When it comes to teaching something so essential as reading and spelling (and writing) which is about 'life chances', then we cannot leave the quality of teaching and teacher understanding to chance. The reason that the government is promoting systematic synthetic phonics so heavily is that those people who are able to visit schools nationally and who see national results appreciate that there is a big difference between schools using phonics programmes which are truly rigorous and systematic, and those schools where it is much more down to 'chance' as to the quality of the teaching and learning opportunities. I am totally sympathetic with Y's passion - and her reaction to years of government initiatives and various pressures the teaching profession has had to endure. But this literacy basic skills stuff transcends, in my opinion, the frustrations and upsets of the teachers themselves. I have been one of few on the early years forum over the years who has encouraged early years practitioners over and again to object to the various pressures placed upon them. I feel extremely sensitive to the fact that both the EYFS as a legal and formal state of affairs was rolled out to the country at the very same time (indeed even in the very same events) that the Letters and Sounds document was rolled out. At that time, those in authority did not appreciate that (again, in my opinion) Letters and Sounds amounted to detailed guidance - and not a class programme per se. Thus, teachers and assistants across the country have had to work extraordinarily hard to equip Letters and Sounds with resources and a mnemonic system in an endeavour to provide daily phonics teaching for reading and spelling for classes of 30 or huge groups of children less than five in Foundation Stage settings. Now, in many cases, after years of very hard work, such teachers and assistants may hear that what they have provided is possibly not rigorous or systematic enough - hence the government's promotion of various phonics programmes which have had to be scrutinised to see if they pass muster. In terms of age-appropriateness, this is a difficult one. It strikes me as ironic, however, that many people who are not happy about systemtic phonics teaching have not been equally concerned when learning to read and write was as much about what was accomplished at home than what was taught in school. Many children, whatever the prevailing fad for teaching reading, basically learnt to read by reading book by book by book - picking up the 'words' as they went along. I, too, have been the mum at home who received the tobacco tin with the Roger Red Hat words to familiarise my children with before they got the Roger Red Hat book. So, this painstaking process went on and I look back in horror from my perspective as the struggling mum trying to get my children recognising the words (I did not know about phonics then), to my children's perspective - two in particular had great difficulty recalling word shapes apart from the name 'Roger Red Hat' with its distinctive capital letters and word length. And I look back in horror, too, at the poor teachers who knew no better (and I was a trained teacher and definitely knew no better at that time). All the rhyming, story-reading, alliteration, singing etc. made no real difference to the capacity to read the book after book books coming home. We now have a scenario where increasingly teachers and assistants are learning more about the alphabetic code and the three core skills of blending, segmenting and handwriting - and knowledge and skills for teaching are being honed increasingly as time goes on. However, not all the lecturers in the universities by any stretch of the imagination either agree with, or are knowledgeable about, synthetic phonics teaching. And so many early years teachers and advisors are railing against feeling that they must provide prescriptive synthetic phonics teaching for 4+ year olds. Some of us have been around for so many years that we have experienced many prevailing teaching methods and many different philosophies for teaching. What we have now, in general terms in England, is an anti-paper culture. The anti-worksheet attitude is extraordinary. You would think that a piece of paper and pencil activities are tantamount to child-abuse. We have mass groupings of tables rather than lessons where for some of the time, the children face forwards. We have mass children learning to write sitting on the floor using whiteboards. Have a look around your primary schools to see how many children hook their wrists around and write from above the letters and words - not below. We have throwing out of desks not just in Reception but in some key stage two settings. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Teachers love it when children come to school with loads of interests, ideas, skills - and yet we are not supposed to teach directly - nor value product - only process. We cannot allow filming of children's plays and concerts and yet we never have a camera out of our hands to record little children's every last move. And so it goes on. I despair.