Professor Greg Brooks B.A., M.A., PGCE, Ph.D.

Photograph of Professor Greg Brooks

Emeritus Professor of Education

Expert member, European Union High-Level Group of Experts on Literacy (2011-12)

Chairperson of Management Group, European Literacy Policy Network (ELINET), 2014-16

Chairperson, Federation of European Literacy Associations (2013-16)

(+44) (0)114 270 6221

Greg Brooks joined the School of Education on 1 January 2001, retired on 31 December 2007, having given his Professorial Lecture on 1 October 2007, and has been Emeritus since 1 January 2008. He taught for 10 years in secondary and higher education, variously in France, Kenya, Essex and Northern Ireland. His Ph.D. at the University of Leeds was on the question of phonological coding in silent reading. For the 20 calendar years 1981-2000 he worked at the National Foundation for Educational Research in Slough.

Research interests

The initial teaching of reading and spelling, especially through phonics

In 2003 Greg reviewed the phonics element of the National Literacy Strategy for the DfES, and in 2005 he and colleagues at the University of York conducted an in-depth review of the research evidence on the benefits of using phonics. In 2005-06 he was a member of the Advisory Group to the Rose review of the teaching of reading, and in 2007 provided tables of phoneme-grapheme and grapheme-phoneme correspondences for Letters and Sounds. Though a strong advocate of systematic synthetic phonics teaching, he is vociferously opposed to the phonics decoding check - see

In 2007-08 he chaired a DfES/DCSF panel quality-assuring publishers' claims about their phonics schemes.
His Dictionary of the British English Spelling System (2015) is intended to provide teachers and materials devisers with comprehensive, accurate information on the complex web of correspondences between phonemes and graphemes, and the ELINET analytic glossary of the initial teaching and learning of literacy, co-authored with Maxine Burton (2016), includes detailed analyses of the task facing initial literacy learners, and of synthetic phonics.

What works for children and young people who have literacy difficulties

In 2008-09 Greg was a member of the expert advisory group on dyslexia attached to the Rose review of the primary curriculum in England. In 2016 he published the fifth edition of What Works for Children and Young People with Literacy Difficulties? (previous editions appeared in 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2013), and revised the section on intervention schemes in the Dyslexia-SpLD Trust’s associated website

Family literacy and numeracy

Between 1994 and 2005, Greg directed seven evaluations of family literacy and numeracy initiatives for the Basic Skills Agency. These all focused on the benefits to both parents and children, and to parents´ ability to help their children´s development. In 2007-09 he was a consultant to a national evaluation of family literacy programmes in England, and in 2008, with Kate Pahl and colleagues, he produced an international meta-study of family literacy and numeracy initiatives. In 2009-10 he was a consultant to the EC-funded project Family literacy in Europe: using parental support initiatives to enhance early literacy development (EAC/16/2009).

Adult literacy and numeracy

In 2002 Greg was a founder member of the National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy and was Research Director of its Sheffield arm until the consortium was dissolved in 2008, and remained associated with it until NRDC itself was wound up at the end of 2015. He directed 15 research projects for NRDC, which included reviewing various aspects of the field, especially previous research and the available assessment instruments, and investigating how much progress adult learners make and what enables them to make better progress, particularly in reading. In 2009-10 with Maxine Burton he contributed a glossary of terms relevant to the adult learning sector in all 28 official languages of the European Union and its candidate and associated states to the EC-funded project Study on European Terminology in Adult Learning for a common language and common understanding and monitoring of the sector (EAC 11/2008). In 2016-17 he and Jamal Lahmar were commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to analyse the survey evidence on levels of adult literacy and numeracy in England (1981-2012), plus international comparisons.

Trends in educational attainment over time

Greg´s interest in this area dates back to 1981, when he joined the (then) Department of Education and Science (DES) Assessment of Performance Unit Language Monitoring Project at the National Foundation for Educational Research and spent nine years mounting national surveys of the speaking and listening attainment of 11- and 15-year-olds. He has published several analyses of data on trends in educational attainment, the two latest being his and Sammy Rashid’s NRDC report on the literacy and numeracy levels of 13- to 19-year-olds over time (2010) and the analysis for BEIS mentioned above.

Activities and distinctions

  • Visiting Professor, University of Malta, 2002-05 & 2011-
  • Visiting Professor, Mid-Sweden University, 2012
  • President of the UK Literacy Association (then called the UK Reading Association), 1999-2000, and an Honorary Life Member of the Association since 2003
  • Member of Editorial Board, Journal of Research in Reading, 1981-2003 (Editor, 1984-86 & 1994-95)
  • Elected to Reading Hall of Fame, 2011
  • Associated with the International Development in Europe Committee of the International Reading Association since 1991 (chairperson, 1998-2002)
  • Elected Treasurer of the Federation of European Literacy Associations, 2016
  • External Examiner to the MA in Literacy Learning and Literacy Difficulties, Institute of Education, University of London (2010-12)

Selected recent publications

BROOKS, G. and Lahmar, J. (2017, submitted). A statistical analysis of lifecourse and cohort factors in adult basic skills levels in England, with international comparisons, interpretation and policy implications: a review for the Go-Science/Foresight team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. London: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

BROOKS, G. (2016). What Works for Children and Young People with Literacy Difficulties? The Effectiveness of Intervention Schemes. 5th edition. Frensham: Dyslexia-SpLD Trust. plus updated content for Interventions section of

BROOKS, G. and Burton, M. (2016). ELINET analytic glossary of the initial teaching and learning of literacy. Cologne: ELINET. Revised edition, 2017.

Bark, C. and BROOKS, G. (2016). ‘How can children with mild literacy difficulties be supported at the transition to secondary school? A small-scale quasi-experimental study.’ British Journal of Special Education, 43(4), 373–393.

BROOKS, G. (2015). Dictionary of the British English Spelling System. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.

Betteny, M. and BROOKS, G. (2015). ‘Can reading skills which are developed through the reading of music be transferred to benefit the early decoding of text?’ International Journal of Multidisciplinary and Comparative Studies, 2, 1, 57-72.

Burton, M. and BROOKS, G. (2014/15). ‘Unintended consequences of incentives, penalties and compulsion.’ RaPAL Journal, 84-85, 19-24.

Swain, J., BROOKS, G. and Bosley, S. (2014). ‘The benefits of family literacy provision for parents in England.’ Journal of Early Childhood Research, 12, 1, 77-91.

BROOKS, G. and Hannon, P. (2013). ‘Research issues in family literacy.’ In Larson, J. and Marsh, J. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Literacy, 2nd edition. London: SAGE, pp.194-206.

BROOKS, G. (2013). ‘The prerequisites for successful teaching and learning of literacy.’ European Journal of Education, 48, 4, 557-69. DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12049

BROOKS, G., Burton, M., Cole, P. and Szczerbiński, M. (2013). The Study of Effective Practice in the Teaching of Reading to Adult Learners, 2003-06. The full report. London: NRDC.

(contributor to) European Commission (2012). EU High Level Group of Experts on Literacy. Final Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

BROOKS, G. and Tarling, R. (2012). ‘Boosting the reading levels and attitudes of young people who have offended: a review of the evidence and the lessons learnt from an evaluation of TextNow.’ Youth Justice, 12, 3, 184-198.

Rashid, S.N., Parry, G.W., Thompson, A. and Brooks, G. (2011). Patterns of further and higher education in colleges and universities in England: a statistical summary and technical commentary. Bristol: HEFCE. Available at

BROOKS, G. (2011). ‘Using the International Phonetic Alphabet to support accurate phonics teaching.’ In Ellis, S. and McCartney, E. (eds) Applied Linguistics and Primary School Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.216-28.

Rashid, S. and BROOKS, G. (2010). The levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy of 13- to 19-year-olds in England, 1948-2009. London: National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy.

View a full list of Greg Brooks’s publications