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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Torgerson, Carole, Brooks, Greg, Gascoine, Louise & Higgins, Steve (2019). Phonics: reading policy and the evidence of effectiveness from a systematic ‘tertiary’ review. Research Papers in Education 34(2): 208-238.

Author(s) from Durham


Ten years after publication of two reviews of the evidence on phonics, a number of British policy initiatives have firmly embedded phonics in the curriculum for early reading development. However, uncertainty about the most effective approaches to teaching reading remains. A definitive trial comparing different approaches was recommended in 2006, but never undertaken. However, since then, a number of systematic reviews of the international evidence have been undertaken, but to date they have not been systematically located, synthesised and quality appraised. This paper seeks to redress that gap in the literature. It outlines in detail the reading policy development, mainly in England, but with reference to international developments, in the last 10 years. It then reports the design and results of a systematic ‘tertiary’ review of all the relevant systematic reviews and meta-analyses in order to provide the most up-to-date overview of the results and quality of the research on phonics.

School of Education