Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Phonics – 100% successful ? I’m sorry but that’s simply not true.

I spotted this article on the BBC News website today :  BBC News – Teachers’ unions urge rethink of phonics checks –

Have a listen to the interview half way down the page. It’s an extract from the Radio 4 Today programme (18th June 2012), and features John Humphries interviewing both Mary Bousted of the Association of Teachers & Lecturers, and Greg Wallace – an executive Headteacher of several prinary schools in Hackney, and staunch advocate of a phonics approach to teaching reading.

It really does make astonishing reading. It’s astounding when Greg claims that he does not know of the other approaches to teaching reading. How did he get through his teacher training then ? It was a compulsory section of my own Bachelor of Education degree.

It’s incredibly rude of him when he suggests that Mary is confused in her understanding of approaches to teaching reading. (Nothwithstanding her Ph. D. in the subject)

The part that is really unbelievably stupid though is when he claims that using  a phonics approach to teaching reading is the only approach that is 100% successful.

He argues that the word “round” can only be accurately decoded by knowing the sounds “r”-“ou”-“n” and “d” which makes phonics 100% successful.

Interesting that.

I wonder if that’s the approach my son took at the age of 2 when out of the blue he pointed at the name on the back of a Vauxhall car and said “Carlton”  ?

Or do you think he’d realised it was the same “picture” as on his Tot’s TV video ? – I know what my money’s on.


Have you ever wondered why “Manslaughter” means something very different, and sounds very different, from “Man’s laughter” ?

You have ? Well that’s because you don’t rely on phonics to decode words.

Anyone out there that lives in Milton Keynes ?

Specifically does anyone come from the Milton Keynes districts of Loughton, Woughton, or Broughton ?

Do you know how to pronounce those place names ?

You do ? Well that’s because you’re not relying on phonics to decode the words.

You don’t ? Well that’s because phonics is not 100% effective.

In fact there is only one 100% effective way to learn to read – and that is to memorise every word. Hardly a sensible way forward.

Most teachers know that we need a variety of approaches, and that some approaches are more suited to some children than some others.

T’was ever thus, and T’will ever be.


The districts in MK by the way are Loughton – with the -ought- as in out. Woughton – with the -wough- as in Woof ! and Broughton – with the -ought- as in court. If you don’t know the town you can only guess at the words.






June 18, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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