Reservations about phonics revisited

17th August 2007 at 01:00
I want to add my reservations about the phonics resource Letters and Sounds to the points raised by Leila Hartley and Rita Ray (TES, August 3). An episode showing "cooking in the fridge" with four-year-olds conflicts with children's growing knowledge and understanding. There is scope for discussion around the level of familiarity with a concept children need before they can understand humour, but many children will be confused by the arbitrary idea of cooking in a cold place. Various other labels reflect the adult intention to present phonetically regular sounds at the expense of accuracy and meaning from the child's perspective.

As acknowledged in the introduction to Letters and Sounds, young children's vocabulary grows over time. Some of the primary national strategy material may help staff to provide the rich language and literacy environment recommended by Rose, but many experienced professionals regret the introduction of phonics to large groups of children before the age of five.

Teachers' professional judgment is being eroded by the idea that they will be judged by their adherence to a fixed sequence and timetable, whether it suits individuals or not.

Sure Start guidance assures parents that each child's individual needs will be met, and the early years foundation stage (EYFS) is founded on the principle that children learn at different rates and in different ways. Another founding idea is that all areas of learning are equally important. It would be regrettable if such principles were ignored in training for the EYFS.

Wendy Scott

Member of the Early Years Curriculum Group, Keswick, Cumbria

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