Literacy existed before phonic manipulations

21st June 1996 at 01:00
Does the folly of the world of education know no bounds?

Last week I observed a new non-teaching assistant being introduced to the philosophy and delivery of Skill Teach, a structured, phonic reading programme written by Kath Shelton and distributed by PAVIC Publications.

The new assistant was heard to remark at the end of her introductory session: "I am amazed. It makes you think, doesn't it? I had no idea there were so many rules concerning the sounds and uses of letters. I didn't know it worked like that."

In the same week, I saw Alan Davis on television demonstrating his THRASS programme, the successor to Alpha to Omega, Skill Teach, and so on, to student teachers. The comments of one of the students, interviewed after Mr Davis's session, were: "It is so simple. I didn't know this. Why didn't someone tell me all this before about how the letters work? It is so logical." (Although what is logical about the transcription of "to", "so" and "do" I have yet to discover.) When is someone going to notice that, unless schools are now employing illiterates, these comments are made by people who can read and write?

How can they do that without knowing the phonic manipulations analysed with such scientific zeal by Davis and Shelton?

Perhaps the Labour spokesman on education would like to include a survey of his colleagues' know-ledge of phonic rules before he declares them to be the basis of five-year-olds' learning to read (TES, May 31).

MAUREEN GUY 392 Wakefield Road Denby Dale Huddersfield West Yorkshire

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