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When teachers at Stoughton infant school in Guildford switched to synthetic phonics, their pupils did better.

Maggie Mackie, the school's literacy co-ordinator and a Year 1 teacher said: "We had always done phonics, but the reception children were learning one letter a week, now it is four or five.

"Children are taught S, A and T and then how to blend them into 'sat'. In conjunction with that they are taught how to segment 'sat' into S-A-T. That has been really helpful." In March 2003 inspectors found that, while children at the school knew a good range of words on sight, they were not so adept at using phonic knowledge to read unfamiliar words.

And so staff took up the phonics training offered by the local authority and Mrs Mackie has also trained teaching assistants in her school in the different sounds of English.

The change in tactics appears to have paid off: in 2003, 89 per cent of seven-year-olds reached level 2 in reading; two years later this had risen to 95 per cent.

But phonics is just one part of the English curriculum at the school.

Instilling a love of books is also important. The school has a library and each class has a book corner and parents are told how they can help their children with reading at home.

Mrs Mackie said: "There is a huge amount of very good practice going on in school. Sometimes the press jumps on a bandwagon and gets it all out of proportion. I'm not saying we can't improve, you can always improve.

"If this report says here's some examples of very good practice, then lots of schools will find it helpful and worth having a look at. But I've yet to meet a teacher who says 'I've got all the answers', most of us say 'let's hear what you've got to say'.

"We are professionals. We desperately want to do our best for children.

Teachers do not get enough credit for that."

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