Phonics and Early Reading

Subject Leader:  Mrs James

Early Reading is a priority in our schools because reading is fundamental to education.

Proficiency in reading, writing and spoken language is vital for children’s success.


  • To ensure that younger children and those at the early stages of reading gain the phonics knowledge and language comprehension necessary to read and the skills to communicate, giving all children the foundations for future learning.
  • To promote a love of reading and develop high engagement in books, making a difference to life chances. Children who are good at reading do more of it and learn more. Children need to learn to read as fluently as possible and be motivated to continue reading. It is therefore vital that phonics is a priority in teaching reading.


Across our schools, we follow the Sounds-Write linguistic phonic programme. 

Phonics is the study of letters and sounds and these are the essential building blocks used by children to develop reading, writing and spelling skills. Knowing and being able to use letter sounds and spellings is vital for reading and writing.

Sounds-Write is a proven Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme validated by the Department for Education. It is based on the science of reading and provides a structured, cumulative, and code-oriented approach to teaching reading and spelling. It starts with what children learn naturally, the sounds of their own language, and teaches them to represent those sounds in writing. Sounds-Write is a complete phonics curriculum that teaches the skills, concepts, and code knowledge necessary for children to read and spell.

Pupils are taught four key concepts:

  1. Letters are symbols that represent sounds
  2. Sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters (dog, street, night, dough)
  3. The same sound can be spelled in different ways (rain, break, stay, gate)
  4. The same spelling can represent different sounds (head, seat, break)

Pupils are taught to master three key skills:

  1. Segmenting – the ability to pull apart the individual sounds in words
  2. Blending – the ability to push sounds together to build words
  3. Phoneme manipulation – the ability to insert sounds into and delete sounds out of words. This skill is necessary to test out alternatives for spellings that represent more than one sound.

The Teaching of Phonics

Teachers across the school have received specialist Sounds-Write training. Sounds-Write phonic sessions are taught every day with the whole class in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. These lessons follow the Sounds-Write scripts with fidelity so that children are familiar with the process and the vocabulary and learning is planned and sequential, building on prior knowledge and skills.

  • In Preschool, children are introduced to Sounds-Write lessons in the Summer term and focus on the code knowledge in Units 1 & 2 and practise the skills of segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation.
  • In Reception, from their second week in school, children start learning the Initial Code – one letter spellings, two consonant letter spellings and adjacent consonant blends as well as the skills of segmenting, blending and phoneme manipulation.
  • In Year 1, children learn the Extended Code – one sound different spellings and one spelling different sounds – first spellings (those used more frequently).
  • In Year 2, children continue to learn the Extended Code – one sound different spellings and one spelling different sounds – more spellings (those used less frequently) in more complex word structures.

In all phonics sessions, letter spellings and sounds are taught in the context of whole words. Children have the opportunity to consolidate previously taught spellings and sounds, learn and practise reading and writing new spellings within words and sentences and to retrieve and apply prior learning through reading and dictation.


Reading books

Children’s independent reading books that are read in school and at home are matched closely to the children’s phonics knowledge.  Sounds-Write and Dandelion Readers books match the order of phonics teaching and learning.  Adults listen to individual children reading three times a week in Reception and Year 1 to develop accurate decoding and fluency.  Children take home a decodable reading book every week to practise and celebrate their progress. When a child has a good knowledge of the Extended Code in Year 2 or above and has developed reading fluency and automaticity, they choose a range of age appropriate books to practise their independent reading skills.

Assessment and Progress

Sounds-Write promote formative assessment of their phonics programme. Teachers continually assess children’s code knowledge as well as blending and segmenting skills during phonics lessons and by listening to children read individually. Sounds-Write games and fun activities also support progress checks.

Sounds-Write Phonemic Skills Test checks children’s ability to use the three phonemic skills (blending, segmenting and sound deletion) and their Alphabet Code Knowledge Test checks if children know which sounds are represented by letter spellings. These checks are used at the beginning of Year 1 and Year 2 as baseline checks.

Summative assessment is used in Reception and Year 1 using an online reading assessment to check decoding, reading fluency, letter to sound correspondence accuracy and comprehension.  There are 4 assessment checks of the Initial Code in Reception and 3 assessment checks of the Extended Code in Year 1.

It is extremely important that children who do not make progress at the same rate as their peers within lessons are quickly identified and benefit from effective keep-up lessons to help them make progress. These lessons may be in a small group or individual keep up sessions depending on their specific needs.

Supporting learners with Special Educational Needs

When supporting learners in the early stages of reading, whatever their year group, it is essential to use strategies that are suitable to the learner’s developmental stage to support them to make progress. Detailed assessment to understand the barriers to learning being experienced by a learner is the starting point of any provision. Scaffolding and support, depending on the specific need(s), may include: an interactive and multi-sensory approach; additional teacher support to help with attention; using concrete resources to match initial sounds to written spellings; a quiet, distraction-free space; easy to read displays and support material and positioning within the learning session for optimum sight and hearing.

Love of Reading

There are daily opportunities to listen to stories being read out loud with expression and enthusiasm.

Reading corners are inviting and cosy areas with a variety of books and authors linked to learning as well as having familiar books to be enjoyed again and again.

Children have the opportunity to take home a library book every week to enjoy at home.

In Early Years, parents and children are invited in to school for our ‘Bedtime Stories’ event. Children enjoy listening to books being read out loud and parents find out more about our Sounds-Write phonics teaching and how to help support this important learning at home.

Reading is celebrated throughout the year with events such as World Book Day and Book Fairs and author visits.



  • Children develop the necessary code knowledge and skills to enable them to read with fluency, engagement and good understanding.
  • Children become fluent, confident, independent readers by the end of Key Stage 1.
  • Children are excited about reading, choose to share books with adults during independent play, read independently and talk about their favourite books and authors.
  • Our data is consistently above the national average.

Useful information about learning phonics and how to support your child at home:

If your child needs some help when they are reading you can:

  • Encourage them to use their finger under the word from left to right.
  • Ask them to ‘say the sounds and read the word’.
  • Tell them to ‘listen’ for the words as they say the sounds.
  • If they need more help, tell them the sounds in the word and ask them to listen and blend them to say the whole word.
  • It is important to say the sounds very precisely

Useful Documents

Useful Links about learning phonics:

  • Sounds Write Parent Leaflet
  • Online Parents Course ‘Help your child to read and write’ is an online Sounds-Write course in two parts. It’s aimed specifically at parents and carers who are interested in putting their children on the first steps to literacy. Part 1 covers the first seven units of the Initial Code, and Part 2 covers units 8 to 11 inclusive.
  • How to pronounce pure sounds – see our video created by our children in Reception

Phonics Pure Sounds Video