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