Potential Issues for Dyslexic Students Being Taught using a Validated SSP Programme in KS1

This lecture is the second in a series of lectures presented by Dr Grace Elliott and Emma Hartnell-Baker, and will focus on issues relating to the development of phonemic awareness and single word decoding and encoding skills when a DfE validated SSP programme is used to teach phonics in KS1.  


Cognitive scientists have shown beyond doubt that fluent, accurate decoding is a hallmark of skilled reading. Automatic word recognition, which is dependent on phonic knowledge, allows the reader to attend to meaning. Slow decoding overloads short-term memory and impedes comprehension.
There is an expectation by the DfE that if a validated SSP programme is used ‘there will be sufficient support for children in reception and key stage 1 to become fluent readers’ (Guidance: Validation of systematic synthetic phonics programmes: supporting documentation, DfE Jan 2022). Within this lecture this assertion will be discussed, as it relates to children with dyslexia.

Course Description

The scientific evidence base on reading acquisition and instruction is clear on what sub skills students need to develop, however, it is less clear on how to effectively teach those subskills. In the UK the ‘how’ has been determined to not only centre around synthetic phonics but the use of commercially sold ‘systematic, synthetic phonics’ programs and explicit instruction. ‘Validation’ of these SSP programs by the DfE is motivated by science—students need to learn phoneme-grapheme mappings, which initially requires direct instruction—but research has not validated specific solutions. Commercial curricula are compromised by the need to appeal to a broad market and to align their SSP programs with the interpretation of ‘best practice’ by those on the Validation Panel. Much has been made, by synthetic phonics advocates, of the number of children now able to pass the UK phonics screener check, but how well are the needs of dyslexic learners being met?

Within this lecture practical suggestions will be proposed that engage the implicit and explicit learning mechanisms to facilitate acquiring the cognitive foundations underlying learning to read and that are suitable for learners on the dyslexia spectrum. Systematic phonics instruction in KS1 can be seen to “kick start” the process by which beginning readers acquire untaught letter-sound relationships through implicit learning, however teachers may need to be aware of the limitations of the ‘synthetic’ programmes if they are to ‘meet the needs of those who are at risk of falling behind, including the lowest attaining 20% of children’ (Guidance: Validation of systematic synthetic phonics programmes: supporting documentation, DfE Jan 2022).

  • The role of phonemic awareness and importance for those on the dyslexia spectrum when learning to encode and decode.
  • That commercial synthetic phonics programs may conflict with the basic principles of differentiated instruction because the individual literary learning needs of children vary greatly depending on their specific levels of development across the set of reading component skills.
  • That commercial synthetic phonics programs are seemingly designed on an assumption that children can only acquire knowledge of letter-sound patterns through direct instruction, in which the teaching of letter-sound correspondences is explicit and systematic, and yet fail to acknowledge that there are too many phoneme to grapheme spelling combinations to teach explicitly, or tell teachers what to do about it.
  • That reading involves converting language represented in print to a representation from which the child can already derive meaning, namely, one based in the child’s spoken language. The science speaks to the importance of integrating print and sound early in development and to the role of instruction. However, it does so in the context of other skills and knowledge, their dependence on each other, and the development of reading over time.
  • Whether their current practices (or chosen program) take into account the learning process of each child. Capacities to learn change with development; what a child is able to learn also depends on the current state of their knowledge, which changes as they progress. Delegates will consider whether commercial programs allow for adequate adaptation and differentiation, in order to meet the learning needs of each student.    

Course Outcome

Delegates will review the importance of isolating, segmenting and blending speech sounds, and mapping them to graphemes in order to decode and encode English words, with a focus on children who start KS1 with considerable PA deficits. They will also consider, as there are more than 350 letter-sound relationships in English orthography, how to help KS1 children on the dyslexia spectrum move from single word reading of ‘decodable texts’ to reading ‘authentic texts’ with comprehension.    

Target Audience

KS1, Learning Support


This training course is for one and a half hours from 1.30-3.00pm on Thursdy, 3 November 2022 on Zoom. Delegates will have access to the recording of the webinar for two weeks after to watch as many times as they like. If you cannot attend live on the day, you will still have access to the recordings from the same evening for two weeks from that date if you book a place.

Course Materials

Electronic copies of the handouts will be provided but delegates will be responsible for printing off their own copies as this event is online.

Joining Instructions

Delegates will be sent a link to GoToWebinar where the course will be held a few days before. You do no need specialist software or an app to attend.

Terms & Conditions

Please note, this training must be paid in full before access is given to the webinar. By submitting a booking you are agreeing to pay Patoss Ltd within 30 days and accept our Cancellation/Transfer Policy and Terms and Conditions which are shown at the bottom of the website page. 

Delegates will be responsible for ensuring that they have suitable Wi-Fi, hardware and software to enable them to view the webinar.


Sheila Rostill, Webinar Administrator

E: srostill@patoss-dyslexia.org

T:   07956 644 786

When & Where

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Cancellation/Transfer Policy 


This course is worth 1.5 hour general CPD

If you need help booking your event(s) please refer to our useful How to Book a Course Guide