In response to Nick Gibb’s comments that ‘evidence has finally trumped rhetoric’ and the ‘debate’ on the best way to teach reading ‘is over’ (TES, 26 January 2019) the United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) would like to point out the following. For most children, phonics is an essential part of learning to read but as a strategy for teaching reading, phonics is far from sufficient on its own. In order to teach reading effectively teachers need to be able to do much more than follow a phonics scheme and the discussion is not so simple as a ‘look and say’ versus a ‘phonics’ approach. Teachers need to be equipped with a broad range of teaching strategies in order that they can support all children in becoming avid readers who read for meaning, for information, read critically, and read for pleasure.
It is concerning that Nick Gibb dismisses any viewpoint on the teaching of reading as ‘desperately clinging to romantic notions’, seemingly in favour of a ‘one size fits all’ phonics only approach. It is also worthwhile pointing out that gains in PIRLS data, heralded as ‘evidence’ that has ‘trumped rhetoric’, does little to provide any real evidence that such ‘gains’ are due to the increased emphasis on the teaching of phonics as the prime approach to early reading. The United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA) is disappointed that yet more money from within the education budget in England is being directed again to a single aspect of teaching reading.