"Reading can take you places you have never been before."

Dr Seuss

Phonics at St.Mary’s

At St Marys we have introduced a new phonics programme called Unlocking Letters and Sounds in September 2023.

Phonics begins in our Nursery where children take part in Phase 1. During this phase children develop their ability to listen to, make, explore and talk about sounds. Activities concentrate on developing children’s speaking and listening skills, phonological awareness and oral blending and segmenting. 

Phase One activities are arranged under the following seven aspects. 


■ Aspect 1: General sound discrimination – environmental sounds 

■ Aspect 2: General sound discrimination – instrumental sounds 

■ Aspect 3: General sound discrimination – body percussion 

■ Aspect 4: Rhythm and rhyme 

■ Aspect 5: Alliteration

 ■ Aspect 6: Voice sounds 

■ Aspect 7: Oral blending and segmenting


Formal phonics teaching begins in the first few weeks of term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4.

Please click below for an example of our Phase 2 and Phase 3, picture, action, and letter formation document.


In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, the children learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional common exception Words. By the end of Year 1, children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national phonics screening check.

In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps. 

Please see below for an example of a Phase 5 sound mat.


To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact.

Reading Scheme

At St Mary's we promote a 'phonics first' approach and in both our guided reading sessions at school and in the books children take home, texts are very closely matched to a child's current phonics knowledge so that every child can experience real success in their reading.

In these crucial early stages of reading we primarily use books from Ransom Reading Stars Phonics, to ensure complete fidelity to the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression we follow. These are supplemented by other books to provide breadth; all books are closely matched to the individual child’s phonics knowledge. 

Once children progress beyond decodable texts, they move onto our book scheme, Accelerated Reader, so that they can continue to progress in their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills to become avid, expert readers.


How can parents support reading at home

Reading at home, every day, has the biggest impact on your child’s learning and progress.  Please find below some suggestions that will support you with supporting your child.

  • Use letter sounds rather than letter names with your children at home. This will avoid confusion for the children and will reinforce the learning being done at school.

  • Avoid adding an extra vowel when pronouncing letter sounds eg ‘buh’ ‘duh’

  • When listening to your child read encourage them to have-a-go at unfamiliar words by encouraging them to: “Say the sounds and read the word”.

  • Learn more about how we teach phonics and how you can support your child at home using the online course by going to: https://www.udemy.com/help-your-child-to-read-and-write/