The following letter is used with permission from the author. It details actual experience consequent to the withdrawal of teaching phonics in primary schools and what hapens when teachers ignore advice and research on the important issue of teaching children to read and write. Many thanks to the parents willing to do what is right for their children and lead by example-shame on the teachers.
14th March 2008
Re: BT 13/3/08 – Interview with Sir Robert Salisbury (Literacy & Numeracy Taskforce)
Sir Robert Salisbury, recently appointed chairman of the NI Literacy & Numeracy taskforce, stated in his interview with Kathryn Torney on 13/3/08 that “he saw nothing wrong with the literacy policy introduced in 1998”.
As a parent of a boy who entered P1 in September 1998 I strongly disagree with his statement. A literacy policy that excluded phonics from the teaching of reading is clearly flawed.
I still remember the frosty response I received from my son’s P1 teacher when, at the autumn parent /teacher interview, I enquired about the use of phonics in learning to read…. “We no longer teach phonics at this school.”
The emphasis for learning to read in 1998 was on whole word recognition. This approach did not suit my son who responded with outbursts of anger from sheer frustration. The pace of progress in reading was slow and continued to frustrate my son.
Zealots, who force flawed methods of teaching to be introduced, whether they come from within the school or the ELB, inflict untold damage on children.
Thankfully, our school recognised the dire flaws in this literacy policy because, as my other children have passed through the school, the reading scheme has improved considerably.
However, that does not detract from the fact that many children have been failed by the flawed literacy & numeracy schemes introduced in 1998.
My son was lucky because, although achieving level 4 for English at KS2, with the encouragement
of dedicated P6 & P7 teachers who recognised his potential he achieved a grade “A” in the 11+ and
is flourishing at the school of his choice. What for those children not so academically able?
The Reading Recovery scheme came to fruition when the failings of the flawed literacy scheme of 1998 became too great to ignore. Most of the children availing of reading recovery have been failed
by the education authorities. How can it be acceptable for a child to pass through 12 years of compulsory education with a reading age of 7?
Sir Robert also spoke of introducing baseline assessment when children enter P1. Is he not aware that the Education (NI) Order 2006 abolished compulsory baseline assessment in P1 and also removed compulsory study of English & Maths GCSE?
Public confidence, especially that of parents, in this fragmented and disintegrating education system
will not be restored by government appointed taskforces who appear lacking in knowledge.