The Synthetic Phonics Debate - A Moderate Approach

28th August 2014

At last, I’ve managed to uncover an article written by someone who seems to take a diplomatic view of the various approaches to teaching reading in primary and secondary schools and colleges.

For too long the debate has raged over the use of synthetic phonics in schools and much rhetoric has been forthcoming from those who have pitched the tent firmly in one camp or the other. Naturally, the subject is an emotive one and one which has far reaching consequences for all our children, but the blowhards on in both camps have made it increasingly difficult to take a moderate approach to the matter.

How refreshing it was then to discover at least one person with a balanced view and coherent arguments not entrenched in dogma. The unnamed author makes the case for synthetic phonics being only one aspect of teaching someone to read, albeit a crucial one, particularly for older learners.  Whilst the author does push for synthetic phonics instruction being the main focus for those struggling with reading at key stage 3 & 4, they also stress the importance of teaching vocabulary alongside the synthetic phonics approach, to ensure readers are not simply “barking at print” and are able to understand what they have read.

I find it inconceivable that this extreme polarisation of views on the matter cannot be holding us and our children back.  I agree wholeheartedly with the approach that synthetic phonics is a key element in teaching reading to both children and older learners, but should be countenanced by semantic knowledge and the understanding of its impact on the development of learners.


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