Children across Clackmannanshire have achieved impressive results in reading, writing and spelling as a direct result of synthetic phonics.
The innovative programme, which is taught at the early stages in primary schools across the authority, is the subject of a new report which states that by primary 7, pupils are more than 3 years in reading and almost 2 years in spelling beyond what would be expected of them for their age.
The report presents the findings of a seven year study by Rhona Johnston of University of Hull and Joyce Watson of University of St Andrews in which they examined the effects of teaching synthetic phonics on literacy attainment.
The report, published today (Friday) concludes: "It is evident that the children in this study have achieved well above what would be expected for their chronological age." It adds: "We can conclude that a synthetic phonics programme, as part of the reading curriculum, has a major and long lasting effect on children's reading and spelling attainment."
Councillor Brian Fearon, Convener of the Council's Learning and Leisure Committee said: "I am delighted that the long partnership with the University of St Andrews has produced such excellent results for the children of Clackmannanshire. It is a credit to staff who have been involved in this work over the last seven years that this is now of local and national interest."
The pupils from the first phase of the programme, which was taught in eight primary schools, are now in S1. The method is now taught in all 19 of the authority's primary schools.
Lesley Robertson, Senior Advisor and Quality Improvement Officer within theEducational Development service and who has been responsible for the implementation of the programme in schools said: "We began this work in 1997 as part of the Government's early intervention programme when we hoped to find a technique that would make a difference to all children learning to read.
"I am delighted that, seven years on, and after a lot of hard work in all the schools, we have the successes that this report shows."
The study shows that in particular synthetic phonics helps raise boys' attainment in reading and writing and makes learning easier for those youngsters who might otherwise have struggled.
Teachers and head teachers have responded very favourably to the programme, having found that children's reading and spelling skills have been accelerated, that underachievers can be detected earlier and that the children are very motivated.
Ronnie O'Grady, head teacher of Menstrie Primary School said: "Teaching synthetic phonics gives children strategies for reading and writing that they wouldn't have had at the early stages using other methods.
"We are seeing children in Primary 1 beginning to read and write independently much earlier than before. They have no fear of attempting to read new words or write a simple sentence. These early gains seem to last - even at the top of the school boys are reading and writing as well and as enthusiastically as girls."
At the end of the study, teachers were asked for their views on the programme.
One Primary Two teacher said: "Best results ever achieved - never seen before in 30 years of teaching. One child writing own story aged 4. Writing and spelling amazing. I would normally have expected such work at Primary 3 stage. Children also very motivated."
The teaching methods used mean children are taught letter sounds before they are introduced to books. They then are shown how these sounds can be blended together to build up words. It helps children to become independent readers because they can work out unfamiliar words for themselves.