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Latest IMPACT pamphlet

To Read or Not To Read: Decoding Synthetic Phonics

Andrew Davis

In England, current government policy on children’s reading is strongly prescriptive, insisting on the delivery of a pure and exclusive form of synthetic phonics, where letter sounds are learned and blended in order to ‘read’ text. A universally imposed phonics check is taken by all five year olds and the results are widely reported.

Andrew Davis believes this approach to be badly mistaken. Here he develops a powerful case against synthetic phonics, urging that some of its central ideas are conceptually flawed and that the very notion of evidence to support such strategies makes little sense. His arguments will be welcomed by the many educators, parents and children’s authors who have expressed grave doubts about the phonics revolution.

This is a timely, radical and compelling challenge to government policy on the teaching of reading and to the research that supposedly underpins it.

Download the full pamphlet click here. You can also watch a podcast of the launch seminar here.



Written by leading general philosophers and philosophers of education, IMPACT  pamphlets bring philosophical perspectives to bear on current education policy in the UK. They are addressed directly to policy-makers, politicians and practitioners, though will be of interest also to researchers and students working on education policy.

All IMPACT pamphlets are available to download free from the Wiley Online Library here.

Launched in late 1999, the IMPACT series has addressed the most pressing issues in UK education policy. Some pamphlets have focused on enduring policy concerns, such as those by Andrew Davis on assessment and accountability, Harry Brighouse on disparities in secondary education, Mary Warnock on provision for pupils with special educational needs, and Colin Richards on school inspection. Others, like those by Michael Luntley on performance-related pay and Chris Winch on vocational education and training, have been critical of new policy initiatives. Still others have been concerned with the organisation and content of the school curriculum. These have included pamphlets by Kevin Williams on the teaching of foreign languages, David Archard on sex education, Stephen Johnson on thinking skills, John White on what schools are for, Randall Curren on education for sustainability, and Michael Hand on promoting patriotism.

Each IMPACT launch has included a symposium for policy makers and others at which the issues raised in the pamphlet have been further explored. These have been attended by Government ministers, Shadow ministers and other MPs, by members of organisations such as the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Institute of Directors, the Trades Union Congress, the General Teaching Council, the National Union of Teachers, Politeia, Civitas, Demos and ResPublica, and by leading educational journalists and academics.

IMPACT Editorial Board:

Professor Michael Hand, University of Birmingham (Editor)
Dr Louise Bamfield, RSA (Policy Advisor)
Professor David Archard, Queen's University Belfast
Professor Randall Curren, University of Rochester
Dr Andrew Davis, University of Durham
Professor Bob Davis, University of Glasgow
Dr Lorraine Foreman-Peck, University of Oxford
Professor Michael Luntley, University of Warwick
Dr Janet Orchard, University of Bristol
Professor Richard Smith, University of Durham
Professor John White, Institute of Education, University of London
Professor Chris Winch, King’s College London

Writing for IMPACT

Authorship of IMPACT pamphlets is usually by invitation and unsolicited manuscripts are discouraged. However, if you have an idea for a pamphlet, the Editor (Michael Hand) would be pleased to hear from you. You can contact him here.