enquiries@curbar.derbyshire.sch.uk ·   01433 630 266

Reading and Phonics

Early Years and Key Stage 1

Reading and Phonics in the Early Years

Reading, along with writing, makes up literacy, one of the four specific areas of the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS 2021).   The term “literacy” is used by some to simply describe reading and writing, but in fact literacy covers a much wider range of learning.  Literacy in the early years includes talking about books, print in the environment, early mark making and writing, as well as sharing books and reading.  The framework says of literacy:



‘It is crucial for children to develop a life-long love of reading. Reading consists of two dimensions: language comprehension and word reading.  Language comprehension (necessary for both reading and writing) starts from birth.  It only develops when adults talk with children about the world around them and the books (stories and non-fiction) they read with them, and enjoy rhymes, poems and songs together.  Skilled word reading, taught later, involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words.  Writing involves transcription (spelling and handwriting) and composition (articulating ideas and structuring them in speech, before writing).


To be ready to start reading, children need to have a variety of skills in place.  These early reading skills include matching, rhyming, awareness of phonics and the skills associated with language development such as listening, attention, alliteration and sound discrimination.


At Curbar, communication, language and literacy sit at the heart of our curriculum design throughout our Early Years.  We are committed to engaging our children with stories and rhymes from a very young age.  Early language development is established through daily stories and rhymes.   Children will experience quality reading, story, rhyme, talk and play on a daily basis.  This is carefully planned within directed teacher led sessions and in our continuous provision.


The Simple View of Reading


Reading has two parts – word reading and comprehension. Our reading curriculum is underpinned by the Simple View of Reading. To become a successful reader, children need to have both decoding skills (the ability to ‘read’ the words on the page) and comprehension skills (the ability to ‘understand’ what is on the page).





What is phonics?


Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:

  • Recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes;
  • Identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’
  • Blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.
  • Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read.


The teaching of phonics is an integral part of the curriculum in our school.  From September 2021, we will be using the government validated systematic synthetic phonics programme (SSP) by ‘Bug Club Phonics‘ (See below for further information on this SSP).  Children are taught the 44 phonemes that make up all the sounds required for reading and spelling.   These phonemes include those made by just one letter and those that are made by two or more.  As the children grow in confidence and experience, they are introduced to alternative ways of representing the same sound, e.g. ‘igh’ can be represented as ‘igh’, ‘ie’, ‘i-e’, ‘i’


The teaching of phonics is given high priority and children begin to decode and read words quickly. Children have discrete, daily phonics sessions where they are introduced to new phonemes, can practise and revise previous learning and have plenty of opportunities to apply the knowledge they have.


The teaching of phonics is delivered by staff skilled in teaching early reading.  We provide  structured and enjoyable phonics activities that assist children in learning new sounds rapidly.  We use a range of multisensory strategies to enthuse and engage the children, including the use of interactive whiteboards, movement, speaking and listening, songs, rhymes, practical activities.  Children work with pace and are encouraged to apply their knowledge across the curriculum with any reading or writing activities.


Alongside the technique of ‘sounding out’ new words, we actively encourage the learning of words from memory.  Within our phonics planning, we teach children the high frequency words and common exception words, as highlighted in the National Curriculum.  We refer to these sight words as our ‘tricky words’.  Children are given opportunities to apply what they have learnt through reading, including time to read aloud to adults to practise their decoding skills and comprehension of what they are reading.


Why phonics?


Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way – starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to the most complex – it is the most effective way of teaching young children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged five to seven.   It gives all children a solid base upon which to build as they progress through school and helps children to develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and information.

Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go on to read any kind of text fluently and confidently, and to read for enjoyment. Children will also become confident phonetic spellers. This will then lead into teaching the children different spelling rules to help develop more accurate spelling.


Bug Club Phonics


Bug Club Phonics is one of the DfE’s approved phonics teaching programmes and aims to help all children in school learn to read by the age of six in a fun and accessible way.  Following its own proven progression, the whole school programme matches the National Curriculum and Early Learning Goals.


Bug Club Phonics contains 180 fully decodable readers with fiction and non-fiction titles from Phases 2 to 5 including stories from the hugely popular CBeebies Alphablock characters to ensure children read from books with the sounds they know as they are learning to read.  All titles are available in an engaging online reading world which includes allocatable eBooks so all children can apply the knowledge and skills from their phonics lesson at home that night.  






What can Bug Club Phonics help our pupils achieve?


  • A solid foundation in reading for all: Written by the same authors of the Clackmannanshire study, Bug Club Phonics uses the systematic synthetic phonics approach. This heavily influenced current government policy as it was shown to give the best foundation in reading for all children regardless of social and economic background.


  • Accessible and inclusive phonics teaching: Evidence shows keeping the children together fosters a sense of social inclusion and boosts the performance of children progressing more slowly.


  • Meets the requirements for the new Ofsted framework: Please see the detailed analysis so you may be confident in Bug Club Phonics’ ability to support  school in meeting the new requirements. You can access the document here .


  • Comfortable and confident learners: Videos of well-known CBeebies characters are weaved into lessons and characters, such as the Alphablocks, appear in the books helping to link the children’s home environment with the school.


  • A rich and varied reading experience: As part of the Bug Club family we can choose when to weave in readers that aren’t fully decodable to ensure enthusiasm for reading is nurtured.


  • Frequent and detailed assessment: In addition to the end of unit and phase summative assessments, appropriate and informal assessment opportunities are offered in the daily lessons and through fun games in the online world.


  • Extra help for those who fall behind: Guidance on how to support those who fall behind is provided throughout.


Nursery  (Phase 1): This phase falls largely within the Communication, Language and Literacy area of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage. The aim of this phase is to foster children’s listening and speaking skills as preparation for learning to read with phonics. The children will also have carefully planned activities that develop the skills needed before learning phonics. These skills are as follows:

  • Spoken language – Children will learn spoken language, the ability to listen carefully and respond through rich language experiences.  The adults are skilful in their communication often saying more is necessary to develop children’s understanding of language. There will be opportunities for silence and careful listening, play and interaction that enable them to engage in talk.


  • Physical activity ­– This supports sensory awareness and integration. Children will develop a range of physical skills to be able to engage effectively in learning, including being able to sit still and focus. This includes, balance and proprioception, crossing the midline, and sensory awareness and integration. These skills are not developed by sitting still. Young children need to be active; to move and have opportunities for vigorous activity to develop these physical foundations for learning.


  • Meta-linguistic awareness – In order to access our phonics teaching with success children need to be able to think and talk about language. Children will develop this awareness through language-play, and through reading storybooks in ways that draw children’s attention to language.


  • Environmental print – Becoming literate needs a context. Children in our setting will develop an understanding of why, where and how print (including digital print) is used, so that learning phonics and to read and write are meaningful activities.  Adults in the setting act as facilitators in children engaging with a print rich environment to support their emerging understanding, and use, of print.


  • Symbolisation –   Writing is the symbolic representation of speech, and reading is the decoding of symbols. Learning to symbolise requires that children make the cognitive shift from first to second-order symbolism. This is achieved through learning opportunities in nursery that facilitate children’s use of gesture and language, through symbolic use of resources in their play, and in mark marking.


  • Phonological awareness – Phonological awareness begins and flows from the ability to hear, recognise and label environmental sounds. Children are supported in developing their ability to identify and orally manipulate units of language, such as identifying oral rhymes, and an awareness of aspects of language such as words, syllables and onset-rime.


Reception (Phases 2-4):


In Reception children have a daily phonics session with their class teacher. They will continue to be exposed to a learning environment that develops the crucial pre phonic skills introduced in nursery. The children will very quickly, within the first few weeks of starting school, begin learning the phase 2 sounds. This will then progress at pace onto phase 3 and 4. All sessions are short, focused and of course fun! Children are split into groups and parents are informed on their development.  During these phases, children learn:

  • How to represent each of the 44 phonemes by a letter or sequence of letters
  • How to blend phonemes together for reading
  • How to segment (split) words for spelling
  • The letter names
  • How to read and spell some high frequency ‘tricky’ words e.g. they, my, you


Year 1 (Phase 5) – Children start year 1 recapping phase 4 for a couple of weeks and then consolidating all previous learning. The children then move onto phase 5. We understand that children move at a different pace so we have carefully planned intervention groups with excellent, trained staff. They will learn alternative ways of representing the same phoneme e.g. ai, ay, a-e. Children rapidly expand their ability to read and spell words with increasing challenge. They are also taught to read and spell words with more challenging and unusual spelling patterns e.g. chimpanzee. Parents can attend phonics workshops run throughout the year and can see phonics being taught. The phonics screening check is in June of year 1.


Year 2 (Phase 6): During this phase, children become fluent readers and increasingly accurate spellers. All children are taught phase 6 which is a focus on spelling- prefix, suffix, spelling rules, compound words, past tense and plural rules.


Early Learning Goal – Literacy


The level of development children should be expected to have attained by the end of the EYFS is defined by the early learning goals (ELGs) as set out below.


ELG: Comprehension


Children at the expected level of development will:


– Demonstrate understanding of what has been read to them by retelling stories
and narratives using their own words and recently introduced vocabulary;
– Anticipate – where appropriate – key events in stories;
– Use and understand recently introduced vocabulary during discussions about stories, non-fiction, rhymes and poems and during role-play.


ELG: Word Reading


Children at the expected level of development will:


– Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs;
– Read words consistent with their phonic knowledge by sound-blending;
– Read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge, including some common exception words.


Phonics Screening Test 


At the end of Year 1 children are assessed using the National Phonics Screening Test and this is repeated for those who did not achieve the appropriate level at the end of Year 2. This assessment gathers information on the children’s ability to blend and segment decodable words to read.



The children sit with Mrs Berry one to one in a relaxed environment and read 40 decodable words. If a child reads a word incorrectly, the teacher will just move onto the next word. Some words are real words and some are ‘pseudo’ or nonsense words (we describe these as the names of imaginary alien creatures). Above is a sample of 2 test pages. The test is very child friendly and is a great assessment tool for teachers.


In Year 2 – The children may or may not have passed. This information is carried to year 2 where we ensure the children are supported. We identify gaps and provide extra group work to support these children daily. Some children pass but may still need confidence building or help to apply their knowledge to their writing. All children are taught phase 6 which is a focus on spelling- prefix, suffix, spelling rules, compound words, past tense etc. The children who did not pass the check will get the chance to take it again in June.


After Year 2- Some children may still need support with their reading, writing and confidence in this area. Teachers communicate the children’s needs and parents are informed on progress. Children will be part of our provision map to ensure support carefully matches their needs and quickly diminishes the difference and closes the gap in attainment.


As a school, we have clear expectations on our children’s phonics progress term-by-term, from Reception to Year 2.


We are committed to investing in high-quality phonetically decodable reading books in school.  Books are sequenced systematically and are matched closely to our phonics programme.  Quality time is given to children to practise reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both at school and at home.  ‘Bug Club Phonics’ also allow us to use online books too.


Home Support


At Curbar, we believe parental involvement makes a huge impact on the children’s love for reading. You begin the reading journey by communicating with your children, singing, sharing books and exploring sounds.  Reading begins with listening.



Please take a look at the parent reading guide below for further ideas and tips: 


Reading at home with your child leaflet for parents 2021




Some useful websites

If you would like to find out more about phonics, visit the phonics section of the Department for Education Website (Click Here) https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/phonics


Other websites to support practice phonic skills


Cbeebies Alphablocks – Reading and phonics support
We are committed to supporting all of our parents in becoming skilled and confident in supporting their child’s phonics.  Further information on supporting children’s phonics at home can be found below.


We are committed to supporting all of our parents in becoming skilled and confident in supporting their child’s phonics. Further information on supporting children’s phonics at home can be found below.

Pronunciation of pure sounds

How to pronounce the sounds

Sounds mat


School Contact Details

Calver Bridge, Calver, Hope Valley.

Derbyshire, S323XA

E: enquiries@curbar.derbyshire.sch.uk

T: 01433630266


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