Thousands of schools sign up for phonics funding

Published on Thursday, 19 January 2012 11:06
Posted by Scott Buckler

Thousands of primary schools have already signed up to spend more than £7.7 million on new phonics products and training to drive up their pupils’ standards of reading, new Department for Education figures show today

So far 3,211 schools have taken advantage of the Government’s match-funding scheme to buy the products. The products include a range of teaching resources, including books, software and games. Additionally, 987 schools have booked phonics training for their staff (at a total spend of £1.3 million) 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.

Schools have signed up to spend £1.66 million on products in the past month alone. The number of schools that have booked phonics training has almost doubled in the same period.

But the figures present a mixed picture.

Some local authorities – Thurrock, Rochdale, Walsall, Lincolnshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Plymouth, and Sutton – are leading the way. More than one in three of their schools have already signed up for products. In others, a high number of schools have booked training so their staff can teach phonics as effectively as possible.

Two local authorities with reading rates well below the national average at Key Stage 2 – Derby and Coventry – are also among those that have a high proportion of their schools taking advantage of the scheme.

But in other areas, including where there is a higher than average proportion of 11-year-olds failing to reach the expected level in reading, there has so far been a low level of take-up of products. These include Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Hull, Medway, Portsmouth, Luton and Sheffield. And in 20 local authorities, not a single school has booked training for their staff yet.

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.


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