30th August 1996 at 01:00
I agree with Jeff Hynds (TES, August 9) that the Office for Standards in Education seems to have misunderstood the relationship between phonological awareness and reading.

The research points to the most efficient readers analogising from known chunks in order to increase competence. For example, because a pupil knows the chunk "-and", she easily reads "sand" and "land". So when we perform diagnostic tests on pupils to see whether they have the foundational skills to make rapid progress in written language skills, we look at their ability to manipulate rhymes, to alliterate, and to segment into syllables.

We never ask pupils how many phonemes there are in given words because this is not a skill which is part of the reading process. The UCL Phonological Assessment Battery, soon to be published with norms by the National Foundation for Educational Research, similarly does not have any tests of the nature described in your article.

Phonological awareness, rightly understood, plays a very significant part in the development of written language skills.

EM TAYLOR Special needs teacher with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea pupil support service 35 Bassett Road, London W10

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