Much as I applaud the Tory education plan in general, my heart sinks when I see stories such as one on the front of The Observer
that Cameron wants all kids to read by the age of six. This strikes me as the contradiction running through Tory policy: to regulate, or liberalise? The plan for pioneer / direct grant / Swedish/ voucher / whateveryouwanttocallthem schools empowers and trusts teachers. Today's initiative seeks to do their job for them. Cameron has no expertise whatsoever in primary education, why should he be prescribing synthetic phonics or anything else to these teachers?
I declare an interest in that my mother was until recently a learning support English teacher at a primary school in Gordon Brown's native Kirkcaldy. Phonics has been around since she was a kid. It works for some kids, not for others. Some are late developers, and have trouble distinguishing a p sound from a b sound, for example. Moral: teachers should be trusted to use their discretion. This is true for reading ages too.
Isn't the Tory mission to cut red tape, not substitute it with blue tape? A fresh directive from Whitehall would hardly be a change from Labour.