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Divided on Reading Recovery's lasting impact

Kevin Wheldall's concerns about Reading Recovery (TES, January 18) do not reflect the reality in the UK. He was clearly not aware of the Every Child a Reader London study published last year, or others which show robust evidence for the effectiveness of RR and demonstrate that the gains children make do last. Nor does he acknowledge the US government's What Works clearing house, which gave RR its highest-quality rating for research. The only UK data he refers to are from 1994, when RR was just starting in England. A lot has changed since then - in RR and classrooms to which children return afterwards.

Even so, the evidence in Professor Wheldall's report does not merit his pessimistic view. He concludes that most pupils do not maintain their RR gains. But even by his own calculations, more than eight in 10 children were later found to be within or above acceptable levels for literacy. It is hard to see that as failure.

Professor Wheldall predicts that with good synthetic phonics teaching, no child will need interventions such as RR. This would be wonderful - every child taking to literacy like a duck to water! But until then, while there are still children who struggle to learn to read and write alongside their peers, it is imperative that we have a tried and tested intervention to prevent children failing, and Reading Recovery is among the best available.

Julia Douetil, Trainer and national co-ordinator, Reading Recovery National Network, Institute of Education, University of London.

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