Schools sign up for phonics funding


New Department for Education figures show that thousands of primary schools have signed up to spend more than £7.7 million on new phonics products and training to drive up their pupils’ standards of reading.

So far 3,211 schools have taken advantage of the Government’s match-funding scheme to buy the products, which include a range of teaching resources, including books, software and games. Additionally, 987 schools have booked phonics training for their staff to improve their teaching of phonics, the method internationally proven to improve reading, especially among younger children.

The scheme went ‘live’ in September last year with the publication of the phonics catalogue of approved products and services. Under the scheme, any state-funded school with Key Stage 1 pupils – including Academies and Free Schools – can claim up to £3,000 to buy products and training until March 2013.

Ministers have previously warned that children were being left with poor reading skills because of a refusal to use phonics – the traditional system that breaks down words into individual sounds.

Ther government has now named and shamed 10 local councils that have failed to fully adopt a Government-backed phonics programme, even though many pupils in the local area leave primary school with poor reading standards.
Many were named as authorities covering deprived urban areas, such as Luton, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Hull.
Collectively, just 126 out of 1,113 schools in these 10 areas are taking part in the scheme, it was revealed.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "This is a chance for schools to gain extra funding to improve reading standards so I am naturally concerned at the number of areas where few schools have not yet taken the opportunity to do so.

"The money is available until March next year so there is still time to claim it.

"But every week that goes by is another week that children are missing out on the best possible teaching of reading.

"This is an open invitation to all schools to improve the way they teach systematic synthetic phonics – the tried and tested method of improving the reading of all our children, especially the weakest."

The latest national statistics show that:

  • More than 80,000 seven-year-olds can read no better than a five-year-old
  • One in 10 11-year-old boys can read no better than a seven-year-old.
  • The percentage of both seven-year-olds and 11-year-olds who met the expected level has flat-lined over the last five years.
  • One in three six-year-olds reached the expected level in the pilot of the phonics check in the summer of 2011.
  • England is rated 25th in the world for reading, according to the 2009 PISA reading study – down from seventh nine years ago.
  • Our 15-year-olds are judged by PISA to be 18 months behind those in Shanghai and at least six months behind those in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • England was third in the PIRLS international reading tables in 2001. In the most recent 2006 survey, England was 16th.