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Phonics and Early Reading - Subject Leader: Mrs Cat Young

Intent – Why do we teach this?

At St Mark's, we believe a strong understanding of phonics is a necessary life-long skill and are dedicated to enabling our pupils to develop the strong phonics foundations they need in order to become fluent and motivated readers and writers. Children are taught the phonemes and graphemes that enable them to read and write, through Essential Letters and Sounds, a structured and consistent daily programme of phonics aligned to Letter and Sounds and the National Curriculum. They then apply this knowledge to their writing across the curriculum, and through 1:1 and guided reading sessions using books that are carefully matched to their development and ability. We aim for children to read words and simple sentences by the end of Reception, become successful, fluent readers by the end of Key Stage 1 and develop a lifelong love of reading which enables them to access a wide range of genres and text types as they move through school.

Our Phonics Programme

To implement our Phonics curriculum we use Essential Letters and Sounds, a systematic synthetic phonics programme based on Letters and Sounds. This involves daily phonics sessions that:

  • reinforce and build on prior learning,
  • introduce new sounds at an appropriate pace, while allowing extra time to focus on sounds that children find more challenging,
  • provide opportunities to read and write tricky and common exception words,
  • enable the application of new and previously learned phonemes and graphemes through a variety of reading and writing activities, including reading pseodu-words (nonsense words).

Phonics and Reading

Children across EYFS and KS1 are read with by an adult at school weekly, using books that have been matched to their developing phonetic ability. The books have been carefully grouped to ensure they are fully decodable while still providing challenge through the application of the most recently learned sounds. Children move through the book levels in-line with their progress in phonics so that they feel a sense of achievement in their ability to access the texts. In addition, children are given phonically decodable books to practise at home with adults. For information about how you can help, please click here. 

Until children are reading at a pace and fluency that allows them to decode at speed, they are not assessed on their comprehension ability. Instead, they are exposed to high quality texts with rich vocabularies, and engage in comprehension discussions of books that are read to them, in order to develop the skills they will need when reading independently.

Phonics and Writing

Writing is an integral part of a phonics lesson. When learning a new sound, children practise segmenting and writing individual words that contain the new sound. Children will also write dictated sentences that contain previously learned sounds and common exception words in order to practise their segmenting and spelling skills.


Formative phonics assessment happens daily during phonics lessons, reading sessions and when children are writing. During a phonics lesson, plans may be adapted to address any misconceptions or difficulties, or individual pupils may be given extra support for a short period of time.

Formal assessment takes place at set times throughout the year (on entry, and at the end of the Autumn, Spring and Summer terms).  This data is collated and used to identify children in need of extra support, and to look for trends over time. Groupings and lessons are adapted as a result, and children who are falling behind take part in an intervention programme to help them catch up. Children in Year 1 and those in Year 2 who did not pass the Phonics Screening Check (PSC) are assessed at regular points throughout the year on their ability to read real and nonsense words. Children who do not pass the PSC in Year 2 continue to receive phonics intervention support throughout KS2.

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)

Phonics is a critical skill in helping all children prepare for life. For children with SEND, phonics lessons may be tailored to specific individual need. This includes ensuring that they take place daily and are well-paced, motivating and engaging, and take full account of the child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, knowledge and understanding, and profile of needs. Assessment of children with SEND takes place regularly and may be adapted if necessary.

Phonics in KS2

Throughout KS2, children who struggle with phonics will continue to receive intervention support that is age-appropriate, engaging and challenging in order to foster and maintain a love of literacy, and the ability to contribute successfully to society in later life.

A recording of Mrs Young's presentation for parents about phonics at St Mark's on 22nd September 2022 is available to view here.

Impact – What will this look like?

The majority of our children develop their knowledge and understanding of phonics in order to be able to read and write words and simple sentences by the end of Reception. They become successful, fluent readers and writers by the end of Key Stage 1 and have experienced pleasure from reading which enables them to access a wide range of genres and text types as they move through school.

By the end of EYFS, all children have progressed through Phases 1-4 and will be able to read, write and recall most sounds from Phases 2 and 3, as well as reading consonant clusters in Phase 4, and will be beginning to apply these to pseudo-words.

By the end of Year 1, children have progressed through Phase 5 and will have a strong recall of all the taught GPCs. They will be fluently reading books that match their phonic ability and the results from the PSC will be above national average. Children will be able to apply the Phase 5 graphemes to more of their writing, and spellings will become more accurate.

By the end of Year 2, children are increasingly fluent and accessing an wide range of texts, including chapter books, and using non-fiction books with greater understanding. Their spellings will continue to develop in accuracy as they learn spelling patterns and rules. Children who did not pass the PSC in Year 1 are given support throughout Year 2 in order to pass it in the Summer term.

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