Letters Extra: Get it right from the start

13th December 2002 at 00:00

Phonics should certainly be at the 'hub of the literacy drive' (TES, December 6) and it should certainly be taught in Year 3 to children who have not yet mastered it.

We will have to face the fact, however, that many of these children will have earlier been taught to rely on picture cues, context cues and first-letter-only cues in reading unfamiliar words, and will find it hard to kick these habits.

These habits should never be encouraged in the first place - let's hope that this is remembered in the rush to provide first aid in the junior years.

The optimum time for phonics teaching is at the beginning of reception, and getting this right should mean that very little phonics teaching is necessary (except for more advanced spelling work) in any year other than reception.

One reason why people like David Winkley are now having to call on the powers-that-be to 'Save them from the boring literacy hour' (p 19) is that the same old stuff (including phonics) is having to be taught year after year.

Let's hope, too, that the people who are asked to advise on synthetic phonics and analytic phonics are people who really understand these matters.

Jennifer Chew
The Mount
Malt Hill

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