The focus in this book is the impact of politics on literacy policy and practice, and in particular the imposition of synthetic phonics in England as the required method of teaching reading coupled with the introduction in 2012 of a phonics check to be taken by all children in year 1, aged five and a half to six and a half years of age.
The origins of, and research base claimed for such a policy, are critically analysed. The results of the phonics check over its first three years are stated and the claims made for its success. The effects on practice identified in two interim reports from a government funded research are considered, as are the issues not yet explored in existing research. The costs of commercial materials recommended by the government are identified following an enquiry under The Freedom of Information Act. The debate is widened to include evidence from other countries on the increasing commercialisation of literacy policy, raising the question as to whose evidence should count in determining literacy policies.
In the final chapter, the dangers of simplistic conclusions around learning to read, in English in particular, which do not take account of its “deep orthography” are explored with information from other languages.