The use of phonics in schools: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

Question 1 - What discussions have been had regarding returning to the use of phonics to teach nursery and primary pupils to read?

Question 2 - What was the reason given for abandoning the use of phonics?


Question 1

Phonics is used across Scotland’s schools as part of overall approaches to teaching young children to read. Schools and Early Learning establishments plan their curriculum using the Experiences and Outcomes and Principles and Practice papers for Literacy and English and phonics is referred to within both:

‘I can use my knowledge of sight vocabulary, phonics, context clues, punctuation and grammar to read with understanding and expression. ENG 1-12a’

Literacy and English: Experiences and outcomes ( (page 9)

Teachers will balance play-based learning with more systematic development and learning of skills and techniques for reading, including phonics.

Literacy and English: Principles and practice ( (page 3)

There have been no discussions regarding a ‘return’ to the use of phonics because the approach has been a consistent feature of learning and teaching in Scotland’s schools since the introduction of a Curriculum for Excellence and prior to that.

Through different forms of support and guidance, Education Scotland advises on the most effective research-informed approaches to reading, what they are and how to use them. Education Scotland will publish new guidelines and professional learning resources for teachers (PLRs), focussed on early reading, in early Spring 2024.

These resources are designed to promote teachers’ professional knowledge and understanding of early reading as a complex interplay of skills and background factors. As part of this they will promote teachers’ understanding of what systematic phonics approaches are and how they may be used effectively in tandem with other aspects of an early reading pedagogy that meets the needs of all learners. In line with other items of guidance relating to Scotland’s curriculum, the resources are being developed within a broader context which seeks to empower schools to adapt their approach to meet the needs of individual learners. In creating the guidance, Education Scotland officials are working alongside teachers and a range of stakeholders with an interest in early reading in order to use their feedback to inform the development process.

Question 2

The use of phonics has not been abandoned (see above). It is still in use across Scotland’s schools and continues to be part of Scotland’s curriculum guidance.

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