As an early-years and special needs teacher for more than 30 years, I feel I must refute his assumption that because a cross-section of readers could not hear the sounds in given words, the ability to do so is of no value.
I agree, as do I think all teachers, that a range of strategies is needed in learning to read.
However, having studied and used the various methods which have been around during my career I would state categorically that training children to "identify the number of sounds they can hear in a given spoken word" and then to absorb knowledge of the various graphemes for those sounds is the most effective method I have discovered to teach spelling - which is hearing sounds and translating them into letters.
Encouraging children to hear sounds in words and then to repeat them also alerts the teacher early on to speech and hearing problems, so although the Office for Standards in Education is not my favourite organisation I feel that for once they have got it right.
JOAN SIMPKIN 115 Petersfield Road Bournemouth, Dorset