Phonics and Reading

Phonics and Reading at Colgate Primary School


At Colgate Primary School, we value reading as a key life skill, and we are dedicated to enabling our children to become lifelong readers and to have a love of literature.

We recognise that mastery in phonics is fundamental to children being able to access a broad range of fiction and non-fiction texts, across the curriculum. We aim to achieve this by teaching phonics systematically with a relentless drive to address the needs of all learners.

Within our context, ensuring children have the cultural capital and experiences to become engrossed and immersed in reading is vital. We believe that all children come to us with an invisible backpack of experiences and we recognise and build on this.


We use synthetic phonics and follow the Song Of Sounds (D oF E validated) phonics programme; this is an effective method of learning letter sounds and blending them together to read and write words. Song of Sounds is a multi-sensory approach using music and movement to embed learning. In addition to this, children are taught to read and spell common exception words linked to the National Curriculum.

In Key Stage 1 all children have regular phonics sessions in year groups where they participate in speaking, listening and spelling activities that are matched to their starting points and developing needs. The teachers draw upon observations and continuous assessment to ensure children are stretched and challenged and to identify children who may need additional support. Children work through the different songs, learning and developing their phonics sounds and knowledge from Year R to Year 2.

Children in Reception are introduced to Song of Sounds 1 during the summer term transition visits. Information about the programme is given to parents/carers as part of the home visit discussion and at the 'meet the teacher' meeting.  Grapheme-phoneme correspondence is introduced after the Year R baseline is complete. The process of segmenting whole words and selecting letters to represent those phonemes is taught as well as writing the letters to encode words. Children in Year R are quickly taught the 42 basic phonemes covered in Song Of Sounds. The song is sung every day.  This means that our most able children will be able to access all grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) from the very beginning and avoids a go-slow approach. The visual, auditory and kinaesthetic elements of the song enables our learners to learn the phonemes at a rapid rate.  At this stage just one grapheme is given for each phoneme. They are taught in the SATPIN order and then the scheme moves on to diagraphs so that the children can start to blend immediately. Common Exception Words are taught towards the end of the Autumn Term so that the children have a good grasp of the regular rules of phonics before they tackle irregular words. These are then taught explicitly.

During the Autumn Term of  Year R there is a speech and language screening check to identify any children who may need additional support. We know that often a delay in this area impacts on the child’s ability to read using phonics.

The reading books given out are fully decodable and linked to the Song Of Sound that the child is currently  learning so that this can be practiced and reinforced at home. Our reading books are organised using the Song of Sounds order. We have  updated our reading scheme books in order to ensure that our children are reading a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry within each song. 

In order to promote a love of reading all our children are exposed to texts beyond their level of reading skill through daily whole class stories, group reading activities and whole class reading. Children are encouraged to take home picture books as well as their reading book in order to widen their breadth of reading experiences.  Teachers take time to consider their text selection to ensure that the children are exposed to a variety of rich and diverse books. Class trips are often linked to English work, for example Year 6 have visited the Globe theatre as part of their work on Shakespeare. The book fair and author visits ensure our children are enthusiastic about reading. 

Our children enter Year 1 with solid foundations. However children that need to revisit sounds from Song 1 will do so before moving on to Song 2. They may also receive a pre-teach session in order to give them a head start in the upcoming lesson. This ensures that all pupils quickly make progress when they start to read and spell words containing alternative spellings for the same sound and adjacent consonants. Whilst in Year 1 they will learn 27 complex and alternative spellings. We acknowledge that some graphemes are not included in Song Of Sound such as  oe, tch and ue. Teachers are aware of this and these are taught during the spring term once Song Of sound 2 has been learnt or often when the opportunity arises during whole class reading sessions.

It is expected that children entering Year 2 will recap Song of Sound 2 before being introduced to Song Of Sound 3 which develops a variety of spelling strategies. This includes homophones (word specific spellings) e.g. see/ sea, spelling of words with prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters where necessary.  It also includes the accurate spelling of words containing more unusual grapheme-phoneme correspondences such as dg/ey and ce. In Year 3 all children recap on previous songs learnt then those who confidently using their phonics move on to different spelling patterns and rules. A small number of pupils in Year 3 who did not pass the Year 1/2 phonic check will continue to be taught phonics using the Song Of Sound songs.

In upper Key Stage 2 teachers ensure that children who are working below age related expectations continue to read regularly with an adult or are included in a reading intervention.

Teachers in Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 have  moved from traditional style carousel guided reading groups to whole class reading lessons. This ensures that all children access a high quality text and this continues to develop children's love of reading throughout the school.  Sessions focus on decoding, fluency, prosody, inference and interpretation skills as well as exploring and understanding new vocabulary.

Parents and carers are encouraged to read regularly with their child at home. Key messages about this are given at the start of every academic term during Meet the Teacher meetings. There is a high purchase of books at author visits and our yearly book fair. 



Ongoing formative assessment takes place within each phonics lesson.  This includes: teacher observations, questioning and discussions. These outcomes are fed forward into timely teacher intervention and subsequent planning to ensure gaps in phonological knowledge are closed and progress is not limited. Regular diagnostic one to one assessment is a key feature of the programme and the children are assessed at regular points each term.

Children’s progress is continually reviewed to allow for movement between groups, and children move between songs when it is felt necessary to meet their needs.   In Reception, children's reading skills are monitored through daily Phonics sessions and through one to one reading with an adult. In Year One, adults read regularly with the children on a one to one basis to ensure they are reading the appropriate book.  In Year Two, children's reading skills are monitored through whole class reading fluency lessons. There are extra reading sessions and interventions for those children who did not pass the Phonics Screening check.  

The national Phonics Screening Check occurs in June of Year 1. The purpose of the screening check is to confirm that all children have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard. The children who did not meet the required standard for the check in year 1 enter again in year 2 with additional support. These children are given time during the first part of the year to recap Song Of Sound 2 before being exposed to Song 3.

Our Phonic Check results have continued to increase since the introduction of Song Of Sound and we are generally in line with or above national data.  In June 2022 89% passed the check. As children enter KS2, provision is made for those children who did not pass the phonics screening check and who still require daily phonics and interventions to support reading skills. 

Pupil progress meetings and SEND review meetings identify precise actions and objectives for targeted focus children, including the lowest 20% who are not likely to meet  (or who have only just met) the required standard of the Phonics Screening Check. These children will be given more opportunities to read regularly with the class teacher or be part of our reading support intervention programme which we start in Year 1. Some children will be given Precision Teaching experiences to ensure they learn particular sounds or to learn the common exception words.


We recognise that rigorous teaching in phonics is the essential first step in improving outcomes for all our children.  With this in mind, we ensure that teachers and teaching assistants are kept up to date on the latest initiatives and news.  This is through continuous professional development by outside providers and within school (such as local authority networks and support staff training).  We  focus on the importance of teaching Tier 2 vocabulary across the curriculum and ensure that our children are able to understand and use a range of these words that appear across many subject areas. We know that reading, understanding  and using these words aids comprehension and this is the foundation of all learning. All our key adults who teach phonics and reading have received Song Of Sound training so that consistent language and strategies are used across the school.