Modern phonics-first programmes are in no way inimical to the goals of whole-language teaching. As my article made abundantly clear, I do believe that it is important that "children should be encouraged to explore print and react critically to what they've read". It is, however, absurd to suggest that children can do this when they can't even get the words off the page.
"Phonics-first" teaching is not some Gradgrindian obsession of a few control freaks. Quite the opposite: systematic phonics empowers children by giving them control of their own reading. It gives them generative strategies which allow reading to develop without constant and costly intervention.
TOM BURKARD, Secretary, The Promethean Trust, Riverside Farm, Ringland Lane, Easton, Norwich