Education (Initial Teaching Alphabet)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th March 1964.

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Minister of Education(1) if he will make a statement on the value of the Initial Teaching Alphabet in the more successful teaching of reading during the earliest stages of learning;

(2) if he will take steps, through Her Majesty's inspectors of education and otherwise, to bring to the attention of local education authorities and teachers the advantages of an early adoption of the Initial Teaching Alphabet, so that its benefits may be enjoyed as soon as possible by as many children as possible when they first begin to be taught to read.

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

With permission, I will now answer Questions Nos. 53 and 54 together.

I have watched the progress of this experiment with great interest and I can inform the House that the Initial Teaching Alphabet has been used with remarkable success in a number of schools during the earliest stages of learning.

Accordingly, I have decided to assist the further continuation of the experiment with a grant to the London University Institute of Education of about £4,000 in the current financial year and a further £5,000 next year from my Department's research fund.

A final evaluation of the experiment will not be possible until some while after the children concerned have transferred to traditional orthography. But if the promise of the results obtained so far is fulfilled, I have no doubt that the use of this Alphabet will spread further, and that its significance will become more widely understood.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and also to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) for their work in keeping its possibilities before the public eye.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I thank the Minister most warmly for his statement. Is he aware that education is deeply indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) who devised the Initial Teaching Alphabet? Here we seem to have a break-through in the teaching of reading by a new instrument which not only enables bright and average children to learn the more quickly and release their energies for other valuable work, but may succeed in preventing some children from failing to get over the hurdle and open the door for them to the inestimable gift of reading. Indeed, that experiment itself may be a lead to the whole English-speaking world.

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I am sure that all hon. Members on this side of the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for his tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath. We are to debate the subject on Thursday next, and in view of the business before the House this afternoon I will only say that I have taken this opportunity of answering these Questions separately in order to emphasise the importance of the topic.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

I should like to thank my right hon. Friend the Minister and the House very much indeed for what has been said. Will my right hon. Friend join with me—and, I am sure, the House—in thanking the officials of his Department, the local education authorities, the head teachers and the class teachers who had the courage and the vision—with a lot of hard work—to make this exciting break-through in the teaching of reading?

Will he also join in highly commending the London University Institute of Education and the National Foundation for Educational Research for conducting a most fruitful piece of research which, incidentally, has maintained for this country its traditional leadership in our great heritage—the English language?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I can assure my hon. Friend that I am aware that everyone concerned has contributed a very great deal to this important and exciting development. It is because of the known tendency for experimental methods to achieve success because of the stimulus of being under observation that I was just a shade cautious in my words this afternoon, but I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has just said, and I particularly note his tributes to my own Department and to London University.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

As the attendance at the debate next week may be a little thin, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there are some of us on this side of the House—and, I am sure, on his own—who are extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Bath (Sir J. Pitman), although some of us started out in this matter with a certain amount of scepticism?