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Semley CE VA Primary School

Semley CE VA Primary School

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English including Early Reading and Phonics

At Semley CEVA Primary School, we believe in a holistic approach to teaching English. We aim to develop our children’s love of literature by nurturing a widespread love of reading for pleasure and basing our teaching of the English curriculum on a rich variety of high-quality texts. Language is celebrated in all classrooms, where children are immersed in a communication enabling environment full of rich vocabulary. 



From their very first days as Wrens, our children follow the Unlocking Letters and Sounds systematic synthetic phonics programme. This follows the progression of the 2007 Letters and Sounds framework, with the addition of some KS1 National Curriculum objectives.

Through UL&S children will learn the 150+ graphemes that are represented by the 44 phonemes of the English language along with common exception words (CEWs) in a planned, progressive way. This is achieved through daily phonics lessons, reading practice using fully decodable books matched to the child’s phonic knowledge and daily handwriting practice. 


We begin teaching phonics in the first few weeks of term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4. Please find a copy of the Phase 2 ‘Actions, Images and Letter Formation’ document below.

In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, they learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check. 

In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps. Currently, our Year 3 children are also revising phase 5 to ensure that they are secure. For further details please see the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression document below.


To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact. 



We promote a 'phonics first' approach to reading and in both our guided reading sessions at school and in the books children take home, texts are very closely matched to a child's current phonics knowledge so that every child can experience real success in their reading.  In the crucial early stages of reading, we primarily use books from Ransom Reading Stars Phonics and occasionally some books from the Big Cat series to ensure complete fidelity to the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression we follow. These will be closely matched to the children’s phonics ability - meaning they will be already able to read 95% of the words and will achieve real success in their reading. Re-reading books is critical in helping children develop their confidence and fluency and so we will only be changing books for children who are still on the UL&S reading scheme when the books have been read and enjoyed three times. When the children have completed the UL&S reading scheme and have progressed beyond decodable texts, they will move onto our banded reading scheme which runs all the way through the school and contains a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry texts for the children to enjoy allowing them to become avid, expert readers.



We believe that good handwriting is critical to children’s writing progress. It is essential that children’s handwriting is practiced until it is effortless so that they can put all their effort into thinking about what they are writing. Handwriting is built into the Unlocking Letters and Sounds lessons and children in Robins, Doves and Owls also receive additional discrete handwriting lessons. We use the UL&S letter formation which we send home to parents alongside the patters and handwriting top tips at the start of each year.



Unlocking Letters and Sounds also gives our children a fantastic start to their writing by teaching them all their Common Exception Words by Christmas in year 2. We then follow on with the government spelling rules and recommended year group spellings. However, we recognise that some children find learning spelling rules more challenging and so, if needed, some children will first need to ensure they are secure with the words that come up most frequently in the English language - these form our Tricky Word List One and Tricky Word List Two which are attached in the document section below.





One of the most important ways to help your child learn phonics and begin to read is to support them with pronouncing their letter sounds and blends of letters correctly. If you click on THIS LINK, it will demonstrate how we say each letter sound. Essentially do not add 'uh' at the end of each letter sound!