Reading & Phonics

Reading & Phonics


“The teaching of phonics is a particular strength and most pupils go on to become confident readers.” OFSTED report September 2016

At Sedbergh Primary School, reading is one of our top teaching and learning priorities. We recognise that knowing how to read is the single most important thing in life – everything else depends on it, so the staff put as much energy as they can into making sure that every single child learns how to read. We believe that once reading is mastered, the world opens up!

The first thing we teach the children is to learn the basic facts about letters. They will learn the shapes and sounds of all the letters used in the English language. This approach is called “phonics”. In Key Stage 1, the children attend daily Letters and Sounds sessions where they learn how to “read” the sounds in the words and how those sounds can be written down. This is essential for reading but also helps children learn how to spell. Children also practise reading “tricky words”. Once children can blend sounds together to read words, they practise their reading with appropriately levelled reading books that match the phonics and tricky words they know. Thus starts the wonderful journey of being able to pick up and turn the pages of a book. Children start to believe they can read and their confidence and self-esteem grows. At Sedbergh Primary School, we use a variety of reading schemes – Big Cat, Ginn and Oxford Reading Tree which allows the children to experience reading fiction and non-fiction texts. Children are asked to take home their reading books regularly, and parents/carers are encouraged to take an active role in their child’s progress through regular reading with their child at home. Every child in school has a reading diary that is a two-way communication tool between school and families.
Once our children have grasped the mechanics of reading our priority shifts towards reading comprehension and children take part in regular guided reading sessions. Children are organised in small groups and study appropriately levelled texts. The class teacher or teaching assistants ask searching questions that allow children to practise deduction or inference type thinking. In the Summer Term, Year 2 and Year 6 have statutory tests where their ability to answer questions about a text are measured. To prepare children for this, we ensure our teaching of reading includes lots of opportunities to discuss characters, settings and events. This reading for meaning is so important.

Children who are struggling with reading receive specific reading intervention to meet their needs, such as more 1-1 reading support with an adult. In addition they may be registered on IDL, a computer based programme of reading lessons. Year 5 and 6 are involved in shared reading with Key Stage 1 children. On a weekly basis, parents are invited to read with children in classes for an ERIC (Everyone Reads In Class) session, (usually Friday afternoons from 3.10 pm).


Teachers read regularly to their class, so that the children listen to a range of genres. In most classes, teachers use texts from the “Power of Reading” list of books. This helps extend children’s vocabulary, comprehension and writing skills.

Ultimately, reading for pleasure is our goal. Throughout the academic year Book Fairs are organised. Children visit the Book Bus during the year to choose various books. World Book Day and National Poetry Day are celebrated to encourage the love of reading a range of genres. Our library is in the process of being refurbished and aims to promote reading for pleasure, so exciting times are ahead!



“The teaching of phonics is a strength of the school. Work starts in the early years and builds effectively throughout key stage 1. From their different starting points, pupils make good progress.” OFSTED September 2016

Phonics is taught in a highly structured programme of daily lessons across Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 in groups differentiated according to children’s phonic awareness and development. In Key Stage 2, children who need to revisit phonic phases participate in weekly Letter and Sound sessions. The Letters and Sound programme is followed, providing a synthetic approach to the teaching of phonics.
Children in Nursery begin with Phase 1 which provides a range of listening activities through play, to develop their listening skills. As children move into Reception they continue to build upon the listening activities and are introduced to Phase 2 which marks the start of systematic phonic work. Grapheme-phoneme correspondence is introduced. The process of segmenting whole words and selecting letters to represent those phonemes is taught writing the letters to decode words.

Phase 3 completes the teaching of the alphabet and then moves on to cover sounds represented by more than one letter, learning one representation for each of the 44 phonemes. At this stage just one spelling is given for each phoneme. When children become secure they continue into Phase 4 where they start to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants. No new phonemes are introduced at this phase.

It is expected that children will enter Phase 5 as they begin Year 1, broadening their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn new graphemes and alternative pronunciations for these and graphemes they already know, where relevant. It is expected that children entering Year 2 will start Phase 6 which develops a variety of spelling strategies including spelling of words with prefixes and suffixes, and spelling words with unusual grapheme-phoneme correspondence.

Children’s progress is continually reviewed to allow for movement between ability groups, and children move phonics group when it is felt necessary to meet their needs. Children are formally assessed at the end of each half term.

The National Phonics Screening check is performed in June for Year 1 pupils. The purpose of the screening check is to confirm that all children have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard. The children who do not meet the required standard for the check in Year 1 continue their learning of phonics and are re-screened in Year 2.