The good news - and the bad

30th October 1998 at 00:00
ONE PLUS, one minus. In a week when the Inspectorate registered disappointment with modern languages in the primary school, an early reading strategy is hailed as a great success. Clackmannan's experiment with a form of phonics promoted by psychologists at St Andrews University, has led brought remarkable results among five-year-olds. The Secretary of State is among those who gathered to acclaim it.

So far so good, but other approaches to reading have been hailed in the past, including the absurd initial teaching alphabet by which children got their own alphabet. It is no criticism of Clackmannan's enthusiasm to ask for caution and replication of the project elsewhere. Early intervention strategies are important not least because they are varied. Time will tell which have staying power.

If good news deserves a cautious response, a bad HMI report need not signal the end of the world. The Education Minister is right to ask why language teaching generally is so unsuccessful, but the primary experiment should not be condemned on evidence so far. It has been under way for only a few years. Help from specialists was withdrawn after the pilot stages. Class teachers receive only 27 hours' instruction. We need to work at early language teaching, not prematurely to deride it.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today