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Phonics and Early Reading

Phonics and Early Reading at Hollyfast Primary School


At Hollyfast, we understand the need for children to learn to read accurately and fluently to ensure success throughout their school lives and beyond. We recognise that reading is a key life skill and that the ability to read brings life-long pleasure. We believe all children can become confident readers during their time in primary education and we prioritise the teaching of Phonics to ensure all children are able to learn to read well, quickly. 


Our vision is that children quickly become enthusiastic and motivated readers. They have the ability to recognise, blend and segment sounds, in order to read words, as well as reading sight words, in order to become confident, fluent readers, who show a good understanding of what they have read. Our children read a wide range of high-quality genres and texts, promoting a love of literature and an enjoyment of reading for pleasure and for information, as well as using reading to promote reflective thinking. At Hollyfast Primary School we strive to teach children to read effectively and quickly, following the Essential Letters and Sounds programme. This includes teaching synthetic phonics, sight vocabulary, decoding and encoding words as well as spelling and accurate letter formation. We passionately believe that teaching children to read and write independently, as quickly as possible, is one of the core purposes of a primary school. These fundamental skills not only hold the keys to the rest of the curriculum but also have a huge impact on children’s self-esteem and future life chances.

Our Approach

The pre-reading skills which all children need to eventually become successful readers are taught to all children who join our Pre-school. Phase 1 of our Phonics programme concentrates on developing children's speaking and listening skills and lays the foundations for the phonic work which starts in Phase 2. The emphasis during Phase 1 is to get children attuned to the sounds around them and ready to begin developing oral blending and segmenting skills. Phase 1 is divided into seven aspects. Each aspect contains three strands: Tuning in to sounds (auditory discrimination), Listening and remembering sounds (auditory memory and sequencing) and Talking about sounds (developing vocabulary and language comprehension). It is intended that each of the first six aspects should be dipped into, rather than going through them in any order, with a balance of activities. Aspect 7 will usually come later, when children have had plenty of opportunity to develop their sound discrimination skills.


  • Aspect 1 - General sound discrimination - environmental
  • Aspect 2 - General sound discrimination - instrumental sounds
  • Aspect 3 - General sound discrimination - body percussion
  • Aspect 4 - Rhythm and rhyme
  • Aspect 5 - Alliteration
  • Aspect 6 - Voice sounds
  • Aspect 7 - Oral blending and segmenting


Children learn Phonics from the very start of Reception. It is explicitly taught every day during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Throughout the day, children use their growing Phonic knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and have many opportunities to practise reading decodable texts precisely matched to their phonic knowledge. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, with a partner during paired reading and during whole class reading sessions. We know that reading is a fundamental life skill and ensure that all children leave our school able to read well.


Children are assessed in week 5 of each half term to ensure that any specific gaps can be targeted immediately. We reinforce the link between reading and writing in every ELS lesson through the independent application of the children’s understanding. We also ensure that all our teachers reference the learning from ELS lessons when writing as part of the wider curriculum.


Daily Phonics lessons continue in Year 1 and further through the school to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers. We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language. As a result, children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. We teach children more rarely used GPCs through the ELS progression. This means that they can decode and read more words with increased fluency.


The structure of ELS lessons allows children to know what is coming next, what they need to do, and how to achieve success. This makes it easier for children to learn the GPCs we are teaching (the alphabetic code) and how to apply this when reading. ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher and any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 intervention is used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective. ELS is designed to make use of all the teaching time during the Phonics lesson – through targeted support where required, reducing the need for external interventions - meaning that there is minimal disruption to curriculum teaching time.


Children progress to learning the spelling rules and patterns from the National Curriculum and onto the Reading scheme during Year 2. Where further phonic support is required in Year 2 and beyond, this is timetabled daily to ensure that any child rapidly catches up.


ELS is supported by a wide range of completely decodable texts. These cover both fiction and non-fiction and are exciting and engaging for all our pupils. We match the home reading texts to each child’s current phonic knowledge to ensure that they consolidate their most recent teaching and learning at home.

Children who start their Hollyfast journey during the school year

When children transfer to our school mid-year, their reading ability is assessed on-entry and their provision is mapped, in line with the process outlined above. Where there are gaps in phonics, fluency or comprehension, we provide targeted support, enabling all children to make strong progress.