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Systematic, Synthetic Phonics (SSP) - Our expert panel discusses the reasons why we need to make a change.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Watch our expert panel explain why they are supporting our petition to revise the Government’s framework for teaching reading in our schools.

In July 2021 the Government published their Reading Framework advising schools to only teach Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) to teach reading.

We are joined by:

  • Dr Anna Smith, Dyslexia Action Real Training
  • Chris Rossiter, Driver Youth Trust
  • Caroline Reid, Communicate Ed
  • Lynn Greenwold, Patoss
  • Tory Sparks, Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity
  • Gillian Ashley, BDA

Why are the BDA concerned about this?
Research from leading academics over the last 35 years provides evidence that up to 25 % of children including many dyslexic children, cannot learn to read when SSP is the only way that they are taught.

What is SSP?
SSP stands for Systematic Synthetic Phonics. It is an approach which teaches children to recognise letters (graphemes) and their associated sounds (phonemes). It is also known as alphabetic phonics and involves breaking the word down into the smallest units of sound. So, for example the word “stand” has 5 sounds s/t/a/n/d.

What are the limitations of SSP?
English is a difficult language to learn because it does not have a clear sound to letter correspondence. Many words are not pronounced as they are spelled, so not all words are recognisable by sounding them out phonetically.

Some children cannot acquire orthographic knowledge from learning just phonics. Orthographic knowledge means understanding that the sounds in our language are represented by letters of the alphabet. Most children acquire this skill implicitly from learning to read, but a significant minority, including many dyslexic children, do not acquire this skill automatically and need explicit teaching and a range of approaches to be taught alongside synthetic phonics.

So what is the BDA petition asking the Government to do?
We are asking the Government to revise their guidance and support teachers to teach a structured, cumulative and multi-sensory approach, and a range of strategies alongside phonics instruction.

Is this BDA against SSP?

No. We know that SSP is a highly developed way to teach reading, and a critically important part of the beginning reading programme, but it has its limitations, and it should not be the sole method of teaching reading. We are asking for SSP instruction to be integrated into broader reading schemes, rather than used as the only method.

What is the impact of poor reading?
Reading is a life skill. Poor reading prevents children from accessing the school curriculum and has a lifelong impact, significantly narrowing future work and life choices.

How can I help the BDA make this change?
Sign our petition