IoE-run research roadshows to boost phonics in low performing UK regions

Prof Rhona Stainthorp

Primary school children needing more support for phonics could get a welcome boost from a masterclass tour by education experts.


The roadshows, run by the University of Reading’s Institute of Education, are funded by the Department for Education to support authorities/districts where five and six year olds in the Year 1 phonics screening check are performing below national averages.

The team will be highlighting how their research into reading development can benefit the teaching of early reading, and have worked with lead practitioners and consultants in local authorities to tailor the roadshow’s content to local needs.

Prof Rhona Stainthorp, a phonics expert from the University of Reading’s Institute of Education said:

“We’re delighted to have been given the support from the Department of Education to work with and develop the practice of teachers of young readers.

“There is a wealth of evidence that can help the teaching profession to continue to improve, and at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education we are committed to ensuring that the 400 teachers that we train each year benefit from the latest research. It’s a great privilege to be able to take this experience around the country to help teachers grow in confidence in their phonics teaching.

“The response we have had from the authorities selected to take part has been fantastic and it is a privilege to be working with such dedicated practitioners.”

The Department for Education’s School Standards Minister Nick Gibb added:

“The government is determined to make this country work for everyone, not just the privileged few. Ensuring all primary school children can read fluently by the time they leave primary school is fundamental to this ambition.

“Thanks to the hard work of teachers, our continued focus on raising standards and our increased emphasis on phonics‎, there are now an additional 147,000 six-year-olds on track to becoming fluent readers. These roadshows will help spread these effective methods to more schools.”

The roadshows will equip teachers and their schools to raise attainment in reading through an enhanced understanding of how research about reading can inform practice, and through the opportunity to reflect on how they can adapt what they do currently.

The events start with a summary of what research says about the teaching of phonics, and then move into activities that support teachers and senior leaders in analysing their current phonics schemes and their pupil data. Later parts of the day include advice about what to do when children seem ‘stuck’ in their reading progress, and advice about the practicalities of effective phonics teaching using local expert teachers from schools where reading results are strong. Events are co-led with local authority personnel with the intention that the impact of training can be sustained after the Reading team have left.  

Professor Cathy Tissot, Director of the Institute of Education said:

“This is another feather in the cap for Reading’s excellent reputation for both research and practice in the teaching of reading. We are delighted to be working with the DfE in this way.”

The team, which includes Dr Naomi Flynn and Dr Daisy Powell from the University of Reading’s Institute of Education and Professor Morag Stuart from UCL’s Institute of Education will be following up with schools who have attended the roadshows during the next academic year to check their performance and what further support they might need.


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