from thetext by the learners. A study carried out by Clackmannanshire depictsthat children taught analytic phonics and those taught SSP envisageda different level of reading. Those taught following SSP supersededthose who followed analytic phonics (Jolliffe, Waugh and Carss,2015). The study is an illustration of the significance of SSP inthe modern school setup (Punyapetand Laohawiriyanon, 2014).

The developer of Jolly Phonics Sue Lloyd depicts SSP provides therequired skills that enable a high proportion of children to read andwrite effectively considering their age (DfES, 2007 DfES, 2006).However, there is a small percentage of about twenty percent that mayhave literacy problems (Saunders, 2005). Reiterating on the work ofLloyd Wyse and Styles (2007:89) say “this proportion of learnersstill has a chance to cement their learning foundation and justrequire more time and input.” The researchers go further toassert that learning in EYFS needs regularity and emphasis on thebasics. The provision is properly integrated in SSP (Stewart, 2013).

Implicationof SSP

SSP emphasises on the importance of sounds (Glazzard and Stokoe,2013), each phenome is crucial in every position (Johnston andWatson, 2007). For instance, under SSP there is a need to care aboutall the letters in the word “Sun”. S, U and N are alwaysconsidered in learning (Ofsted, 2010), it means that there is a lotof emphasis on hearing and identifying all the phenomes in allpositions (Wray et al., 2014). SSP learning process is quite fast(Hill, 2007), children are taught about eight sounds over duration oftwo weeks in a bid to get them reading right away as pointed out byWhitebread, and Coltman (2015). According to Farokhbakht andNejadansari (2015:49), “spelling and reading has a strongcorrelation. Children are taught that the alphabetic code is alwaysreversible” this is to mean that if one can successfully reada word, then, they can easily spell it, this is a crucial aspect thatmust be considered when it comes to writing and reading confidenceamong the young KS1 learners (Jolliffe, Waugh and Carss, 2015).

In the Early Years, teachers should already be identifyingchildren who find it difficult to distinguish between sounds and whomay need additional support.” (OFSTED, 2014:39). “all thatis required in this case is systematic teaching to ensure that theleaners get the required concept” (Waugh and Jolliffe,2012:12). The alphabet letter names are never taught initially to theKS1 learners (Mahmoud et al., 2015), the learners are given a chanceto learn and understand the sounds (Ofsted, 2010). SSP is skewed insuch a way that the learners learn forty four phonemes and theirrepresentation Ofsted (2010) explains. The approach enables thechildren to understand the phonemes and the fact that they can havenumerous spelling choices (Farokhbakht and Nejadansari, 2015). Take acase of words like “place”, “kiss” and “sell” it isapparent that the words encompass such spelling choices “ce”,“ss” and “s”. “Teachers are always at the centre when itcomes to SSP programs” (DfES, 2006:3), a teacher must alwayspronounce the word correctly. If the teachers pronounce the wordswrongly it means that learners will tend to believe that it is thecorrect pronunciation hence sticking to it (Wyse and Styles, 2007).

So is SSP practical approach in teaching English among the EYFS? Itis vital to note that there are two groups of KS1 learners (Stuart,Stainthorp and Snowling, 2008), there are those undertaking Englishas a second language (parents non-citizens), and there are thosetaking the language as the first language (parents’ citizens)(Shapiro and Solity, 2008). An analysis of twelve primary schools asoutlined by Ofsted (2010) depicts that SSP has played a tremendousrole in increasing the success of reading and spelling. The reportasserts that concentrated and systematic use of phonics in teachinghas improved the success of learning in schools (Ofsted, 2010).

Snowling (2013:31) in his report says that “teachers were goodjudges of pupilís progress, and theirassessments predicted 50% of the variabilityinchildrenís reading skills at theend of the school year.” The researcher goes further toilluminate that child taught following the SSP approach attain highresults this is a predisposition that DfE (2013) agrees. Accordingto DfE (2013) learners, aged seven can read and spell to the level ofthirteen years.

From the research, it was evident that the top three schools inperformance in English as a language employed the use of SSP in theircurriculum and strictly adhered to the provisions required. Despitethe other schools applying the methodology, they never followed allthe requirements, this explains the failure to perform a pointadequately that Jolliffe, Waugh, and Carss (2015) emphasize on intheir study. For instance, some of the poor performers eclipsedteachers with poor pronunciation which affected the learning processof the children in the institution.

A study conducted by Mahmoud Ghoneim and Abdelsalam Elghotmy (2015)seems to tell it all. The study is a vindication of the widespreadinception of SSP in schools in England since 2010. According toMahmoud Ghoneim and Abdelsalam Elghotmy (2015: 22) “SPSS isbound to teach children to read and spell by the identification andpronunciation of sounds as opposed to the individual letters”,this is the same clarification that Ofsted (2010:2) points out. DCSF(2009) asset that it is easier to predict the performance of thestudents following the use of SSP as opposed to other methods usedpreviously in teaching children. Stuart, Stainthorp and Snowling(2008) and DCSF (2009) agree that screening is crucial in identifyingthe performance of the learners over a given learning period of time.Following the recommendations of the two researchers and othercritics, the UK curriculum is skewed in such a way that there is aconstant review or screening of the learners to check on theprogress.

A study carried out by Thompson (2015) shows the impact of SSP inschools. According to the Thompson (2015), there is an immense changein learning as compared to the past decade. In his research, Thompsonfollowed a group of thirty children who were taught on the premise ofSSP and tracked their progress for three years. The study found outthat in 2013, the year two class members of seven-year-olds were muchahead on average 28 months of their age of reading and 21 monthsahead their age of spelling. The 2011 to 2013 study follows a largerlongitudinal study adapted by Shapiro and Solity (2008) from 2004 to2007 that depicted the same results. Both studies point out thatthere is always a disadvantaged group (Adams, 2014) however, thegroup always catches up with their classmates by the end of thereception period (Doman, 2015).

OFSTED, (2010) says that the use of SSP in teaching was meant to givethe KS1 learners a better start in reading, spelling, and writing.The approach is intended to ensure that KS1 learners catch up as fastas possible (OFSTED, 2014).

Watts and Gardner (2013) point out that there has been an increase inthe overall number of children accepted into secondary schools overthe years. The two authors argue that this is an illustration of thecontinued growth in learning and comprehension attained by lowerintroductory learning institutions. Further Watts and Gardner (2013)connect the improved performance to the continued adoption of SSPprograms in teaching children in schools this seems to agree withthe assertions given by Stewart (2013). “There is no evidencethat suggests that SSP teaching is likely to shift children’sattention from reading books” argues Waugh and Jolliffe(2012:29). For instance, Stewart (2013) points out that there was anincrease of children admitted into secondary schools successfully in2009 by 10% as compared to the previous periods a point echoed byDoman (2015). Those children taught in this way tend to pick upreading faster as compared to those not following the same approach(Thompson, 2015). “The wide acceptance of SSP shows that theapproach is fruitful and efficient in the elimination of illiteracy,”says DfE (2013: 01).

According to a report published by DfE (2013), too many children leftprimary schools unable to read appropriately and struggled insecondary schools and other higher learning. The report goes furtherto illuminate the significance of SSP in schools as a measure ofimproving the ability of children to read, spell and write (Adams,2014).

Comparingthe work of various researchers it can be concluded that SSP has hadan impeccable impact in primary schools in as far as enhancingliteracy levels is concerned. The learning process has immenselygrown as opposed to the previous periods that evidenced a lack ofproperly instituted SSP programs. Emphasis on the phenome sounds andletters have essentially enabled the teachers to improve the learningexperience of the learners within a short duration of time this isessentially one of the best ways of preparing EYFS for highereducation programs in the school curriculum. Further, the continuousscreening processes under the SSP program has enabled teachers toidentify the dragging learners who need improvements this is abetter way of solidifying the learning experience of the KS1 studentsand prevention of the possible learning challenges in secondaryschools.

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AppendixA – The Systematic Synthetic Phonics in Primary Curriculum

Thepaper chooses a particular school, with which the thought of asystematic synthetic phonics is the first priority and is taught inthe school. The teaching of SSP in the same school is performedregularly, explicitly, and discretely, and is regarded to be ofrational sequence. Awareness about SSP is part of the indicators thatis applied in assessing reading by the school children. Teachers inprimary curriculum applies a lot of imaginative role-play and alittle of phonics. The reception year would also see the use of jollyphonics as part of writing, reading, and teaching in the process.

Withthe addition of other 42 letter sounds, Ofsted (2011) noted that themulti-sensory application is more motivating for the children in thecurriculum, teachers, and other teaching assistants. The chosenschool use SSP as part of the play programme in teaching the KeyStage 1. It is done by the teaching assistants in class, andthereafter, the children are then placed into three unique grouplevels. The school has different group levels with the higher abilitygroup attached with either the middle group or the lower group withinthe classroom setting or is also taken to a developmental room forlearning for further studies.

Theschool introduced the consonant words phonics knowledge, for example,cat and hat. In the Year 1 the first term, the National LiteracyStrategy Framework made the objectives. The school also introducedwords with end clusters, for example, desk and spin, in the firstterm of Year 1. The introduction of long vowel sounds in the thirdterms of Year 1 was also based on the objectives made by the NationalLiteracy Strategy Framework. Subsequently, the children are projectedto identify an approximated 200 words that should be achieved at theend of the Key Stage 1.

Inschool, phonics screening is often carried out on first half of theyear. Year 1 check of phonics screening is merely short with alight-touch process of assessment for confirmation as to whether thechildren have completely learnt to blend phonics with decoding forthe appropriation of standards. To administer assessment by the tutoroften takes about four and nine whole minutes for every child. It isapplied to identify the children require additional help in order tooffer support by the schools they attend to help improve on theirwriting and reading skills.

Afterthe phonics screening, the same pupils would feel secure, while thosethat have not attained the required standard after Year 1 wouldreceive additional support from their school to make sure they areable to improve their skills on decoding. The children also have anopportunity to undertake the screening for the second time duringYear 2. The school also has a wave program 3, which is also used tosupport the children with regard to the phonics knowledge. Additionally, the phonics knowledge is based on the literacy reviewintervention scheme accessed through group intervention, which meansthere will be need to support the program.

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