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Regular drill in phonics does pay off

I was reading the letters (TES, June 7) with some interest when I realised that my school was the one pictured!

Readers may be interested to know that the phonics scheme I introduced into St Clare's RC School and piloted for 10 years played a part in winning the school Pounds 100,000 Jerwood Award in 1992 for "improved levels of literacy". Our scheme is now known as the "phonics bank" and published by Ginn.

Our "word-attack" programme is a misnomer since we try as soon as possible to place isolated words in context. Our success is due to regular phonic practice every day for a short time.

All young children require short sharp practice of skills if they are to acquire them in a meaningful way. However, I also know that regular teaching of the other methods of reading needs to take place in tandem with phonics.

We employ a part-time teacher to cover "look-say" and sentence method and the teachers in the classroom cover "real books" in an enjoyable way. Everyone joins every day for phonic groups.

It is almost impossible with the demands of the national curriculum for teachers to be able to give the time to the teaching of reading that we did in the past. Out of choice I have spent my teaching life in the classroom. Twenty schools for more than a term is fair experience.

Young teachers aren't taught how to teach reading and the teachers who do know either aren't listened to, or, haven't the time or help to do so adequately.

We know that there are always children who will learn to read by themselves as early as three years, and that such children do not need much help, but the majority are crying out for someone to show them how to read adequately and in an enjoyable way.

It can be done.

M Hartley Deputy headteacher St Clare's RC primary school Robert Road Handsworth Birmingham

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