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Phonics in the Early Years and KS1

At Rowsley CofE Primary School we work hard to ensure that our children are given the best start in reading. 

Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds that distinguish one word from another in the English language. We use the systematic synthetic approach to teaching phonics through the accredited Little Wandle Scheme.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch.

Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters tpa and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.

Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.

As well as teaching children sounds, we also introduce them to ‘tricky words’. These are words that are used on a regular basis when reading and writing. Often these words do not follow the phonics rules that are taught and so have to be learnt by sight.

How is Phonics taught in Early Years and Key Stage One?

As soon as the children start school, they take part in daily phonics lessons. Each lesson follows the same structure using the Little Wandle accredited scheme.

We ensure that we: 

  1. Revisit sounds and key words that have already been learnt
  2. Introduce/teach a new sound or word
  3. Practice using this new sound or words through different visual, kinaesthetic and auditory activities
  4. Apply the new sound or word by reading/writing it in sentences.

We start our Early Years with Phase 1 phonics. 

Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds 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 has 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).

Once Phase 1 has been completed, we move onto Phase 2 and then through our Little Wandle scheme, we work through the letters and sounds right through to Phase 6. 

Sometimes these phases are repeated as the children move through school.

Planning is completed weekly following the Little Wandle scheme (details of which can be found on the Little Wandle Star).


Occasionally children need further support with their phonics. This is done through extra phonics teaching usually in small groups with a teacher or teaching assistant at another point during the day.


We hold a Phonics and Reading Workshop every year to introduce our phonics scheme and reading scheme to new parents/carers and recap for any other parents/carers. 


Through the Little Wandle Scheme, we carefully match up our reading books to match the sound each child is on. This is done with the use of Collins Big Cat books (used for phonics) and the Star guided reading scheme (used to promote tricky and high frequency word recognition). 

Why do we teach phonics in KS2? 

We understand that some children at Key Stage 2 may experience difficulties in reading and/or writing because they have missed or misunderstood a crucial phase of the systematic phonics teaching.

In their day-to-day learning some children may:

• experience difficulties with blending for reading and segmenting for spelling

• show confusion with certain graphemes and related phonemes

• have difficulty segmenting longer words containing adjacent consonants

• demonstrate general insecurity with long vowel phonemes. For example, children generally know the most common representation of a phoneme, for example, /ai/ as in train, but require more explanation and practice about the alternative spellings for any particular phoneme. 

In Year 3, children who did not achieve a pass grade in their KS1 Phonics Screening retake, will return to daily phonics following our Little Wandle scheme with Miss Lindley.

We are aware that some children continue to struggle so we in UKS2 we use the PAT (Phonological Awareness Training) programme which is designed to help children to read, spell and write phonically regular words. The programme covers a very precise aspect of literacy development and is not a complete. We continue to ensure that the children experience a wide range of picture books, novels, poems and non-fiction texts to develop their literacy skills further.  The PAT programme is designed to be used alongside high quality texts and not to replace them.

How do we teach KS2 Phonics? 

Spelling Banks 

Teachers provide spelling banks for children when writing. Teachers can provide content and activities that ‘glue’ the words in these spelling banks together, such as themed spelling stories involving grapheme searches, reading the stories with comprehension or acting out the words.

They choose appropriate words to enrich spoken language, with attention to homophones and including dictionary work and grammar activities alongside.

Oral Segmenting at KS2 

Following oral segmenting, teachers and learners discuss which spelling alternatives are required for specific words. This may be through the PAT intervention scheme.

The skill of oral segmenting for spelling (starting with syllable chunking in multi-syllable words) should continue in KS2.

Decoding at KS2 

If children are able to decode age-appropriate texts, it improves their intellectual development and self-esteem – this is especially important for those receiving phonics intervention beyond their usual class.

For longer-term reading and increasing vocabulary, the ability to phonically decode new and unknown words is essential. Therefore, we aim to provide texts that build on children's knowledge of phonics, even in KS2, which can increase their fluency and their understanding of the wider world.