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About Debbie   


Debbie Hepplewhite is an experienced and practising primary teacher in the UK. She is also an independent synthetic phonics teacher-trainer and provides training overseas and via online conferencing.

Debbie provides a consultancy service and clients have included publishers, manufacturers, journalists, television companies, advisors and politicians. For many years she has offered a free online advisory service for members of the public and the teaching profession and through this  has made contacts and friends around the world. She is a controversial figure and has written many challenging articles for educational publications and has a reputation for being a rousing and inspirational speaker at educational conferences!

Some background information: 

For many years Debbie has been involved in the debate about the methods for teaching reading and spelling. 

Having witnessed first hand the alarmingly high rates of illiteracy in the UK (and reflected elsewhere around the English-speaking world), Debbie set out to investigate the merits of different approaches to reading instruction including the two diametrically opposed methods of teaching known as 'whole language' and 'synthetic phonics'

Debbie's in-depth investigation confirmed her suspicion arising from her own teaching experience that the method known as 'synthetic phonics' was by far and away the most effective method of both teaching beginners and addressing the poor reading and spelling skills of children and adults. 

A decade ago, Debbie began lobbying her local education authority, the press (local and national), her local member of parliament and central government in an attempt to raise the profile of what was then seen as an 'underground' and dated method of teaching.  

She met with either no response, no interest or much resistance at all levels and became known as 'the phonics lady' by those who saw her as a threat to the status quo.

It was becoming increasingly apparent to Debbie that trying to engage people in the reading debate was almost impossible and that there was a vested interest in the prevailing multi-cueing ‘searchlights reading strategies’ as promoted in the UK government’s National Literacy Strategy. It was clear that 'synthetic phonics' with its underpinning ‘no guessing words from multi-cueing strategies’ should not be allowed to interfere with the huge 'whole language' movement established in the teacher-training universities even prior to the 1998 National Literacy Strategy - and all of this at the tragic expense of the many thousands of children every year who leave school illiterate or with very poor reading and spelling skills who have been subjected to ‘whole language’ or ‘mixed methods’ teaching.

Debbie made as many new friends as enemies along the way and in 2000 was invited to take over the editorship of the UK Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) Newsletter.

The Reading Reform Foundation is a non-profit making organisation whose purpose is to promote research-based principles of reading instruction and to work to ensure that governmental departments become accountable for the effectiveness of the educational programmes they promote. Soon afterwards, the RRF went 'online' with the launch of its website www.rrf.org.uk of which Debbie is the editor.

In 2004, Debbie founded www.syntheticphonics.com and branched more seriously into training and consultancy work as well as 'keeping her finger on the pulse' of teaching, working as a teacher (and headteacher) in some 'challenging' schools. She has achieved remarkable results using the synthetic phonics method of teaching in schools where hitherto those results would not have been expected. 

Debbie has advised the UK government and also the political opposition parties and she continues to ‘challenge’ where this seems necessary.

In 2004/5, she was invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee inquiry ‘Teaching Children to Read’ and the subsequent independent national review of reading instruction leading to the ‘Rose Report’ (2006). Resulting from these events, the UK government has accepted Jim Rose’s recommendations and brought out new guidance for reading instruction in a publication entitled, ‘Letters and Sounds’ which is based on synthetic phonics teaching.

National investigations in America (Report of the National Reading Panel, 2000 USA) and in Australia (National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy) have also supported the efficacy of synthetic phonics teaching.

The rest, as the saying goes, should be history....... 

….but following the historic Rose Report, in the UK we still find frightening evidence of poor and contradictory advice from government and local authority departments, subversion and protests by academics of many teacher-training universities, outcry from popular authors and poets and others who fail to understand the importance and effectiveness of the synthetic phonics teaching principles. Thousands of teachers and teaching assistants desperately need immediate support and, ideally, training in synthetic phonics teaching.

This scenario has virtually compelled Debbie to design a highly practical online synthetic phonics programme as this provides many people, including parents, with immediate access to informative and supportive materials. The beauty of her Phonics International programme is that it provides the systematic step-by-step detailed ‘stuff’ (the resources) which both teachers and learners need to help them most effectively - all available at the ‘touch of a button’. This is in great contrast to the UK government’s ‘Letters and Sounds’ which provides guidance but no actual resources for the teaching and learning processes.

Bringing all her collective experience and understanding of the need to help people across the world to know and understand The English Alphabetic Code and requisite skills commonly and quickly, Debbie has designed the Phonics International programme.

She continues to develop the programme to further meet the needs of people in all circumstances. In this endeavour, feedback of any description will always be very welcome.


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 News Items

'Teeny Reading Seeds'
 resources for very young learners. Now launched.Click HERE
To support Phase One of
'Letters and Sounds'

Oxford University Press
School Improvement Site
 Click HERE 

Oxford Owl - advisory site for parents to help their children to read. Includes FREE ebooks! Click HERE
New Training Website
Click the Link Below:
Synthetic Phonics Training


Floppy's Phonics
Debbie is the new 'Phonics Consultant' for Oxford Reading Tree. She has helped to design the brand new Floppy's Phonics
'Sounds and Letters'
teaching programme.
Click HERE to find out more.

Coral from Spain and Grace from Argentina braving the elements at Debbie's home in the UK during a visit which mixed business with pleasure! Click HERE


Phil Evans introducing Debbie at The Complete Works Creative Company Limited training event. For more info and pics., click HERE

alphabetic code charts

Debbie at the Special Needs Exhibition in London.
For more info and pics., click HERE
Elsa Elliott provides Phonics International training in Beijing, China.
For more info and pics.,
click HERE

 phonics international

"I’ve read through your manual now. I am VERY impressed. Your explanation of the alphabet code is the clearest I’ve ever read.
EN - Berkshire, UK
"I commend you on your remarkably clear programme....."
DM - Oxon, UK
"There are some great resources available that can be used as a complete programme or alongside other synthetic phonics programmes"
TES Early Years Forum - October 2007
"I just received Unit 1. Wow! What a fantastic resource. I will be signing up for remaining modules."
".......absolutely amazing - great, great talking points for explaining the concepts - which are sometimes difficult to explain succinctly to educators and parents."
"The introductory booklet explained everything so clearly in an easy to understand way and I feel ready to provide my whole staff INSET after half term!"
Literacy Co-ordinator - UK
"I would like to congratulate you once again for your fantastic Phonics International Programme."
JMW - Lima, Peru
"The programme is so flexible - fantastic!"
Sam - Literacy Co-ordinator - UK
"I have found the Phonics International resources to be invaluable."
SB - Izmir, Turkey
".......really organised and comprehensive."
".....our KS2 Literacy Coordinator thought it was a breath of fresh air."
Literacy Co-ordinator - UK
"Praise continues to be heaped upon you and your programme at school- by the Y6-Y7 teacher in particular who is positively ecstatic!
Her pupils are equally interested and excited."
Infant Teacher - Ireland
".....my staff are very impressed with your programme..."
Principal - Northern Ireland
"....a huge thank you to Debbie for helping my family so much...one thing I no longer have to worry about is whether my children are able to learn their synthetic phonics, as with your brilliant course they have been picking them up very quickly at home with just a few minutes teaching each day"
Mother of 4 - UK
" I purchased this phonics curriculum for use with my own children. A to Z Phonics have chosen Phonics International as their preferred phonics curriculum. I recommend it to anyone who is considering a synthetic phonics approach to teach reading. You know you will be covering everything your child needs to know to become confident fluent readers, writers AND spellers which turns you into a confident TEACHER/TUTOR! It is especially recommended for classroom settings"
Jane Buckley - founder of A to Z Phonics