Abbeymead Primary School

Phonics and Early Reading

Our Key Aims in reading: 

  • For all children to develop the skills, confidence and passion to develop a life-long love of reading.
  • To ensure that reading is prioritised across all elements of the curriculum. 
  • When starting at Abbeymead to ensure that all children quickly develop the early reading skills they need with phonics at the heart of the provision.
  •  Develop phonetic skills which lead to blending and reading fluently.
  • Instil a love of reading for pleasure that lasts a lifetime while ensuring that children understand the value of reading as a life skill
  • Encourage children to become enthusiastic and reflective readers by introducing them to a range of genres and authors
  • Develop children’s confidence, fluency and independence as a reader when reading for different purposes
  • To ensure that all children are provided with the support needed to catch up quickly if they fall behind. 


Phonics and it's role in Early Reading

At Abbeymead, we give a high priority to the teaching of phonics as we know that reading is a lifelong skill that unlocks all learning. Our aim is for all pupils to leave our school being able to read fluently and have a love of reading. Therefore, we are dedicated to ensuring that early reading, through phonics, is taught effectively every day.

 You can see out phonics guidance document here: 

What is phonics?

Phonics is an approach to teaching some aspects of literacy, by developing pupils' knowledge and understanding of the relationship between written symbols and sounds. It is a method of teaching children to read by linking sounds (phonemes) and the symbols that represent them (graphemes, or letter groups). This is the approach used at Abbeymead to teach reading. 

Phonics involves breaking words down (segmenting them) into sound chunks and sounding them out before blending the sounds together. We use the DfE validated systematic, synthetic phonics scheme Unlocking Letters and Sounds to support our delivery of early reading sessions. 

High quality teaching and learning in phonics is crucial in establishing accurate and fluent readers across the Early Years, Key Stage One, and beyond. 

At Abbeymead we believe that reading is a skill which is taught through planned, systematic phonics lessons which lead to the enjoyment of a range of books and the ability to access information independently. Through their own reading, we hope that children will develop their individual tastes in literature, develop an interest in reading and be able to understand and justify their own choice of books.



Teaching of Phonics at Abbeymead 

At Abbeymead we use Unlocking Letters and Sounds systematic, synthetic phonics programme to teach with rigour and fidelity. We teach our phonics, so that it is accessible to all, by planning for 100% engagement from each child. Synthetic systematic phonics is a key skill that supports the development of early reading. 

We place our quality phonics teaching in a language rich curriculum, with exposure to a range of both physical and digital texts. We continually aim to make strides towards closing the word gap. 

Working alongside parents and carers we want to provide our pupils with the skills they need to have a successful start to their lives as readers and to ensure that our children develop a love of reading. 


Click here to find out what your child will learn and when: Abbeymead Phonics Progression


In order to implement our intent, and measure its impact, we:

  • Explicitly teach phonics daily in EYFS and KS1, with high expectations of all children. 
  • Plan and teach following the rigorous sequential approach using Unlocking Letters and Sounds Phonics.
  • Follow Unlocking Letters and Sounds Progression document (Appendix 1) to ensure clear milestones for each year group.
  • Have a strong start in EYFS, ensuring we start phonics teaching immediately after settling in, then following the Progression document.
  • Continue to use Phonics in KS2 for children requiring support, and for spelling strategies for all children.
  • Teach our classes as a whole group thereby employing a ‘keep-up’, rather than ‘catch-up’ approach.
  • Provide plenty of opportunity throughout the day for children to revise and apply their new phonics knowledge. 
  • Ensure each phonics lesson involves all children learning, all of the time, following the same structure
    1. Revisit and review
    2. Teach
    3. Practise
    4. Apply 
  •  Use assessment for learning strategies to identify those at risk of falling behind, and to provide additional challenges for those that need it. We ‘scoop up’ quickly, by providing planned interventions that are delivered outside of the daily phonics lesson.
  • Undertake assessment of phonics learning half termly. This data is monitored by individual class teachers, but also by the Phonics Lead and English Team. Teachers and the Phonics Lead ensure this information is fed back into planning.
  • Use Unlocking Letters and Sounds pictures and rhymes to support the teaching of graphemes. These are consistent across the school. Phase 2 Actions and Images (Taught in Autumn Term EYFS) Phase 3 Actions and Images (Taught Spring Term EYFS)
  • Ensure our resources (including flash cards, actions, and slides) are consistent across the school.
  • Ensure our staff undertake regular training in the delivery of our phonics programme.
  • Undertake supportive monitoring of phonics planning and teaching, so that we can continually develop our practice.
  • Make every effort to support parents and carers with learning at home. This includes meetings, videos on our Dojo pages, resources to practise graphemes and sight words.
  • Provide reading books that are matched to the individual child’s phonic knowledge and that are 100% phonically decodable.


Support for children who haven't got phonics yet!   

At Abbeymead, daily formative assessment plays a vital role in the early identification of any pupils who are in danger of falling behind in their phonics learning.

Staff have an understanding of an array of short, targeted interventions as recommended by Unlocking Letters and Sounds. These interventions are delivered with identified children with the aim that they will ‘keep up’ rather than having to ‘catch up’.


More summative assessments are completed every new term, assessing grapheme-phoneme correspondence and word reading.  The impact of interventions feeds into this, so it is very much a working document between summative assessment points. Monitoring by the Early Reading Lead helps to track pupil progress and support teachers in ensuring accelerated progress for those falling behind.


Staff at Abbeymead are skilled in ensuring the full engagement of all pupils within the whole class phonics lesson. As part of this, they may determine that certain children sit within the teacher’s direct eye-line or more closely to a supporting TA or have additional scaffolds to assist them.


How you can help at home

1. Reading every night at home with your child

Every week each child will be sent home a phonics decodable book at their reading level (these have coloured bands). Read these with your child and ask them questions about the story. 

Here is a video from Alix Twine, Early reading and Phonics leader, demonstrating how to support your child with reading at home and showing the importance of re-reading for fluency. 



2. Practise reading and writing tricky words

If children know these they are more likely to gain speed and fluency in their reading. 


3. Encourage your child to play phonic games 

 Here is a video from Caroline Bishop, EYFS phase leader, demonstrating how to support your child with reading at home and showing the importance of re-reading for fluency. 


Websites that can also be used to support learning

Ensuring a successful transition from Year 2 to 3 and beyond


We recognise that a strong transition programme between Years 2 and 3 is essential for success across the curriculum, but especially in reading.

Our key stage 2 teachers and support staff across Key Stage 2 have received phonics training. This ensures that the strength in our phonics programme does not come to an  end because the children have entered the junior phase of their education. In additon our intervention and support programme continues, until the point when pupils become fluent readers.


  Jargon Busting of the key terms we use in our teaching:

You can find out more information about all things phonics at this easy to use page.


Pure Sounds – pronouncing the sounds of letters and combinations of letters correctly, for example not saying ‘muh’ but ‘mmmmm’. Avoid trying to say an ‘uh’ at the end of the sound.

Oral blending – hearing a series of sounds and merging them together to say the word, for example an adult says ‘b-u-s’ and the child says ‘bus’.

Blending – children see a word, say those individual sounds in the word and then merges those sounds together to hear the whole words like c-a-t makes ‘cat’. This is vital for reading.

Segmenting – the opposite to blending. Children break up the word into its component sounds. This is vital for spelling and writing words.

Phoneme – The smallest unit of sound. There are approximately 44 in the English language to learn.

Grapheme – the written form of a phoneme. They can be made up of different numbers of letters for example 1 letter – s, 2 letters – ai, 3 letters – igh.

Digraph – two letters that make one phoneme, for example oo, oa, ee

Trigraph – three letters that make one phoneme, for example ear, igh, air

Split digraph –you may know this as the’magic e’? It is when a digraph (ie) has been split and a consonant has been placed in the middle. The ‘ie’ is still making the sound despite a letter in the middle. There are five split digraphs to learn:

i_e like in time

a_e like in cake

o_e like in joke

e_e like in theme

u_e like in tube


Long vowel sound – The long vowel sound is the same as the name of the vowel itself. Follow these rules: 1. Long A sound is AY as in cake. 2. Long E sound is EE an in sheet. 3. Long I sound is AHY as in like. 4. Long O sound is OH as in bone. 5. Long U sound is YOO as in human or OO as in crude. Long vowel sounds are often created when two vowels appear side by side in a syllable

Short vowel sound - If a word contains only one vowel, and that vowel appears in the middle of the word, the vowel is usually pronounced as a short vowel. c-a-t, or th-u-n-d-er

Decoding/decodable – being able to ‘sound out’ the word into its component phonemes.

Syllable - Words are made up of different parts, these are called syllables. We often count syllables in a word by clapping the units of sound e.g. Christ-mas (2) hel-i-cop-ter (4) tin (1) cin-e-ma (3)

Polysyllabic – a word that is made up of more than one syllable.

Sound buttons – ways of visually isolating different sounds in a word. We use a dot under letters where one letter makes one sound and a line understand digraphs or trigraphs. 

Every time the button is pressed your child makes the sound and then blends all the sounds together to read the words. The word ‘cat’ would have three dot sounds buttons and ‘moon’ would also have three but the ‘oo’ would have a longer line button underneath.

Common Exception Words:

These are words that the children should be able to read (and ideally spell) by the end of each phase. They are called common exception words as they can not all be sounded out using the graphemes learnt during that phase. They have a phonic clue and a tricky part. We teach the children to identify these parts of each common exception word.


What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The phonics screening check is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps the school confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.


What are ‘alien  non/pseudo-words’?

The check will contain a mix of real words and or ‘pseudo-words’ (or ‘nonsense/alien words’). Children will be told before the check that there will be non-words that he or she will not have seen before. Many children will be familiar with this because many schools already use ‘non-words’ when they teach phonics. Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap’ or ‘jound’ are new to all children. Children cannot read the non-words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.


After the check

The school will tell you about your child’s progress in phonics and how he or she has done in the screening check in the last half-term of Year 1.

If your child has found the check difficult, your child’s school should also tell you what support they have put in place to help him or her improve. You might like to ask how you can support your child to take the next step in reading.

Children who have not met the standard in Year 1 will retake the check in Year 2. All children are individuals and develop at different rates. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.


Mead Road, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL4 5YS

Tel: 01452371710