A new study has revealed that children who are taught using phonics can achieve very high results in reading and spelling.
Youngsters who learn using the method, which involves pronouncing sounds rather than individual letters or whole words, were found to be two years ahead of their expected level.
The small-scale study was conducted by educational psychologist Dr Marlynne Grant on a group of 30 children who had learned to read using "systematic synthetic phonics" between the ages of four and seven.
According to the results, members of the year two class of seven-year-olds were on average 28 months ahead of their actual age for reading. They were also 21 months ahead of their age for spelling.
The highest-performing child taking part in the study was a boy aged seven years five months, who achieved a level of 13 years nine months for reading and 14 years nine months for spelling, the Guardian reports.
"The use of a systematic synthetic phonics programme was shown to give children a flying start with their reading, writing and spelling, it was effective for catch-up, it reduced special educational needs across the schools and it enabled higher numbers of children to transfer to their secondary schools well equipped to access the curriculum," Dr Grant concluded.
Children were not prevented from developing a love of reading, the study showed. Indeed, many picked up reading quickly and became more confident in their abilities.
Phonics was introduced by the coalition government in 2010 and some teaching unions were initially critical of the new method.
However, many of those in teaching jobs have gradually come to accept the technique. According to a survey of more than 1,000 teachers and literary specialists at primary schools, 72 per cent agreed the phonics check was useful for identifying children who were struggling.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said phonics is a key part of the government's drive to eradicate illiteracy.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels