I was surprised to read the comments on teaching children with Down's Syndrome ("Try this", TES Magazine, May 30), which implied that the ideas suggested were new. Most special schools have always taught reading in this way: sight vocabulary, followed by phonics when appropriate. We reviewed this approach during the recent phonics debate and, despite confused government recommendations, decided it was still the most effective way. Our pupils do not have to wait for "inclusion to become the norm" or for "expectations and expertise to grow"; this is already a reality in our school, and indeed the majority of special schools. The 20067 chief inspector's report commented that the percentage of outstanding special schools was better than other maintained schools and that they "take great care in tailoring the provision to individual pupils" and have "high expectations, regardless of the pupils' difficulties".
Tony Newman, Headteacher, Stanley Special School, Thingwall, Wirral, Cheshire.