Phonics row escalates over charge of bias

10th June 2011 at 01:00

I read with interest your article about Ruth Miskin's involvement in the development of phonics in Years 1 and 2 ("Phonics expert on national curriculum review accused of conflict of interest", 3 June).

I have had the privilege of discussing the Government's idea of the phonics screener or check with literally hundreds of teachers, special educational needs co-ordinators and specialist SEN teachers. Not one supported it.

They have nothing against the teaching of good-quality synthetic phonics, but to impose it is potentially damaging to children. Phonics is one strategy to help children along the reading journey - it does not teach reading for meaning and understanding or engender a culture of a love of reading. It will merely create a generation of children who are able to decode a written text, but who have appalling spelling and are unable to read more deeply for meaning.

Ruth Miskin clearly has a conflict of interest and to say she does not is like saying a cheese factory based in Cheddar is unbiased towards cheese. Her bias is explicit.

There are very many reading specialists based within schools and universities who would willingly fulfil the role - but perhaps they won't be saying what the Government wants to hear.

Pearl Barnes, President of Nasen (formerly the National Association for Special Educational Needs).

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