At St. Teresa’s RC Primary School, we strive to ensure that all children become successful, fluent readers and writers. We believe that this is achievable through a combination of high quality, discrete phonics teaching in conjunction with a whole school language approach which develops children’s comprehension strategies through a programme of traditional stories and engaging texts. A systematic, synthetic phonics programme is used as the principal approach in developing children’s decoding strategies, thus ensuring all children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through the school. The modelling of these strategies, both in phonics lessons and across the curriculum, ensures the crucial skills of reading and writing are supported through a focus on speaking and listening skills.
At St Teresa’s, we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, they read confidently for meaning and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. Our children are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose. Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Phonics Lead, who is also the English Lead, and drives the early reading programme in our school. Mrs Child is highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and monitors and supports school staff, so everyone teaches with fidelity to our phonics and early reading programme.
Daily, discrete phonics lessons are taught in line with the DfE’s ‘Letters and Sounds’ progression document, supported by detailed, structured planning from ‘Phonicsplay’. The school has developed a clear teaching sequence for Reception and Year 1. Mnemonics devised by Ruth Miskin are used to support children’s recall of letter formation and phoneme-grapheme correspondence. Phonics lessons are planned by class teachers based on ongoing assessments of pupils’ needs and adapted in light of this. The daily lesson structure of ‘Review, Teach, Practise, Apply’ is followed to ensure that children are consolidating phonic skills over time and they are able to apply them in context. This approach is used consistently throughout the school to ensure fidelity to the programme.
Our nursery aged children access a daily language and sounds session based on activities from Phase 1 of Letters & Sounds. Activities are engaging, interactive and repetitive and include games, songs and rhymes. The children experience high quality texts which are used to support oral storytelling and role play. There are opportunities for adult led and child led experiences which develop the acquisition and use of early language skills. The children are also introduced to the crucial skills of oral blending and segmenting sounds in words before being introduced to the corresponding letters when they commence Phase 2 in the Reception year.
A daily, discrete phonics lesson lasting approximately 10 minutes at the start of the year, gradually building up to 30 minutes, is taught covering the phoneme/grapheme correspondences and tricky words from Phases Two and Three. They are also taught the Phase 4 skills of reading and writing words with adjacent consonants. Interactive, practical lessons provide opportunities for the children to develop their skills in blending and segmenting words to read and write simple sentences by the end of the Reception year. Regular opportunities are also provided through teacher and child led activities to develop and practise skills in reading and writing throughout the day and across different areas of learning.
Children in Year One continue to receive a daily phonics lesson lasting approximately 30 minutes. The children consolidate their learning from Reception, in Phase 3 and 4, before focusing on learning further digraphs and trigraphs, alternative pronunciations for graphemes and alternative spellings for phonemes, completing the Phase 5 sequence of learning and teaching.
Children who need additional practice have daily one to one support, taught by the class teacher or TA. This targeted support is personalised, based on the child’s needs and gaps in learning. It provides opportunity to practise reading tricky/high frequency words, through precision teaching, or through revisiting graphemes and skills in blending and/or segmenting.
Pupils in Year 3 and 4 with gaps in their phonic knowledge have planned phonics ‘catch-up’ lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These are carried out in small groups with a TA.
Children in Reception have two guided reading sessions each week with the class teacher. Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:
Texts are chosen based on children's phonic knowledge and in line with the teaching of the appropriate phonic phases. They are fully decodable and also contain the appropriate tricky words as they are taught within the programme.
The above skills are also taught in Year 1. Children commence the year having two guided reading sessions each week with either the class teacher or teaching assistant. During the year, the children reduce this to one guided reading session each week alongside whole class reading lessons.
Children in need of addiional support also receive short 1:1 daily reading sessions with an adult.
Decodable reading books are taken home for children to practise with adults. Pupils receive books containing taught, known graphemes, matched to their reading stage.
Reading for pleasure books, from our school library, also go home each week for parents to share and read to children. In addition, there are weekly family library sessions when parents are invited into school to choose and borrow an additional book to share at home with their child.
Workshops and other information is shared with parents to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision.
Assessment is regarded as an integral part of teaching and learning and is a continuous process. We strive to make our assessment purposeful, allowing us to match the correct level of work to the needs of the pupils, thus benefiting the pupils and ensuring progress.
Assessment for Learning: We continually assess our pupils and record their progress. Information for assessment is gathered in various ways; by talking to children, asking questions, observing their work, setting specific tasks. Teachers use this assessment information identify children in need of additional support sessions.
Assessment of Learning: The attainment and progress of children in phonics is assessed at least every six weeks and at the end of each phonic phase. At St Teresa’s, we use PhonicsTracker to assess phonic knowledge and we assess skills in blending and segmenting. Regular meetings between class teachers and the Phonics Lead ensure pupils with additional needs are quickly identified and support planned and implemented.
At the end of Year 1, children participate in the statutory Phonics Screening Check which assesses their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondence and their skills in blending. This information is submitted to the Local Authority. Those children who do not meet the required standard in this check are highlighted for further intervention and targeted support before completing the screening check again at the end of Year 2. For children who do not succeed a second time, provision is made for them to receive intervention and targeted support in Key Stage 2.