Phonics leaders: Mrs C. Sawyer and Miss A. Barlow

At Eaton Park Academy, we value that reading is a key life skill, which unlocks the wider curriculum, and therefore we are committed to help our pupils develop a lifelong enjoyment of reading. We understand that the teachings of reading is fundamental to the school’s improvement each year and have a sharp focus from the very start to maximum progress. We prioritise early reading and are determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background, needs, or abilities. All pupils, including the weakest readers, make sufficient progress to meet or exceed age related expectations.

We are determined that every child will be a successful, fluent reader and writer. We believe this is achievable through a combination of strong, high quality, fast paced, discrete phonics teaching, combined with regular, daily opportunities for developing and applying reading skills. We use a method of teaching called ‘synthetic, systematic phonics’ to teach pupils to read and spell.

To teach phonics, we use the DFE approved Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised phonics teaching programme to plan and provide daily engaging phonics lessons. The academy has clear expectations of pupils’ phonics term by term, from nursery to Year 2 (see progression map below).

In phonics, we teach children that the letters of the alphabet represent a different sound (phonemes) that can be used in a variety of combinations and are put together to make words. The children learn to recognise all of the different sounds and combinations that they might see when they are reading or writing. Our phonics teaching starts in Nursery and follows a very specific sequence that allows our children to build on their previous phonic knowledge and master specific phonic strategies as they move through school. As a result, our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. At Eaton Park, we also model these strategies in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on the development of language skills for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.

How we teach phonics:

  • In the nursery, children follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised ‘Foundations for Phonics’ guidance. The focus is on daily oral blending and language development through high quality stories and rhymes. We also introduce phase 2 letter sounds and allow the children to become familiar with the rhymes to help them form each letter.
  • In reception and Y1, children follow the progression within Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. Phonics is taught daily and there is a review session on a Friday and also review weeks each half term to consolidate learning.
  • By the end of reception, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 4.
  • By the end of year 1, children will have been taught up to the end of phase 5.
  • Reception lessons start at 10 minutes, with daily additional oral blending – increasing to 30 minutes as soon as possible.
  • Y1 lessons are 30 minutes long.
  • In Y2-Y3, phonic lessons are taught daily to children where appropriate – following the model of Little Wandle but plugging specific gaps identified through assessment.
  • For children who need it, there are also planned phonic ‘catch-up’ sessions following a set model to address specific reading/writing gaps. These are short, sharp sessions lasting 10 minutes in length and taking place at least three times a week.

Reading practice sessions:

  • Children across reception, year 1, year 2 (and beyond if appropriate) apply their phonics knowledge by using a full matched decodable reader in a small group reading practice session.
  • These sessions are 15 minutes long and happen three times a week. There are approximately 6 children in a group.
  • The sessions follow the model set out in Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised and allow the children to consolidate their learning in phonics lessons. The reading sessions also help to develop fluency when reading.
  • The children will have reading books to take home that are matched to the sounds they have been learning within their phonics lessons to increase reading fluency. It is an expectation that children read at home a minimum of three times a week.

Books match sounds:

  • We support the children’s application of phonics by matching their school and home reading books to the sounds that they have previously learnt in class to increase reading fluency. The children use Collins Big Cat phonics books which fully support the daily phonics lesson.
  • The books have been written to match the order in which grapheme−phoneme correspondences are introduced in the Little Wandle phonics programme
  • Each unit of Little Wandle Phonics links with a series of decodable texts. These are designed to give children the opportunity to practise their blending skills and to consolidate their knowledge of grapheme−phoneme correspondences, in the context of engaging texts.
  • Teachers show parents how they can practise reading sounds and words and listen to their children read decodable books during ‘Phonics Information meetings’ and ‘Watch Me Read’ sessions’.
  • Children who are just beginning to learn the letter/sound correspondences are learning at the same time to tell stories using books which do not have words to begin with. This is crucial in the development of spoken language and vocabulary and it is a necessary stepping stone towards becoming an accomplished reader and writer.

How do we assess phonic knowledge?

  • In reception and year 1, at the end of each week there is a review session, which recaps the learning. There are also whole review weeks (pre-planned and bespoke review weeks to address gaps identified by the class teacher’s ongoing formative assessment).
  • Children identified in reception and Y1 as in danger of falling behind are immediately identified and daily ‘keep up’ sessions are put in place – sessions follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme.
  • In reception and year 1, the children are assessed at the end of every half term using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker.
  • The children in Y1 sit the Phonics Screening Check in the summer term.
  • Children who do not pass the Phonics Screening Check in Y1, will re-sit this in Y2.
  • Children who need phonics beyond year 1 and need ‘catch up’ sessions are assessed through teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as half termly summative assessments.

Catch up quickly:

  • Teachers are responsible for assessing the progress of all pupils in their class. Ongoing assessment of pupils’ phonics progress is used from the start of nursery and is sufficiently frequent and detailed to identify any pupil who is falling behind the programme’s pace.
  • Teachers identify children and targeted support is given immediately. Children are given additional practise daily to ensure that they can recognise sounds and blend with confidence and accuracy; this helps all children keep up with the pace of the phonics programme. Leaders meet frequently with individual teachers to discuss the progress of their pupils and plan how to best support pupils who are making insufficient progress.
  • Leaders ensure that late arrivals are assessed immediately and accurately and appropriate support is given if necessary.

Early reading experts:

Eaton Park Academy have developed sufficient expertise in the teaching of phonics and reading. Every member of staff is fully trained in our academy’s phonics programme.

Staff are experts in teaching systematic, synthetic phonics and have a clear understanding of how pupils learn to read. They ensure that children are given quality lessons and daily opportunities to practise phonics and reading through whole class shared reading, paired reading and guided reading with an adult. There are also regular opportunities for children to read on an individual basis. Teachers, teaching assistants and all teachers who are new to the school are given CPD to ensure staff are well trained and knowledgeable. Leaders work closely with all staff to ensure that they continually develop their practise.

If you are a parent and would like more information about how to support your child with phonics at home, please follow this link to find the Reception and Year 1 overview as well as videos of the sound pronunciations, letter formation sheets and other helpful resources.

Watch our Little Wandle parent/carer information session here:

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