Geoff Dean complains that Pullman "fails to point to any specific faults" in the National Literacy Strategy.
Let me do so:
- A good one-year programme is emasculated by stretching it over nearly three years. In a school using good, brisk phonics, the reception year programme of the National Literacy Strategy would be covered before the end of the autumn term.
- Teachers are supposed to encourage children to four strategies, of which the first three are guessing (from picture, first letter, grammarcontext), with phonics only as a last resort. Guessing is dangerous. Children who can decode comfortably do not need to do it.
- A whole term is spent on consonant blends (fr, st, pl etc.), but if children can read "fag", and "lag", and can blend f - l, they can read"flag".
- Teachers are expected to teach a sight vocabulary. If you can sound out and blend w-e-n-t, you do not need to learn it as a sight word.
Have the authors of the NLS ever seen classes being taught good phonics first? Given these serious flaws, schools and LEAs should never have accepted the National Literacy Strategy in the first place. Because it did include long-neglected phonics, it has produced some improvement, but nowhere near the potential.
I am reminded once again of what the late Jean Augur said before she became education officer at the British Dyslexia Assocation, that if all children were taught the way dyslexics need, dyslexics would learn along with the rest of us. And what do dyslexics need? Phonics.
Parents can find a good, free phonics programme at: www.users.rapid.net.ukcatphonics nbsp;
former editor of the Reading Reform Foundation newsletter