The core criteria provide schools with clearly defined key features of an effective, systematic, synthetic phonics programme.
Publishers of products can submit self-assessments and their products to be reviewed against the core criteria by independent evaluators. These publishers should contact the phonics mailbox to request a self-assessment form. They will then need to return the self-assessment form together with two copies of their product. A list of publishers and their self-assessments that have been reviewed as meeting the core criteria are available on the ‘Phonics Products and the Self-Assessment Process’ page.
Published programmes for phonic work should meet each of the following criteria. Further explanatory notes are offered below.
The programme should:
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 systematic, synthetic phonic work will make sure that children learn:
2. Teachers will make principled, professional judgements about when to start on a systematic, synthetic 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.
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.
4. If the programme is high quality, systematic and synthetic it will, by design, map incremental 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.
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.
6. The programme should not neglect engaging and helpful approaches to the more challenging levels where children have to distinguish between phonically irregular graphemes and phonemes.
7. It is important that texts are of the appropriate level for children to apply and practise the phonic knowledge and skills that they have learnt. Children should not be expected to use strategies such as whole-word recognition and/or cues from context, grammar, or pictures.
Revised self-assessment form for publishers.
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