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Prestbury St Marys

Phonics and early reading

Reading and Phonics Policy 2023

Reading Skills Progression Document

Unlocking Letters and Sounds Progression 

VIPER key skills and sample question stems

Super Story Spine for Reception

Super Story Spine for Year 1

Super Story Spine for Y2


Our intention at Prestbury St Mary’s is for each child to develop an overarching love of reading for pleasure. Our aim is for our children to make excellent progress in reading, developing into fluent, confident readers who have a good understanding of what they read. Children are exposed to high-quality, varied texts and immersed in vocabulary-rich learning environments inspiring them to enjoy learning to read.

 Our Reading curriculum encompasses The Prestbury Learner as children learn how to communicate, be resilient and show teamwork.

 We recognise how important it is to develop a passion for reading in our children, to enable them to be successful learners in all areas of the curriculum and in life beyond our school.


Unlocking Letters and Sounds

At Prestbury St Mary’s, we are passionate about ensuring all children become confident and enthusiastic readers and writers, and we believe that Phonics provides the foundation in supporting children to develop these skills in order for this to become achievable.

 At Prestbury St Mary’s we use the government validated systematic synthetic phonics programme (SSP) called ‘Unlocking Letters and Sounds’ to teach with rigour and fidelity. We teach our phonics, so that is accessible to all, by planning for 100% engagement from each child. Synthetic systematic phonics is a key skill that supports the development of early reading. We continually aim to make strides towards closing the word gap. Working alongside parents and carers, we want to provide our pupils with the skills they need to have a successful start to their lives as readers and to ensure that our children develop a love of reading.

As a result of this, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Prestbury St Mary’s 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.

The teaching of Phonics is fast-paced, and we encourage all children to actively participate in each lesson, and by encouraging the children to take ownership of their learning we are continuously striving for excellence.


When children are able to decode effectively, we focus on fluency which is the skill of reading at a conversational level, with appropriate pace and intonation and few errors.  Fluency is not an end in itself but a gateway to comprehension. Fluent reading frees cognitive resources to process the meaning of what is read.

We aim for all of our pupils to be fluent readers at the end of Key Stage One.



As well as teaching the mechanics of reading through phonics, we aim to develop key comprehension skills to enable children to become more successful readers, to read to learn and to develop a lifelong love of reading. We ensure that children’s comprehension skills develop through providing high-quality discussion with the teacher, and establishing clear methods for answering a range of comprehension questions involving retrieving information, making inferences and making predictions.

Our ‘Super Six’ books (in Reception, Year 1 and 2) enhance reading comprehension using Reading VIPERS type questions. These questions and answers will be recorded in the class ‘Super Six’ reading journal.  These are the same set of skills that are covered through additional VIPER reading lessons in Year 2.

In Year 2 (Term 3) the children are taught to develop their reading comprehension skills through the VIPERS approach in whole class reading sessions. VIPERS is a range of reading prompts, developed by The Literacy Shed, based on the reading content domains found in the National Curriculum. The ‘VIPER’ reading skills are: vocabulary, inference, prediction, explanation and sequencing. This is an area we are continuing to develop and review.



We recognise that reading is key to unlocking the wider curriculum and provide additional support that is informed by the latest assessment information. In all year groups, the lowest 20% readers are identified and the appropriate support is put in place to promote rapid progress. This may include additional 1:1 reading. The lowest 20% is reviewed regularly. Where possible, we also seek to create a keep up, not catch up culture. As a result, same day intervention is used where possible to ensure any gaps in knowledge and skill are filled quickly. In Reception, Year One and Year 2 for example, daily phonics interventions target pupils who are not yet secure in particular phonemes.


At Prestbury St Mary’s, we believe that reading and writing is an essential life skill and we are dedicated to enabling our children to become enthused, engaged and successful lifelong readers and writers. To support this, we practise the ‘Unlocking Letters and Sounds’ scheme and implement the following:


  1. Explicitly teach phonics daily in EYFS and KS1, with high expectations of all children.
  2. Plan and teach following the rigorous sequential approach using Unlocking Letters and Sounds Phonics.
  3. Follow Unlocking Letters and Sounds Progression document to ensure clear milestones for each year group.
  4. Have a strong start in EYFS, ensuring we start phonics teaching immediately after settling in, then following the Progression document.
  5. Teach our classes as a whole group thereby employing a ‘keep-up’, rather than ‘catch-up’ approach.
  6. Provide plenty of opportunity throughout the day for children to revise and apply their new phonics knowledge.
  7. Ensure each phonics lesson involves all children learning, all of the time, following the same structure: Revisit and review, Teach, Practise, Apply
  8. Use assessment for learning strategies to identify those at risk of falling behind, and to provide additional challenges for those that need it. We ‘scoop up’ quickly, by providing planned interventions that are delivered outside of the daily phonics lesson.
  9. Undertake assessment of phonics learning half termly. This data is monitored by individual class teachers, but also by the English Lead to ensure this information is fed back into planning.
  • Use Unlocking Letters and Sounds pictures and rhymes to support the teaching of graphemes. These are consistent across the school
  • Ensure our resources (including flash cards, actions, and slides) are consistent across the school.
  • Ensure our staff undertake regular training in the delivery of our phonics programme.
  • Undertake supportive monitoring of phonics planning and teaching, so that we can continually develop our practice.
  • Make every effort to support parents and carers with learning at home. This includes meetings and resources to practise graphemes and CEW.
  • Provide reading books that are matched to the individual child’s phonic knowledge and that they are fully decodable.



Reading in the Early Years

At Prestbury St Mary’s, we follow the EYFS Statutory Framework for Literacy. The teaching of reading in Early Years supports the development of linking sounds to letters and understanding that from this we can read and write. Children will begin to recognise print in their environment and start to understand that this is one way of communicating with one another. It is vital that children understand that print carries meaning and that they are able to engage with this essential element of communication and the high importance it holds.

Alongside our synthetic phonics teaching, we actively develop children’s love of reading through reading high quality children’s literature aloud, telling stories, singing songs and learning daily rhymes which develop children's engagement and auditory skills. Promoting reading and a love of literature from an early age is key in our EYFS and throughout a child's journey with us.


We follow topics of learning within the EYFS and each term we share core text books linked to our termly topics. We discuss how print conveys meaning and children are taught how to locate a word and are shown directionality. Intonation is modelled by the adults reading the books and comprehension and inference questions are asked at the end of the story. We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’.

 During the ‘Welcome to Reception’ meeting we discuss how parents can support their children to learn to read. We explain the Phonics Scheme we currently use. Phonics and reading are assessed regularly. Teachers complete a phonics tracking sheet for each child.


Daily phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1

We teach phonics for up to 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.

  • v Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.
  • v Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
  • v Children in Year 1 review Phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.


Daily Phonics lessons in Year 2

In Year 2, Term 1, the children will revise Phase Five (a) and focus on Phase Five (b) mastery. In Term 2 they will complete Phase Five (c) mastery. Children will then move on to daily spelling sessions following ‘No Nonsense Spellings’ which is in line with what is taught across KS2. Any child who does not meet age related expectations in Year 1 will continue to receive support to close identified gaps.


Reading practice sessions

We teach children to read through reading practice sessions up to two times a week. These:

  • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
  • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge
  • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.
  • Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills: Decoding, prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression, comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.

The children who are not reading with an adult read their book independently (matched to their phonics level) in Year 1 and 2.

 Reception children read 1 to 1 with a teacher/TA in Term 1 and 2. In Term 3 Reading Sessions start in Reception.


Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI)

In Reception we take part in the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) which is a 20-week programme used to help identify young children overcome language difficulties. A member of school staff delivers three small group sessions and two individual sessions to a targeted group of around 3-6 pupils for 20 weeks.  NELI aims to develop children’s vocabulary, listening and narrative skills and in the last 10 weeks it also involves activities to develop phonological awareness and early letter-sound knowledge as foundations for learning to read.


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 lessons 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.

Equality and SEND

All of our pupils will have equal access to phonics lessons and resource available. Throughout the school, phonics is a priority for all of our children. All efforts are made to support children with their learning, focusing on specific gaps in learning. If we feel a child is not making the progress in spite of having interventions we will discuss this with the SENDCO and follow the graduated Pathway and provision recommended by Gloucestershire LA. In order to meet the needs of individual children and gain additional support from other agencies, it is necessary for the class teacher to monitor the progress of the pupil closely in the first instance, before providing a range of intervention strategies and support to meet the needs of the child. Children with identified SEND in reading/phonics will have tailored target set on their My Plan/EHCP.


EAL pupils

All staff recognise their responsibility for supporting EAL learners towards cognitive and academic language proficiency.  We believe that a ‘Quality First’ approach to teaching enables us to support children who are learning English as an additional language by various means:

  • developing their spoken and written English by:
  • ensuring that vocabulary work covers the technical as well as the everyday meaning of key words
  • explaining how speaking and writing in English are structured for different purposes across a range of subjects;
  • providing a range of reading materials that highlight the different ways in which English is used;
  • ensuring that there are effective opportunities for talking, and that talking is used to support writing;
  • encouraging children to transfer their knowledge, skills and understanding of one language to another;
  • building on children’s experiences of language at home and in the wider community, so that their developing uses of English and other languages support one another;

Staff are made aware of the possible extra-time and support needed to ensure they are given the best conditions to process instructions, develop their phonics knowledge/reading comprehension skills and apply spelling rules. Teachers liaise with parents to encourage them to enjoy books with their children, asking questions and discussing the books in their home language or in English, supporting their enjoyment of books and their acquisition of English. We currently have a voluntary EAL specialist who helps us identify the specific needs of EAL children and runs weekly interventions. 


Home Reading

Children will take home fully decodable reading books that match their phonics knowledge. Reading for pleasure books called ‘Share Me’ books also go home for parents to share and read to children.

Ensuring Reading for Pleasure

 ‘Reading for pleasure is the single most important indicator of a child’s success.’ (OECD 2002)

‘The will influences the skill and vice versa.’ (OECD 2010)

We value reading for pleasure highly and work hard as a school to grow our Reading for Pleasure pedagogy.

We read to children every day. We choose these books carefully as we want children to experience a wide range of books, including books that reflect the children at Prestbury St. Mary’s and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures. We have developed our own ‘Super Six Story Spine’ for each year group.

In Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, children have access to the reading corner every day and the books are continually refreshed.

Children from Reception onwards have a home reading diary. The parent/carer records comments to share with the adults in school and the adults will write in this on a regular basis to ensure communication between home and school.

We plan opportunities to engage with a wide range of Reading for Pleasure events (book fairs, author visits and workshops, national events etc.).


Rhyme, poetry and singing time

The daily timetable for Reception and Year 1 includes a rhyme, poetry or singing time. Learning poems including traditional nursery rhymes such as Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Jack Horner and Baa Baa Black Sheep can heighten children’s awareness of the individual sounds within words through alliteration, assonance and rhyme.


Zoom Storytime

Reading stories play an important role in the growth and development of children. Every other week The Senior Leadership Team reads a story to the children via Zoom. Not only does this show how everyone within school values the importance of reading but also develops a positive attitude to reading.  This positive feel and love of books is a powerful incentive to children to learn to read for themselves. 



 Children at Prestbury St Mary’s, love reading; they love listening to stories; they love sharing books with their friends; they love “escaping” with a book themselves. By the time our children leave our school, they are confident, fluent readers. Children at our school are proud of their reading choices and ability. Our children are able to read books and other texts to enhance their knowledge and understanding in all subjects. Our children can confidently use a range of strategies for decoding words.


Our systematic approach to teaching Phonics at Prestbury St Mary’s, combined with our high expectations and a challenge for all ethos, has had a positive impact on the reading outcomes for all pupils. In 2022 80% of our Year 1 pupils passed the national Phonics Screening Check, compared to 75% Nationally. 



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 half term to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan the Keep-up support that they need.
  • In Year 1, a mock phonics screening in carried out every half term from December to identify individual gaps in knowledge and understanding, as well as any systemic gaps.


Individual reading

Children in the lowest 20% of each class and/or those children who do not read at home every day receive individual reading sessions with an adult.


Daily short and sharp interventions take place with individual children relating to the sounds they have not yet secured in each day’s phonics session.


 Statutory Assessment

  • National Phonics Screening. All Y1 pupils sit a national phonics screening check which is carried out in June each year. Pupils who do not attain the national standard will repeat the screening in Year 2. This is to ensure that pupils have secured a secure foundation on which to build their reading skills.

The revised EYFS Statutory Framework 2021 has placed higher emphasis on Literacy and divided it into three subheadings with ‘Word Reading’ relating explicitly to phonics. At the end of the Reception year, each child will be formally assessed against each Early Learning Goal (ELG) including Word Reading. Pupils will either receive an ‘expected’ judgement or ‘emerging’ judgement.



Unlocking Letters and Sounds video - Phase 2
This video has all of the phase 2 phonemes (sounds) and the corresponding actions. Phase 2 starts at the beginning of Reception



Unlocking Letters and Sounds Phase 3: taught in Reception 
This video has all of the phase 3 phonemes (sounds) and the corresponding actions. 
Note: there are 2 versions of the oo phoneme shown (as in book) depending on your accent. 


 Unlocking Letters and Sounds Phase 5a: taught in Year 1

This video has the first set of Phase 5 phonemes your children will be taught in Year 1 after October half term. Pupils will then learn the alternative pronunciation and the alternative spelling for each phoneme. 



Unlocking Letters and Sounds - Summary Progression

Unlocking Letters and Sounds - Glossary

Unlocking Letters and Sounds- Actions, Images and Handwriting Phase 2

Unlocking Letters and Sounds - Actions and Images Phase 3