Phonics and early reading

We follow the DFE accredited Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) programme to ensure consistent high quality teaching of phonics so that pupils learn to read well, quickly.  

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS)

Essential Letters and Sounds is a synthetic, systematic phonics programme developed for teachers by teachers. 

The principles of ELS are based upon:

  • the delivery of whole-class, high-quality first teaching with well-structured daily lesson plans
  • the use of consistent terminology by teachers, children and parents
  • the use of consistent resources that support effective teaching
  • repetition and reinforcement of learning
  • regular and manageable assessment to ensure that all children ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’
  • the ‘E’ mode (whole school approach/training)

We start by teaching phonics in Nursery, building knowledge and skills in Reception and Key stage 1. 

Through the rigorous ELS teaching programme, children will build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear and say (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes).

Nursery Phonics

 In Nursery, early language development and exploration of sounds is key to getting the learning behaviours for ELS embedded. We explore Phase 1 phonics which encourages auditory segmenting and blending using musical instruments etc. The key is developing vocabulary and language composition with the early introduction of graphemes (letters) and phonemes (sounds). When appropriate, the practitioners will then introduce the initial sounds and may begin to teach digraphs.

Reception Phonics

In Reception Class we revise all letter sounds and learn new digraphs and trigraphs. At this stage the children are also becoming more confident with segmenting and blending sounds to read whole words. In Reception children are also taught words with 4 and 5 sounds in them and alternate ways to read and write different sounds. Assessments take place every 5 weeks to ensure pupils are retaining their learning and building fluency and automaticity (automatic reading skills) to ensure confident readers. 

Year 1 and Year 2 Phonics

The same approach as Reception continues into Year 1 and 2 to offer a consistent approach. The children learn to read and write a range of graphemes and alternate graphemes. Alongside this the children are taught the ‘tricky words’ – high frequency words which do not follow the regular phonetic pattern and are an exception to the phonetic code. 

Phonics and reading (Book Talk) activities are taught daily in whole class and small group sessions.

Discrete phonic sessions take place daily for 15 - 20 minutes and there are also enhanced phonic activities within the indoor and outdoor environment available for the children to explore independently throughout the day.

Phonics provision is also supplemented by a wide range of speaking and listening, English, spelling and grammar activities.

Year 3 - 6 Phonics

If a pupil's decoding skills or reading fluency are not a the expected standard when they leave Key Stage 1 the teaching of synthetic phonics continues in Key Stage 2. This approach ensures that the gaps pupils have in learning are rapidly closed to allow them to become confident, fluent readers to further develop their comprehension skills. Each half term the pupils assessments will be used to plan the next steps in learning to ensure all pupils 'Keep up' and no pupils have to 'Catch up'




Please watch this clip to find out more information about Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS).

Phonics progression

To find out more about how we sequence phonics teaching please click on the progress document below.

Click to Download Phonics Progression [pdf 795KB] Click to Download
Phonics: How to pronounce pure sounds | ELS

Learn how to pronounce all 44 phonics sounds, or phonemes, used in the English language.