Page 1 of 1

DfE announces a U-turn on its decision to revise L & S

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2021 10:31 pm
by debbie
This is huge news in England's context and has wide implications internationally as so many schools overseas have adopted 'Letters and Sounds' (DfES, 2007) as their core phonics programme.

This is (part of) the announcement on 30th March 2021 by the DfE regarding its position for 'Letters and Sounds':
Good morning,

Thank you for your interest in the future of Letters and Sounds. We are now able to communicate a final position.

The 2007 Letters and Sounds handbook, published under the previous Government, has never been a full Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme. For a number of years, effective teaching using Letters and Sounds has relied on schools themselves building a programme around the handbook. Some schools have done this very successfully, and it was for this reason that schools achieving outstanding results using 2007 Letters and Sounds were included in the English Hubs programme in 2018. The Department recognises, however, that for many schools, especially those who need or want to improve their practice, 2007 Letters and Sounds is not fit for purpose and does not provide the support, guidance, resources or training needed.

The Department considered a variety of options for the future of Letters and Sounds and had originally commissioned a full SSP programme based on the 2007 Letters and Sounds handbook. As you may know from our previous communications, this would have included an updated order of progression addressing some of the flaws in the 2007 Letters and Sounds. We asked a group of outstanding schools, centred around Wandle and Little Sutton English Hubs, and overseen by trusted phonics experts, to produce this for us, alongside videos for home education during the Covid-19 pandemic, and training materials for English Hub partner schools.

After careful consideration, the Department has decided that it should not continue with its involvement in this work. This in no way reflects the quality of the work produced, but the Department’s current policy is that SSP programmes should be created by teachers and phonics experts. This means that the Department will not publish a full Letters and Sounds programme, nor an updated progression.

We will, later this year, be publishing an early reading framework, which will be an important and comprehensive non-statutory guidance document to support the foundations of reading. In addition, our recent announcement of a one-off £302 million Recovery Premium adds to the £650m schools are receiving through the Catch-up premium and the £2.4bn allocated through the pupil premium. We are exploring whether the English Hubs may play a role in advising schools on how best to spend some of this grant funding on SSP programmes and resources. At the core of this is ensuring schools can access training and support through full SSP programmes, as these are the most effective way of raising standards in phonics teaching.

We are aware that a large number of schools continue to use 2007 Letters and Sounds, despite past incentives to move away from it. We would therefore like to encourage anyone interested in creating full SSP programmes based on 2007 Letters and Sounds to be tested at validation to do so. On Thursday, the Department will launch a process to validate complete SSP programmes. Applications can be submitted now and a small panel with relevant expertise will review applications in June 2021, November 2021 and March 2022. Schools wanting or needing to improve their practice in phonics teaching will then be strongly encouraged to use a full SSP programme from the resulting validated list, which will be published on

The name Letters and Sounds is not currently trade-marked. However, the Department has an interest in ensuring that no one claims or gives the impression that their Letters and Sounds is somehow official or endorsed by the Department. Therefore, anyone wishing to submit their programme for validation may use the name Letters and Sounds, but must preface this with either the name of the organisation, the individual producing their version of the programme or another distinguishing descriptor e.g. John Smith’s Letters and Sounds. This also allows for schools to differentiate between programmes.

A transition period will exist from now until the final validation panel in March 2022 has closed. Programmes on the current validated list will remain on the list until March 2022. Any programme that has not been validated by this time will be removed from the list.

If you have further questions regarding the future of Letters and Sounds, please refer to the below Q&A, or reply to this email and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as we can.


Are the L&S progressions changing?

No, the Department will not publish a full Letters and Sounds programme nor an updated progression. It is for individual SSP programmes to make decisions about how to adapt the 2007 L&S progression as part of a full SSP programme.

What will the update contain?
The Department will not publish a full Letters and Sounds programme nor an updated progression.
After careful consideration, the Department has decided that it should not continue with its involvement in the work that was started to update L&S.

The Department has already funded a new progression. Can I still develop a SSP programme around this progression?
Yes, although it will not be mandatory that you do so.
This progression is an example of good practice developed by outstanding schools using L&S in the English Hubs programme.
Any material funded by the Department is Crown Copyright material and can be used by anyone. If you would like a copy of the example progression, please let us know.

Best wishes,
The English Curriculum Team
This is not the complete DfE statement as we have responded and queried some aspects of the statement.

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2021 10:34 pm
by debbie
I do hope that the thousands of Letters and Sounds schools will fully investigate alternative systematic synthetic phonics programmes to evaluate and compare them rather than just plump for another 'Letters and Sounds' version without full review.

A good starting point is to review what the Phonics International programme has to offer which is completely free to access, to evaluate and to use.


Posted: Thu Apr 01, 2021 3:49 pm
by debbie
The Phonics International programme is entirely 'free' to access.

If people wish to investigate our ready-made series and resources that complement Phonics International and align for Units 1 to 6 of Phonics International, this is where you can investigate: