IoS letters, emails & online postings (6 April 2014)

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The Independent Online

Synthetic phonics, far from letting down pupils with dyslexia, is effective for the majority and, coupled with the phonics check, can help to identify those who may be dyslexic or need a different approach ("Dyslexic pupils not helped by reading method", 30 March).

Structured teaching of lettersound links and how to blend sounds were key components of "dyslexia teaching" long before synthetic phonics became commonplace in schools. We know that many pupils at risk of dyslexia can progress well with a structured phonics programme but would flounder if left to learn more holistically. To read in the broadest sense requires an orchestration of many other skills of which decoding is but one and, for fluent readers, one that they may seldom use; but decoding is a hurdle at which many children have fallen and it is right that early teaching of reading is directed at helping as many children over this hurdle as possible.

Dyslexia Action has supported the use of the phonics check, which involves the ability to read "non words", as part of a process to identify those who may need a different approach. However, it should not be the only piece of evidence used to examine children's reading. Neither should it force a straitjacket of prescriptive teaching on to those who have moved on to more advanced stages. Dyslexia Action has been working with the Department for Education to develop information and guidance for teachers on materials and on decisions about their use; more information about this can be found on our website.

Dr John Rack

Director of education and policy Dyslexia Action

Egham, Surrey

In reply to Richard Garner's personal view regarding synthetic phonics; that is precisely what has happened with my six-year-old cousin. He can read fluently. Or he could. Now he insists on spelling out every word phonetically, even if he knows the word. He seems to think that you have to read like that.

In addition, he is penalised for wanting to read books he enjoys, and his learning has slowed as a result. As a child, I loved books, and would read in my own time for pleasure, even at the age of six. I really believe the key to improving reading is to evoke a passion for books, not turn this generation of children into phonetic robots.

Helen Brown


Joan Smith is right that religion is losing the argument on abortion, contraception and gay marriages (30 March). But if she were to speak to some of the many people, young and old, who worship at one of the newly established non-denominational churches, or, indeed, to a lot of nonconformists, she might be surprised to find that the majority of modern-thinking Christians agree.

Gillian Cook

Market Harborough, Leicestershire

Consumers can indeed play a strategic role by pressing brands to ensure decent treatment for overseas workers ("Cheap products carry a high cost", 30 March). Thousands who signed our petition on Rana Plaza helped persuade brands to sign the legally binding Bangladesh safety accord. But retailers' voluntary approach has still left workers toiling long hours for well below a living wage. It is time for government action to end this scandal.

Jeff Powell

Campaigns and policy director

War on Want, London N1

I was alarmed by your report ("Gaia visionary advocates city living", 30 March) intimating that Chesil Beach had lurched into Devon. Having expended considerable energy climbing to the top of Portland on a clear day, I can assure you that the entire beach is still in Dorset.

Joe Trevett

Society of Dorset Men, Weymouth, Dorset

Columnist Andrew Martin (30 March) refers to "preparing for a dinner party" and what "dinner party hosts are supposed to ask". Am I alone among your readers in never having been to a dinner party?

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

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