At Cheadle Heath Primary School we value reading as a key life skill and are dedicated to enabling our children to become lifelong readers and have a love of literature. We recognise that mastery in phonics is fundamental to children being able to access a broad range of fiction and non-fiction texts, across the curriculum. We aim to achieve this by teaching phonics systematically with a relentless drive to address the needs of all learners. Within our context, ensuring children have the cultural capital and experiences to become engrossed and immersed in reading is vital.


We use synthetic phonics programme called Rocket Phonics in Reception and Key Stage One. This is a DfE validated story-based SSP which focuses on blending sounds together for reading and segmenting sounds to support spelling and all sessions are centred around a whole class ‘Big Book’ which addresses the focus sounds within a word, sentence and story context, rather than just a sound in isolation. Currently in Nursery we are still using Letters and Sounds at Phase 1 but this will be reviewed in the Spring Term. 

Nursery children begin their journey into phonics with a focus on sounds of all kinds and being able to identify different sounds including environmental, instrumental and body percussion. In addition to this there is a heavy focus on rhythm and rhyme before moving on to voice sounds and beginning oral blending and segmenting (hearing that d-o-g makes dog).  In Reception the children are introduced to Rocket Phonics and the sounds for set 1. They will begin learning the sounds and corresponding graphemes for s, a, t, p, I, n in the first half term. Each week the children will be introduced to two new sounds through a big class story book. The first day of the new sound will be spent blending for reading, whilst the next will be focussed on segmenting for spelling. There are lots of opportunities for the children to apply their new skills in their phonics workbooks and in their independent work in provision. Throughout the Reception year the children will learn 60 new sounds. On entry into Reception, parents/carers are invited into school and supported through parent teacher workshop on phonics and early reading. Supplementary resources and guidance are provided and parent/carers are directed to the school’s website for further information, such as links to activities and recommended apps.

Children enter Year 1 with a solid foundation in set 1 sounds enabling them to quickly progress in to set 2 sounds, where they start to read and spell words containing adjacent consonants. Whilst in Year 1, the children will broaden their knowledge of graphemes and phonemes for use in reading and spelling. They will learn alternative pronunciations and spellings for graphemes they already know.
It is expected that children entering Year 2 will recap all the sounds taught in Year 1 and begin their final phase of phonics teaching, this develops a variety of spelling strategies including homophones (word specific spellings) e.g. see/ sea, possessive apostrophes, contractions and spelling of words with prefixes and suffixes, doubling and dropping letters where necessary. Also the accurate spelling of words containing unusual grapheme-phoneme correspondences e.g. laughs, two. This is taught through the school spelling scheme and is enhanced by ‘Rocket Phonics teaching.’ This will again be reviewed in 2022 with the view to using Rocket Phonics to deliver this aspect of the curriculum too. 

Many activities take place which promote pre-reading skills. Children become aware of print in their environment and match pictures and words. Language comprehension is developed by talking and reading to the children. Initially, as children learn to read, they are given a picture book with no words with the intention that they will share the book and take part in a conversation generated by the pictures. Gradually as the children's knowledge of letters and sounds develop they begin to phonetically decode words.

The first books given are books, which are fully phonetically decodable and linked to the phonics sounds the child has learnt so their learning is practised and reinforced at home. Children take a book home which they can confidently read (approximately 95%) this ensure that the child feels a sense of achievement and success in their reading ability and this is celebrated at home, further consolidating their love of reading and their willingness to read. Children are able to take an additional book home, which exposes them to phonics beyond their phase to share and read for pleasure. Our reading books are organised into coloured Book Bands.

The school spelling program complements the phonics learning from Reception through to the end of KS2. The spelling of high frequency and tricky words are taught continuously throughout the phases.

Ongoing formative assessment takes place within each phonics lesson.  This includes: teacher observations, questioning and discussions. These outcomes are fed forward into timely teacher intervention to ensure gaps in phonological knowledge are closed and progress is not limited. Children’s progress is continually reviewed to ensure that children are not falling behind. Children are regularly moved onto the next Book Band when their fluency and understanding show that they are ready. Children move through the Book Bands at their own pace, initially books are chosen for them, however as they enter KS1 they are able to choose a book to read from our well-stocked school library.

The national Phonics Screening Check is performed in June of Year 1. The purpose of the screening check is to confirm that all children have learned phonic decoding to an age-appropriate standard. The children who did not meet the required standard for the check in year 1 enter again in year 2 with additional support. As children enter KS2, provision is made for those children still requiring daily phonics.

Pupil progress meetings also identify precise actions and objectives for targeted focus children, including the lowest 20% who are not likely to meet the required standard of the Phonics Screening Check.

We recognise that quality first teaching in phonics is the essential first step in improving outcomes for all children.  With this in mind, we ensure that teachers and teaching assistants are kept up to date on the latest initiatives and news.  This is through continuous professional development by outside providers and within school including local authority networks and TA training.  In response to monitoring, evaluation and review outcomes, weaker areas in staff subject knowledge and pedagogy are developed through the school’s coaching/mentoring programme.

Click here to see a glossary of key words used in phonics.