Primary Phonics Programme

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The Primary Phonics Programme created for our school partnership started in 2013, a year after the statutory phonics test for Year 1 was introduced, running across three partnership schools. Fast forward to 2019, where these three schools are now in the top 9% of schools for phonics in the country, and outreach support has spread to Wiltshire and Portsmouth as well as to other schools within the city.

What was the intent behind the programme?

When re-vamping and creating the programme in 2013, the intent was to…

Ensure a relentless drive and ambition to ensure all children are equipped ass strong, confident readers who enjoy reading for pleasure and have a lifelong love of reading. To effectively prepare children to read quickly, fluently and skilfully through application of phonics.

To effectively prepare children to read quickly, fluently and skilfully through application of phonics.

For all classes to be following similar structure for teaching and resourcing so that all have the same quality of session.

To focus on enhancing opportunities for teaching spelling and writing through phonics.

To ensure teachers and TAs are aware of the correct programme of study and pedagogy for their classes/groups, and know how to help their children make progress within this subject.

To make sure that phonics is differentiated by phase to support children at their individual points of learning.

To provide continuous phonics support into KS2 for children who need it, to help children keep up, and make accelerated progress in their reading & writing.

To ensure all have have suitable resources and equipment for teaching and learning within phonics at all phases, catering for VAK.

And of course, all phonics teaching to be at least good or outstanding.

Implementation of the Primary Phonics Programme

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The structure for teaching and delivering phonics in the partnership schools was revamped. Children in EYFS & KS1 were streamed into small groups (of 4-12) using bespoke  assessment and teacher assessment, to place in smaller groups, led by TA or Teacher. All were assigned an area to teach and deliver in, with bespoke ‘long term plan’ differentiated to the groups needs.

Example of bespoke Year R testing document

All individual planning was re-written by myself for each individual sound. This ensured the format of revisit/review, teach, practise and apply. To support differentiation and the pace of learning of different groups, each individual sound (or blend) has 3 days worth of planning. For example, a higher ability stream may only need one day on a sound, where as a SEND group may need 3+ days of recap. Practitioners employ AFL regularly to adapt planning and delivery to their learners needs.  All planning follows the order of Letters & Sounds, as suggested by Government, however, we have put our own bespoke activities, games and resources within the planning, in fitting with the aims and intent set out at the beginning.

Example – Phase 3 plan for ‘ch’

Particular bespoke areas include the teaching of Phase 4 as ‘Best Buddy Blends’ (focusing on particular blends often seen at the start and end of words such as ‘st’ or ‘pt’) and Phase 5b as ‘Superhero Sounds’ (sounds that change their identity – for example ‘c’ and ‘i’ in ‘rice’.

Example of ‘Best Buddy Blends’ and ‘Superhero Sounds’

Alongside the planning, bespoke resources were created for each phase of study. High quality resources aid kinaesthetic, active teaching to engage learners. These link to the plans to ensure all learners have the same quality of session. Resources build on prior learning, following phonics pedagogy (as from letters and sounds.)

Example Games from Phase 2
Example games from Phase 3
Example games from Phase 4 ‘Best Buddy Blends’
Phase 5b- Alternative ‘Superhero Sounds’ resources

A training package was put in place for staff delivering phonics. This starts from basics, on sound pronunciation and sound buttoning, then onto pedagogy of sounds and structure of a lesson. This then moves onto training on use of planning and resources, linked in to regular coaching/observation cycle within this- and then onto use of employing AFL and assessment techniques.

Underpinning the planning, resources and training, is an effective monitoring and assessment system that tracks all children at all stages of their phonics learning. Within Year R, children are assessed at regular intervals, using a format similar to the KS1 test (alien words/real words from Phase 2-4), alongside a sound tracker and HFW tracker, and regularly re-streamed and re-grouped if appropriate.

Within KS1 assessment, alongside teacher AFL, children half termly complete a mock phonics test. They are then graded ‘red/orange/green’ according to test score, and again, groups are changed if appropriate and the pitch/pace of learning adjusted to the group and child’s individual needs. Regular meetings occur with staff and leaders to talk about individual children’s progress and attainment in phonics.

Note that Y2 and KS2 children who still require phonics support complete the programme and are assessed in the same way- to measure individual progress from starting points.

Impact of the Primary Phonics Programme

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Underpinning this approach to phonics and reading is a relentless drive and ambition to ensure we equip all of our children as strong, confident readers who enjoy reading for pleasure and have a lifelong love of reading.

The programme continues to impact and drive up standards within partnership schools. Results are consistently well above the National Average (statistics on request.)

The three founding schools of the programme are now within the top 9% of the country for phonics. This has also had subsequent impact on KS1 reading results and chronological reading age. The vast majority of pupils start Year 2 and subsequently KS2 as fluent, confident readers.

Links between writing and spelling in phonics have also contributed to stronger outcomes in KS1 writing. Children have clear strengths within grapheme-phoneme correspondences in spelling in their day to day work, whilst work in Guided Reading books highlights children’s ability to read fluently and at speed.

The success of the programme has led to work with many other schools, who have taken our planning, resources and assessment systems. We have trained their staff in a similar fashion, within the local authority, and beyond (Portsmouth & Wiltshire) leading to an increase in their results.