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Phonics and Reading

The overarching aim for English in the national curriculum is to promote high standards of language and literacy by equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word, and to develop their love of literature.


At Mandeville Primary School, we aim to ensure that all pupils:

  • read fluently with good understanding
  • develop the habit of reading widely and often, for both pleasure and acquiring information
  • have a wide vocabulary, an understanding of grammar and knowledge of linguistic conventions needed for reading, writing and spoken language
  • appreciate our rich and varied literary heritage.


Skilled word reading involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) along with the recognition of familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This understanding is why phonics is emphasised in the early teaching of reading. 


The teaching of phonics begins in the Early Years Foundation Stage. As from January 2023, we are implementing ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’, which is an accredited systematic, synthetic phonics programme. Its purpose is to provide a fun and engaging programme that meets all the expectations of the national curriculum in reading and spelling.

Implementing the programme with fidelity, using the newly purchased resources, will support consistency of approach across the school. It will also ensure that the current rigour and high levels of achievement in terms of phonics teaching and learning is upheld.


Pupils are gradually introduced to sounds through modelling, repetition and playing games involving the sounds. The reading of books is carefully aligned to the phonic sounds taught so children can consolidate their learning. Pupils across Year One participate in a twenty minute phonics session each day, which allows for rigorous coverage of the curriculum. At the end of Year One, the Phonic Screening Check is completed. After this check, some children will revisit specific phases in the programme in Year Two. In Year Two, all children will follow the Year Two spelling curriculum using the Herts for Learning ‘Essential Spelling’ programme.


Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (in particular, from vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world. Comprehension skills develop through pupils’ experience of high-quality discussions, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems, and non-fiction texts. All pupils are encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world in which they live, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech.


In The Early Years Foundation Stage, children are gradually introduced to reading through modelling and sharing books. They are given an individual reading book when the teacher feels they are ready and this aligns to the sounds that they have learnt. Starting in Year One, and when children are confident and fluent in using all the phonic sounds, they are able to choose books that are in a coloured banded system. We have a variety of core book schemes so there is a range of books with each phonic sound and in each colour band. Key skills and techniques are modelled and taught throughout Key Stage One and Key Stage Two. Parents/carers are encouraged to share books, read to and listen to their child read at home on a daily basis.


At Mandeville, we endeavour to ensure all pupils are able to read fluently, and with confidence across the curriculum. We aim to develop children’s love of books, a true enjoyment of reading which will continue for life!

Seven Aspects Of Reading


How do we prioritise reading?

  • Each of our classrooms has a reading corner where pupils can sit comfortably to read and enjoy books. Books are rotated regularly by staff to match the class learning themes and pupils’ interests. The area is resourced with a range of reading material to extend reading for pleasure. In the Early Years classes, teddies and puppets are used to encourage reading aloud and re-telling stories.
  • Each classroom has a selection of books as a mini library with a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. 
  • We endeavour to use books and high quality texts to enrich learning and provide access to a range of genre.
  • To encourage reading at home, we hold information sessions and promote reading in our class weekly communications with parents/carers. We use reading records to monitor pupils reading at home so that we can provide extra provision in school, as needed.
  • Reading is celebrated in our school by holding reading events throughout the year, such as the Summer Reading Challenge, The Bishop’s Stortford Picture Book Award Ceremony, Book Fair, World Book Day and author visits.
  • Guided reading sessions take place daily in all classes. Reading sessions run for 10-20 minutes in the Early Years and 25 minutes in Key Stage One and Two.
  • ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’, an accredited systematic, synthetic phonics programme, is followed. Daily keep up sessions are provided for those pupils identified as falling behind. Further small groups are put in place to support children, as needed.
  • Early reading is encouraged by providing pupils with non-worded reading books in the first instance. Once they have developed their phonics and decoding skills they are then moved on to texts that match their phonic ability and are fully decodable.
  • Pupils who are learning phonics in Early Years and Key Stage One take home a reading book which matches the phonics that they have been taught. These books are sent home with an emphasis on reading for fluency. They can also choose a ‘Free Choice Book’ as a book to share and to be read to for pleasure. Children in Key Stage One and Two also have the opportunity to take home a library book weekly. Once children have completed ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’ they take home a banded book and their library book. Children continue to be given support in what books to choose as their individual reading book.
  • Pupil librarians take responsibility for running the library at lunchtimes and encourage younger children to visit.
  • Community members, including ‘Schoolreaders’ volunteers, as well as parents/carers, visit the school and listen/read to pupils, who have been identified as needing extra support.
  • The school arranges and promotes visits to Sawbridgeworth Library.


How do we promote a love of reading?

  • All staff are expert readers, modelling reading skills, discussing texts read with the pupils and sharing their own love of reading.
  • Teachers read class stories and poetry to promote a love and enjoyment of stories, immersing them in the world of imagination.
  • Our learning opportunities incorporate a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, to expose pupils to different texts they may enjoy.
  • We map core texts across the year for each class.
  • Guided reading sessions allow time for pupils to discuss their reading, helping them to make sense of what they have read. 
  • Pupils are encouraged to access the library and change books on a regular basis. This is in addition to their reading band book.
  • We encourage pupils in each class to share their love of reading by inviting them to recommend great reads to their peers. 
  • We celebrate reading by holding events such as World Book Day, promoting the Summer Reading Challenge, organising Book Swaps, and ensuring paired class reading time and story time sessions.


How do we make sure pupils make progress?

  • Phonics is taught following the ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’ progression of sounds to ensure a systematic approach. Phonics lessons follow the same daily sequence. Planning includes assessment for the graphemes taught. Phonics is assessed half termly to identify gaps in learning to inform future planning and intervention. In Reception, phonics is assessed more regularly in the first term to identify gaps to inform catch-up sessions.
  • Each class has five dedicated 25-minute guided reading sessions per week, initially 10-20 minutes in the Early Years. These sessions are well-structured and provide opportunity for pupils to read independently, as part of a group which is adult led, and to develop comprehension skills. 
  • The school supports pupils to be expert readers by developing the key reading skills including:
    • Vocabulary: understanding and explaining what we have read including new


    • Inference: making inferences from the text
    • Predicting: Using the knowledge of what we have read to make predictions about forthcoming events or actions in a story
    • Explaining: explaining preferences, thoughts and opinions about the text
    • Retrieval: using and finding evidence in the text.
    • Sequencing and Summarising: identifying the main points of the text by

recapping prior reading, scanning and using key words.

  • There is a clear progression of reading skills from Nursery to Year 6 against which pupils’ progress is measured and gaps are noted and acted on.
  • Pupils who are struggling with phonics as identified in assessments are given small group support. In Key Stage Two, carefully tailored intervention programmes are used to support children to keep up.
  • Pupils who need further opportunity to practise reading because they do not read regularly at home, are given priority to read to an adult in school. Volunteers, who come into school to hear readers, are trained to support reading appropriately.
  • Staff participate in termly pupil progress meetings, where children’s achievements are reviewed and next-steps are identified.
  • We assist parents/carers with supporting reading by providing meetings, reading information meetings, information on the website and letters home.


How do we match the pupils' reading books to their phonic ability?

  • Pupils are assessed daily in phonics as well as half termly using ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’assessments. Assessment then informs which books match to the pupil’s phonic ability.
  • Class teachers are responsible for changing and or checking the pupil’s reading books.
  • We use closely matched phonetically decodable books throughout the school. We monitor progress in reading and then match their ability to the stage of reading books. This is done through notes from guided reading sessions and the half termly assessments.
  • Book bands are followed throughout the school and staff monitor the books chosen to check the books are suitably challenging for them. Book band colours are changed after teacher assessment. Reading records are used to monitor reading.
  • Guided reading books are also selected carefully to challenge the reading of different groups of pupils in school and to ensure a breadth of questions.


How do we teach phonics from the start? 

Phonics teaching begins with our youngest pupils from the time they join us in Nursery. Phase 1 is promoted and embedded within the curriculum, exposing pupils to sound rich activities which provide the foundations for reading and writing. We complete baseline assessments in communication, language and literacy to support and identify speech, language and communication needs.


Pupils begin learning letter sounds on entry to Reception. Following ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’,pupils are immersed in a directed teaching approach which embeds systematic phonics skills as the core skills for reading. Sounds are taught in a specific order, and regular assessment informs future planning and interventions.


Firstly, pupils will learn to read:

  • Phase 2  Sounds:

s  a  t p i  n  m d   g  o  ck  e u r h b f ff l ll ss

  • Words containing these sounds, by sound-blending,  e.g. m–a–t  mat, c–a–t  cat, g–o–t  got, f–i–sh  fish,  s–p–o–t  spot, b–e–s–t  best, s–p–l–a–sh  splash.


Secondly, we will learn to read:

  • Phase 3 Sounds:

j v w x y z zz q u sh ch th ng ai ee igh oa

Oi oo (long) oo (short) ow ar air ear ur or ure er (schwa)

  • Words containing these sounds.


Thirdly, we will learn to read:

  • Phase 4
  • CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC, CCCVC, CCCVCC words containing these graphemes. 
  • Words containing these sounds.


To support the learning in school, pupils take home a phonetically decodable reading book to reinforce the sounds and common exception words taught.

  • Phonics is discussed with parents in the transition to school meeting and parents/carers are given resources to support phonics at home.
  • When Reception pupils have started school a meeting on supporting phonics is provided for parents.
  • Weekly posts on the class information portal (See Saw) to support reading and spelling.


How do we support pupils to keep up?

  • Summative data is submitted once a term and pupil progress analysis is taken from this. Pupils identified by class teachers and in pupil progress meeting as not making progress, have interventions planned for them and teaching staff are aware of who is a priority for intervention/support.
  • Formative data informs day-to-day planning and teachers adapt and change this according the pupil needs. For example, prioritising daily reading for targeted individuals.
  • Pupils who did not meet the expected standard in the phonics screening check receive interventions (daily reader/extra phonics support) and/or work in a group which is teacher driven.
  • Where progress becomes a concern, parents/carers are invited to a meeting with the teacher and advice is given as to how they can further support their child at home.


How do we train staff to be reading experts?

  • Teaching staff, including learning support assistants receive regular phonics and reading training. The English Leader coaches staff as well as highlights appropriate continuing professional development using ‘Smart Kids Letters and Sounds – The Code’, HFL Education English Advisers and Dandelion Learning.
  • The English Leader attends regular cluster meetings and disemminates relevant information to staff, providing guidance to staff.
  • The English Leader attends ongoing training and is supported by HFL Education English Advisers.
  • The English Leader monitors reading as part of the school self-evaluation schedule, identifying strengths and next-steps to ensure ongoing development and consistency of approach across the school. This ensures that the current rigour in terms of phonics teaching is upheld.