Phonics resource is less than sound

3rd August 2007 at 01:00
The primary national strategy's new phonics resource for use in primary schools, Letters and Sounds principles and practice of high-quality phonics, is flawed for several reasons:

* It postulates a false model of the English language, starting from the premise that all teaching of reading can be phonics-based, thus forcing all words into analysissynthesis mode, leading to the "analysis" of words such as "the" (the) and "was" (was) into separate phonemes. l It recommends poor teaching methods, including the use of negative examples that are likely to confuse children and cause them to lose confidence, rather than to become independent learners.

* It offers as examples poor, clumsy or incorrect models of English for example, "Jeff chucks bits of bun in the river for the ducks."

* There are outright mistakes: "car park" is given as an example of a two syllable word. Also, no distinction is made between compound and other two syllable words.

* At each phase, reading is equated with writing and spelling. The document suggests that if children can read a word, then they can spell it, whereas it is much more likely that a child will first be able to recognise a word in context ("train", for example) some time before being able to choose the correct letters to spell it.

The teaching of phonics plays an important role in learning to read and a programme based on the reality and richness of the English language would be beneficial and welcome. Standards of literacy have risen considerably in the past 10 years. If the programme laid out in this document is followed, we feel this would be a retrograde step. Letters and Sounds is not founded on any recognised education theory or practice and has no place in a broad and balanced literacy programme.

Leila Hartley Literacy consultant, Lymm, Cheshire

and Dr Rita Ray, Literacy consultant, Whitefield, Greater Manchester

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