Byers should look locally;Letter

12th June 1998 at 01:00
I HEARD Professor Diana McGuinness from Florida University on Radio 4's Today programme recently. She is here at the invitation of Steven Byers to advise on the teaching of reading.

She proposes that the 40-plus sounds of English should be taught first and associated with one main way of spelling each sound. Alternative spellings of the sounds can then be taught later. She is also critical of the national literacy strategy's mixed methods approach and particularly teaching keywords as visual wholes - because children's visual memories are not up to this task and begin to "unravel" after a certain number of words.

Steven Byers would do well to heed McGuinness's advice, but he did not need to look overseas for it. I, and others, have similar concerns with the literacy strategy and proposed teaching phonics in a similar way.

There is evidence that the intensive teaching of all the sounds of English, of one main way of spelling each sound and of blending the sounds to form words, all give children an excellent start.

The Educational Psychology Service for which I work has been delivering in-service training in this sort of phonics for key stage 1 teachers. Results have been excellent. We would be pleased to show Mr Byers how it is being implemented.

Dr Marlynne Grant

Chartered educational psychologist

Bristol

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