CLACKMANNANSHIRE STUDY : 7 year longitudinal study - Summary

The literacy progress of 300 children has now been followed from grade 1 to grade 7.

  • Group 1 were taught traditional (synthetic) phonics.
  • Group 2 were taught analytic phonics. (footnote)
  • Group 3 were taught analytic phonics plus some phonological awareness training.

Synthetic Phonics: Reading words by blending letter sounds & syllables (supported by the rules of spelling & grammar). Teaching is direct & content is structured and sequenced.

Analytic Phonics: The incidental teaching of first letter cues, word families etc. to support Whole Language learning, for example, while reading a “Big Book’ or during ‘Story Conferencing’.


Training for each group consisted of 20 minutes per day for 16 weeks starting in early grade 1.

After 6 weeks children taught traditional phonics were:

  • reading words 7 months ahead of their chronological age
  • reading words 7 months ahead of both Group 2 and Group 3
  • the best group at reading irregular words
  • the best group at reading words by analogy
  • spelling 8 months ahead of chronological age
  • spelling 7 months ahead of Group 2 and Group 3

Children from the other 2 groups were then also introduced to the Traditional Phonics programme, completing it by the end of gr 1.

6 years later, by grade 7, the authors found that:
  • The children taught by the Traditional Phonics from the outset have maintained their superior reading and spelling performance.
  • The Phonics-first approach had also eliminated the literacy failure in males usually associated with Analytic Phonics.
  • The Phonics-first approach had significantly reduced the literacy failure normally associated with having a low socio-economic background.

These findings are consistent with VAS Theory expectations.

Clackmannanshire Study, UK (1997) (1) analytic phonics programme (2) analytic phonics + phonemic awareness (3) synthetic phonics • Rose Review (2006) a. ...

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