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Phonics at SMSA


Our Curriculum has been designed to ensure each and every child can ‘be the best people that can be’ by offering stimulating and awe-inspiring learning experiences with our Catholic values at its heart. 

It is designed to meet the needs of the pupils at St Mary and St Andrew’s, not only by focussing on appropriate subject specific knowledge, skills and understanding as set out in the National Curriculum, but by modelling the virtues given to us by Christ. Our aspirational curriculum intends to develop individual and collaborative learning experiences; a positive growth mindset; a sense of responsibility and provide challenges that take learning beyond the classroom. We are determined that every pupil will learn to read, regardless of their background needs or abilities. Being able to read is the most important skill children will learn during their early schooling, as it enables them to access all other areas of the curriculum and help build a rich vocabulary. We aim to teach high quality phonics, to ensure children have the best possible start in reading and writing.


Phonics is taught each day in EYFS and KS1 using the Lancashire Red Rose letters and sounds scheme, with fidelity. Phonics grouping at our school is varied and fluid, depending on the needs of the cohort and individual children. Reception children are initially taught as a whole class, but as they work through the phonics scheme, they are split into groups based on their academic needs. KS1 children are in small, differentiated groups, focused on the particular phonics phase they are working on. All phonics lessons allow children to practise the blending and segmenting of phonemes/graphemes. All phonics lessons are stimulating and engaging to motivate children, using a range of resources to enhance our phonics scheme. Phonics is not only taught discreetly, but is embedded in all areas of the curriculum, as children are encouraged to use and apply their phonic knowledge. This ensures that children are developing their 'sticky learning', resulting in them knowing more, remembering more and using their skills and knowledge in context.

To ensure our children know more and remember more, in every discrete phonics lesson:

  • there will be a focus phonemes for the week for the whole group to be working on. The pace of how quickly a new sound is taught will be decided by the staff member leading the group alongside discussions with the Class Teacher/Phonics Lead. Planning of this phoneme will show a journey across the week so that children become confident in recognising the phonemes on their own and in words.
  • New phonemes will be taught using the correct articulation and terminology and all children will use this terminology in their learning. E.g. phonemes, digraphs, trigraphs, split-digraph.
  • At the start of every lesson phoneme flashcards are used as a quick warm up to refresh and rehearse previous sounds for each phase. This will be differentiated for each group depending on what phase they are learning. Phoneme flashcards can also be used throughout mini--plenaries and independent learning when children are practising phonemes.
  • Lessons follow the structure outlined below:

REVISIT & REVIEW: Revise previously taught sounds and graphemes using flashcards.

TEACH: Introduce new sound and grapheme using flashcards and Interactive Resources.

PRACTISE: Children practise new and revised sounds and graphemes using a variety of resources to match their needs.

APPLY: Children extend their core skills with words and sentences containing the graphemes.


As with all areas of learning, our children's progress and achievement in phonics will be rigorously monitored, highly valued and reflect the success of every individual. Children will be supported to 'be the best that they can be' academically, personally, emotionally, socially and faithfully. By the summer term of Y1, we expect all children to be secure at Phase Five phonics and able to read age-appropriate books independently. We hope for all our children to be independent, fluid and avid readers by the end of KS1.

We use Red Rose Phonics - and this is how we do it!

Lessons are sequenced - with very clear end points. Have a look at our plans to see the order in which we do things.

Do you have a child in year 1 at primary school?

If so, your child will be participating in the phonics screening check in June each year. The phonics screening check is a check of your child’s phonics knowledge. It helps your school confirm whether your child is making the progress expected in the national curriculum. With some exceptions, all pupils who have reached the age of 6 by the end of the school year must take the check during that academic year. For most, this will be in year 1. This includes pupils registered at maintained nursery schools who will reach the age of 6 before the end of the school year and have completed the year 1 programme of study.

What if my child does not reach the standard in year 1?

If a pupil does not meet the expected standard at the end of year 1, a programme of support should be put in place and their teacher will consider a re-take in year 2.

What is phonics?

Phonics is an effective way of teaching children to read. By ensuring high quality phonics teaching, we want to improve literacy levels and give all children a solid base to build on as they progress through school. Through phonics children are taught how to:

• recognise the sounds that each individual letter makes

• identify the sounds that different combinations of letters make - such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’

• blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word Children can then use this knowledge to ‘decode’ new words that they hear or see.

What is the phonics screening check?

The phonics screening check contains 40 words divided into two sections of 20 words. Both sections contain a mixture of real words and pseudo-words. Pseduo-words are words that are phonically decodable but are not actual words with an associated meaning. Pseudo-words are included in the check specifcally to assess whether your child can decode a word using their phonics skills. All pseudo-words in the check are accompanied by a picture of an imaginary creature. Children are taught that when a word has a creature next to it, it is a pseudo-word. This is to ensure that they are not trying to match the pseudoword to a word in their vocabulary. The check is designed to give teachers information on how your child is progressing in phonics. It will help to identify whether your child needs additional support at this stage so that they do not fall behind in this vital early reading skill.

Do I need to do anything to prepare my child for the check?

Phonics works best when children are given plenty of encouragement and learn to enjoy reading and books. Parents play a very important part in helping with this. You can then highlight these sounds when you read with your child. Teaching how sounds match with letters is likely to start with individual letters such as ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ and then will move on to two-letter sounds such as ‘ee’, ‘ch’ and ‘ck’. With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend the sounds together from left to right rather than looking at the pictures to guess. Once your child has read an unfamiliar word you can talk about what it means and help them to follow the story. Your child’s teacher will also be able to suggest books with the right level of phonics for your child. These books are often called ‘decodable readers’ because the story is written with words made up of the letters your child has learnt. Your child will be able to work out new words from their letters and sounds, rather than just guessing.

We use ‘book bags’ and a reading record, which is a great way for teachers and parents to communicate about what children have read. The reading record can tell you whether your child has enjoyed a particular book and shows problems or successes they have had, either at home or at school. Please help us by filling it in each time your child reads. We expect all children to read with an adult every night.

Let's do this together!

If your child needs extra help with phonics - then don't worry! As we formatively assess the children's  knowledge every day, we can immediately address any misunderstandings or gaps in knowledge. If deeper support is needed then we will facilitate additional sessions throughout the school day from highly trained staff. All of this will be shared with you, our families, so that you can help your child at home too. In the Autumn term of both YR and Y1, we hold a Phonics evening for families - here you will learn how we teach phonics, how to articulate sounds, resources you may wish to try at home and then, in Year One, you will learn how to support your child's preparation towards the statutory Phonic Screening check which takes place early in the summer term of Y1.

Below is a copy of the powerpoint shared with families at our phonics evening in November 2022 - get in touch if anything needs further explanation!

Here are a great selection of resources to help you:

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In this hyperlink below is every sound you need, in phase order - have a go together, your children will love showing you how clever they are!

Every lesson - every sound, great fun to help at home!