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Subject Vision

Our vision is that through high quality teaching of systematic, synthetic phonics, children will become fluent, confident and enthusiastic readers by the end of KS1. With phonics as the stepping stone to becoming a fluent reader, and being a fluent reader being the gateway to success in other areas of the curriculum, we firmly believe that high quality phonics provision can impact our children’s future life chances.



At Earl Spencer Primary School, we recognise reading as a key life skill which underpins access to the rest of our broad and exciting curriculum. We recognise phonics as the stepping stone to becoming a fluent, confident reader; as a result phonics is given a high priority throughout EYFS and Key Stage 1.


In order to succeed in phonics, children start with the foundations of acquiring grapheme-phoneme correspondences for the 44 sounds (including alternative pronunciations where appropriate), blending for reading, and segmenting for spelling. They also need to successfully recognise and spell common exception words that don’t follow grapheme-phoneme correspondences they have been taught.


Once confident with the foundations, children will have the knowledge and skills they need to read texts automatically and will no longer rely on decoding as the route to reading. Once reading is automatic, energy can be focussed on comprehension skills, spelling rules and reading for pleasure.




Essential Letters and Sounds’ is our chosen validated systematic, synthetic phonics programme. Lessons are delivered by teachers to whole classes and teaching begins from the first days of Reception. A whole class teaching approach means that all children receive high quality first teaching every day. It also means that phonics lessons are not impacted by staff absence and no valuable teaching time is wasted due to transitions into groups. If children cannot access whole class teaching for a particular reason, for example new to English children or children with SEND, small groups are facilitated. Each lesson is accompanied by an IWB presentation that provides all the content needed to teach the new grapheme and phoneme. Each presentation is consistent, visual and embedded with new vocabulary. The children know what to expect in each lesson, reducing their cognitive load. Mnemonics, rhymes and pictures are used to aid recall of graphemes and practise and repetition are key.


The teaching of phonics is a priority in EYFS and KS1 and we allow up to an hour a day on the timetable dedicated to phonics. In EYFS and KS1 there are currently two discrete sessions of phonics daily. The first session is new learning following the IWB presentation. The second session is either an apply activity linked to the new learning or paired reading. In the apply activity linked to the new learning, the teacher carries out a targeted intervention with the lowest 20% using grapheme tiles while the rest of the class complete the apply activity sheet (after being heavily modelled). Apply activities require children to apply their phonic knowledge to read words, sentences and larger chunks of text. Fluency is built up as children read the text multiple times; the first time they identify the new grapheme and decode, the second time they read with more automaticity and the third time they read with intonation and expression. Apply activities also require the children to write sentences from dictation. They use the ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ spelling sequence to help them spell. In the paired reading activity, children read a decodable book together, taking it in turns to read sentences 3 times to build up fluency in the same was as detailed above.    


Embedded into the progression of ELS are review days and weeks which enable consolidation of taught graphemes. Regular review of previously taught graphemes also takes place outside of phonics lessons; when the children are lining up or getting a snack for example. This enables children to acquire new knowledge and skills and also consolidate previous learning ensuring that they know more, remember more and can do more. In EYFS and Year 1, phonics activities that support the children’s learning are also included in continuous provision.


Phonics displays in classrooms in EYFS and KS1 contain graphemes (with the accompanying pictures) and ‘harder to read and spell’ words for each phase and are referred to during lessons. Consistent sound mats that contain graphemes (and their pictures) and ‘harder to read and spell’ words for each phase are used in writing lessons in EYFS and KS1. These are also used where needed in KS2.


Children are assessed in week 5 of every half term using ‘phonics tracker’. Children are assessed on the graphemes they have been taught that half term and also any gaps from previous assessments. They are also required to read real words and pseudo words containing taught graphemes. Using the ELS guidance, class data is analysed and ‘on track’ percentages are generated. Any children who are not ‘on track’ will receive targeted support (see interventions). Any grapheme that is recalled by less than 80% of the class is reviewed daily in lessons. To back up ELS ‘on track’ percentages, children complete practise phonics screening checks and bench marks are used to predict how they will perform in the actual check. They take place as follows: End of EYFS (12/40), November Year 1 (19/40), February Year 1 (25/40). All data is discussed in pupil progress meetings.


Interventions are timely and reactive and enable children to ‘keep up rather than catch up’. Children who have been identified as needing extra support, can receive any of the three ELS interventions (oral blending, grapheme phoneme correspondence and blending for reading). These interventions are delivered 1:1, last less than 5 minutes and can be delivered in isolation or joined together. ELS does not advocate for group interventions or for children to be removed for extended periods of time out of the classroom where they are excluded from the rest of the curriculum. The children’s progress in phonics interventions is recorded and monitored through Edukey.


Children who did not pass the Year 2 re-take of the phonics screening check, or children who did pass but still have gaps in their phonic knowledge, continue to have phonics interventions in KS2. Similarly, children who join the school in KS2 who are new to English also have phonics teaching in KS2. We use ‘Readerful’ books in KS2 which are high engagement, low reading level books. The aim is to get children who struggle with reading motivated; the books are age appropriate in terms of themes and design and the books are chunky so they look similar to the books their peers are reading. 


A wide variety of phonics books that are aligned to ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ are available for all children to use. Children are sent home with books that closely match their phonic knowledge meaning that children have the knowledge they need to successfully decode independently. Children are expected to read their book 4 times a week and reading books are changed on a Friday. Once children have completed the ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ scheme and are reading fluently, they are able to move onto accelerated reader books.   


We recognise the impact that parental involvement and support can have on our children’s reading progress. As a result, at the beginning of the EYFS year we hold a parents’ morning to educate parents about what phonics is, to inform them about ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ and to let them know how they can best support their child at home. In addition to this, in Year 1 we hold a parents’ morning to inform parents about the Year 1 phonics screening check and what this entails (we also invite the parents of any Year 2 children who did not meet the expected standard in year 1 to this). Information about ELS can be found on our school website and EYFS and Year 1 teachers also have a phonics sub-page on their class pages to inform parents about what the children have been learning each week. EYFS teachers also communicate with parents about phonics via Tapestry.    



At the end of EYFS and Year 1, attainment milestone targets will have been met.

The majority of children in Year 1 will meet the expected standard for the Year 1 screening check and this will be in line with or above national standards.

The majority of children will be fluent readers by the end of KS1, showing confidence and an enthusiasm for reading for pleasure. 

Children will make progress in other areas of the curriculum by transferring their phonic knowledge and skills.