Conference Papers

An investigation into the effect of phonics teaching on reading scores in KS1

As schools in England introduced the phonics checklist during 2012, the question of the best approach to teach children to read is again a matter for educational debate. Jolliffe (2004) claimed that the most effective way to teach children to read has been contested in schools for many years. Two different views of how to teach reading through either Whole Language theory or phonics have become contested strategies in this debate. Goodman (1998) described these competing pedagogies as ‘The reading wars’.
The aim of this research was to examine the effectiveness of phonics teaching on the ability to improve reading comprehension. This has been studied in two schools with differing demographics using observations interviews and test scores.
The results from test scores in both settings indicate that whilst phonics teaching made improvement on the phonics checklist, it did not correlate with improvement to reading test scores in the longer term. The observations and interviews with the practitioners in both settings investigated possible reasons for the test score outcomes. These are reported in themes of training, compliance and the style of pedagogy employed discretely to comply with the policy. The research concludes that an over reliance on teaching decoding skills is not appropriate for all pupils. Pupils who did not respond well to instruction on how to decode, were placed in lower reading groups despite being adept at meaning and comprehension.

Skillen, P. and Murphy, B. (2016) 'An investigation into the effect of phonics teaching on reading scores in KS1', paper presented to The 12th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 30 June-01 July, viewed 21 January 2020, <>