Teacher Talk

Linda Latchford is head teacher of Newton Solney Infant school in Derbyshire. The school is Church of England aided and has 43 students. Phonics have, among other methods, long been part of the school's literacy strategy
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The Independent Online

How important are phonics to teaching at the school?

We've always placed an emphasis on the teaching of phonics. We use 'Jolly Phonics' in reception class, where each letter has an accompanying action. For example, with 'S' the children hiss and pretend to be snakes. With older children we use another scheme, Progression in Phonics, or 'Pips.' All the children are able to read when they leave the school, some more fluently than others.

Do you think it's necessary to have one teaching method or should there be a range of techniques?

There needs to be an amalgam of methods, as long as there's a consensus within the school. Different children respond to different methods, so there's got to be a certain amount of flexibility. These needs can differ between boys and girls, but the divisions are not usually strictly along the lines of gender. Most schools are embracing phonics already, but I can't see the benefits of the Government enforcing the sole use of phonics. If the schools are confident and getting results why bother with a single-strategy approach? Besides, I don't think it would be possible for the Government to enforce it.

Do children find phonics more boring than, for example, 'look and say'?

Teaching phonics can be fun. It depends on the way you approach it. You can play games and you can experiment with sounds. We use a scheme called " Playing with Sounds" as a supplement to Pips. You have to keep the children interested, keep them physically moving, working with partners, working in small groups, working alone, and so on.

How can changes in government strategy affect teachers' confidence?

Teachers are open to new ideas and will embrace the changes if they fit with what they're doing, they see the advantages, and are comfortable with the changes taking place. But I don't think you should throw out the baby with the bath water. You need a consensus within the school on the methods, and to constantly evaluate those methods so that the students make the progress you want them to.

How important is it to keep parents informed of new teaching methods and government directives?

Schools work alongside parents to educate the children. It's vital that we keep them informed and we do this in a variety of ways. We have the usual parent meetings and newsletters; but we also hold workshops where parents can try out some of the strategies we're using. This keeps the parents as involved as possible, and really gives them a feel for what their children are doing.

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