In his piece 'Writing's on the wall if children don't read' in today's TES Geoff Barton asks, “Why would we in the literacy club want to keep our poorest children on the outside?” I replied as follows. The inconsistencies of English spelling are an extremely effective means of ensuring that children of poorly educated parents who are unable to assist their children’s speech development and cannot help them with learning to read - because they cannot read themselves or work long or unsociable hours - leave compulsory schooling nearly as ignorant as when they entered it. That’s why the majority of educated people abhor the idea of spelling reform. They like the advantages they guarantee for their children. Phonic inconsistencies like ‘on – only, once, other’, ‘paid – said’ and ‘sound – soup’ ensure that only children who get regular help with reading at home manage to learn this skill fairly easily. The rest, face a an enormous challenge and are unlikely to ever become avid readers. The long time it takes to learn to read English without help at home is enough to prevent most disadvantaged pupils from ever getting to like it. If we cannot bring ourselves to make English spelling more child-friendly - and learning to read less dependent on regular help from literate adults - there is only one other way of helping our poorest children to become more avid readers: give them the kind of consistent, long-term support that middle class parents give their children, not just in the early years but throughout their school days. This can only be achieved with very substantial increases in educational expenditure. Amending at least some of the most damaging of the 69 spellings which have more than one sound - http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2009/12/reading-problems.html - would be a cheaper, more certain and longer lasting way of ensuring this.