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Six years later, research is still valid to build on

The methodology behind Sue Ellis's attempts to discredit the Clackmannanshire research into phonics would make a spin doctor blush (TESS November 30). She bases her critique on a partial sample of five out of eight participating schools, years after the experiment was completed, and under conditions which allowed no control or analysis of intervening factors whatever.

The Clackmannanshire intervention took place during the first 16 weeks of primary education. What happened in the next six years was not in the researchers' control, and I have never seen them or anyone else claim that children completed the task of learning to read in 16 weeks.

The fact that effects, particularly in difficult areas such as the achievement of working-class pupils and boys' spelling, were still significant six years later - educationally as well as statistically - is probably unique in the history of educational research.

Sue Ellis is right to say that the insights gained are only part of the story, but they are a most positive and helpful part. We need to build on them.

John Bald, Symonds Lane, Linton. (Author of 'Using Phonics to Teach Reading and Spelling').

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