Pilot schemes designed to examine the practical questions of building on phonics teaching are already present in primary schools and early years settings, while SENCOs will be especially interested in reported benefits of intensive one-to-one individual support in this area

The DfES has pledged £5 million over the next three years to the Every Child a Reader project developed by a coalition of charitable trusts including the KPMG Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, working with the Institute of Education. The project will channel a total of over £10m to place specialist literacy teachers in schools across 20 local education authorities. Trained in the delivery of Reading Recovery, these teachers will provide tailored tuition for 30 minutes every day for three to four months to around 4,000 children with the severest literacy difficulties.

Reading Recovery targets the very lowest attaining six-year-olds, who would normally be predicted to achieve well below their peers throughout their time in school. Studies have shown that more than two thirds go on to achieve the expected levels for children of their age at the end of key stage 1 and over half, without any further help, are still achieving average levels for their age four years later at the end of key stage 2. The Every Child a Reader project will commence in selected schools in the following local education authorities from September: Bristol, Liverpool, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Brent, Greenwich, Southwark, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hackney.

Reading Recovery also featured in the controversial documentary The Dyslexia Myth recently shown on television. In the programme, researchers at The University of York commended the use of a variant of Reading Recovery. They claimed that irrespective of whether diagnosed as ‘dyslexic’ or ‘poor readers’ pupils, who needed additional support in learning to read, improved when this approach was used as a ‘third wave’ intervention within the national literacy strategy.

Two hundred schools and linked early years settings will also trial options based on the primary national strategy’s Playing with Sounds programme, to examine a number of different issues such as the pace of phonics teaching in the foundation stage, the application of phonics through play-based approaches to learning, and the ongoing support and training needed to build capacity in early literacy. The pilots will provide the Rose review with valuable further evidence to consider ahead of its final report early next year.

Evidence from both schemes will inform the independent review of literacy teaching led by Jim Rose, as will proposals from Ofsted to review schools’ practice with phonics. They will also ensure that a renewed Literacy Framework drawing on his recommendations can commence promptly in all schools as soon as possible, and inform the work on a single quality framework for early years education.