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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools) 2:15 pm, 31st January 2008

That means that the hon. Lady is opposed to phonics. The synthetic phonics people argue that not even a combination of programmes should be used. One has to be faithful to one synthetic phonics programme—that is what Jim Rose says in his report. We are only talking about the first few months of formal education, but it is important to be faithful to one synthetic phonics programme. The notion that there is a range of strategies reveals either a lack of understanding of the issue, or opposition to synthetic phonics and its use in teaching of children to read in the early years.

The argument is that there are some children who cannot get it—I see you glaring, Mr. Bayley, so I will just make this one point, as it is important and covers some issues raised by my hon. Friend. There are some children who struggle with phonics; there is no question about that. However, the notion that those children benefit from look-and- say is nonsense. The children who can learn to read using look-and-say are the very bright ones: they will learn to read if you breathe on them with a book. It is the children in the bottom quartile of the ability range who suffer. They need more phonics, not less, and they need one-to-one tuition to ensure that they get it. That is the only answer for those children, and it is a tragedy that for 20, 30, 40 years, generations of children have lost out. That is why we have the projects that my hon. Friend  the Member for North-East Hertfordshire visited. The prisons contain too many people who have problems with their reading.

Moving swiftly on, the Minister talked about trying to change the culture. He drew a parallel with the culture of speeding and drink-driving. However, there is a difference between trying to change people’s behaviour when they are driving a car, and trying to encourage people to stay in education or training. People need to be motivated to learn. Alison Wolf cited evidence that showed that unless somebody is motivated to learn a trade or an academic subject, they will not acquire any knowledge during that process.