More pros and cons in the great phonics debate

8th April 2011 at 01:00

Dr Bernard Trafford highlights the danger of ministers' selective opinions, quoting their passion for synthetic phonics as an example of their tendency to seize on a view and heed only what they want to hear ("Quieten down, ministers, time to listen properly", 1 April).

One has to wonder whether ministers believe teachers are wilfully holding children back. This impression is reinforced by the proposals for Ofsted inspections, which will police the teaching of synthetic phonics in schools and in teacher training.

Concerns about the proposed phonics test have been raised by unions through the consultation process, and by the UK Literacy Association, the Committee for Linguistics in Education, the Early Childhood Forum and TACTYC (the association for the professional development of early-years educators).

In her comment piece ("Wood a child tawt to reed using phonix alone notis anything wrong with this hedline?", 1 April) Olivia O'Sullivan provides strong evidence that an overemphasis on phonics may be a disadvantage for some pupils in spelling.

As you reported last week ("Phonics knocked off perch by official review"), Dame Clare Tickell's review of the early-years foundation stage calls for a broad approach to literacy, which puts phonics in the context of reading for enjoyment and meaning.

When and how phonic methods are introduced, explained and consolidated should be a matter for professional judgment. Ministers, whose children no doubt benefit from an enabling literacy environment at home, are closing down the debate in ill-advised and undemocratic ways.

Wendy Scott, President, TACTYC.

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