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Explanatory Notes

Note 1:

Phonic work is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works, rather than one of a range of optional 'methods' or 'strategies' for teaching children how to read. For example, phonic programmes should not encourage children to guess words from non-phonic clues such as pictures before applying phonic knowledge and skills. High quality phonic work will make sure that children learn:

Note 2:

Teachers will make principled, professional judgements about when to start on a systematic programme of phonic work but it is reasonable to expect that the great majority of children will be capable of, and benefit from doing so by the age of five. It is equally important for the programme to be designed so that children become fluent readers having secured word recognition skills by the end of key stage one.

Note 3:

The programme should introduce a defined initial group of consonants and vowels, enabling children, early on, to read and spell many simple CVC words.

Note 4:

If the programme is high quality, incremental and systematic it will, by design, map progression in phonic knowledge and skills. It should therefore enable teachers to: track children's progress; assess for further learning and identify incipient difficulties, so that appropriate support can be provided.

Note 5:

Multi-sensory activities should be interesting and engaging but firmly focused on intensifying the learning associated with its phonic goal. They should avoid taking children down a circuitous route only tenuously linked to the goal. This means avoiding over-elaborate activities that are difficult to manage and take too long to complete, thus distracting the children from concentrating on the learning goal.


Following the Rose Report (2006) the government published ‘core criteria’ to govern programmes used for phonic work:

Criteria for assuring high quality phonic work

Published programmes for phonic work should meet each of the following criteria. Further explanatory notes are offered at Annex A.

The programme should:

The Primary Framework, Early Reading

Guidance for practitioners and teachers on progression and pace in the teaching of phonics  (PDF) includes:

Criteria that define an effective phonics programme

Outline of Progression

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In March 2005, the Select Committee on Education and Skills recommended  that the DfES commission research to compare synthetic phonics ‘fast and first’ with other methods. The research, using control groups, did not happen. However, in response to the recommendations, the DfES did ask Jim Rose to review the teaching of early reading.

His report is the result of visits to schools, interviews with a wide range of experts and examination of the evidence. He wrote, “the case for systematic phonic work is overwhelming and much strengthened by a synthetic approach”. The government accepted his recommendations.