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St John's C of E Primary School

"Sharing joy and hope in the community."


Early Reading

Discrete teaching of synthetic systematic phonics (SSP) happens daily at St John’s in Reception, Year 1 and for those pupils in older year groups who require ongoing phonics support.  From January 2022, St John’s selected Essential Letters and Sounds from the DfE's approved SSP's to teach phonics.



Phonics (reading and spelling)

At St John’s Primary School, we believe that all our children can become fluent readers and writers. This is why we teach reading through Essential Letters and Sounds, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the Essential Letters and Sounds progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.


As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At St John’s Primary School, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.




Daily phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1

  • We teach phonics for approximately 30 minutes a day. In Reception, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
  • Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 3 of the Autumn term.


Daily Keep-up lessons ensure every child learns to read

  • Any child who needs additional practice has daily keep-up support, taught by a fully trained adult. Keep-up sessions match the structure of class teaching, and use the same procedures, resources and mantras, but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. There is time for this within the whole class session, during the ‘apply’.
  • We timetable phonics lessons for any child in Year 2 or 3 who is not fully fluent at reading or has not passed the Phonics Screening Check. These children urgently need to catch up, so the gap between themselves and their peers does not widen. We use the Essential Letters and Sounds assessments to identify the gaps in their phonic knowledge and teach to these using the ELS intervention resources – at pace. 
  • If any child in Year 3 to 6 has gaps in their phonic knowledge when reading or writing, we plan phonics intervention lessons to address specific reading/writing gaps. These short, sharp lessons last 10 minutes and fit in alongside their year group’s timetable.


Ensuring consistency and pace of progress

  • Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach phonics, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load.
  • Lesson templates, Prompt cards and How to videos ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.
  • The English Lead and Phonic Lead, along with the SLT regularly monitor and observe teaching; they use the summative data to identify children who need additional support and gaps in learning.




Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it.

  • Assessment for learning is used:
    • daily within class to identify children needing keep-up support
    • weekly in the Review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.
  • Summative assessment is used:
    • every five to six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the intervention support that they need.
    • by SLT and scrutinised through the Essential Letters and Sounds assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.


Statutory assessment

  • Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2.


Ongoing assessment for catch-up

  • Children in Year 2 to 6 are assessed through their teacher’s ongoing formative assessment as well as through the half-termly ELS summative assessments.

Home support

Pure sound pronunciation

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These videos are great at helping you say the correct sound for each grapheme.

phase_3_pronunciation (540p).mp4

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phase_5_pronunciation (540p).mp4

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In this video from Oxford Owl, Suzy Ditchburn explains how letter sounds can be blended to read words, and gives tips on how to practise phonics with your child.

Phonics: How to blend sounds to read words | Oxford Owl