Phonics and Early Reading


Phonics and Early Reading Policy


Phonics (reading and spelling)

At Castlebar primary school, we believe that all our children should have the opportunity to become readers. This is why we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Reception and follow the programme, 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, our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Castlebar 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 communication is crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.


At Castlebar School, we value reading as a crucial life skill. By the time children leave us, we aim for them to explore/ read simple texts and enjoy reading for pleasure. Our readers are equipped with the tools to tackle unfamiliar vocabulary. We encourage our children to see themselves as readers for both pleasure and purpose.

Because we believe teaching every child to read is so important, we have a Reading Leader who drives the early reading programme in our school. This person is highly skilled at teaching phonics and reading, and they monitor and support our reading team, so everyone teaches with fidelity to the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme.



Foundations for phonics

We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children. These include:

  • sharing high-quality stories and poems
  • learning a range of nursery rhymes and action rhymes
  • Identifying voice and animal sounds
  • Exploring body percussion
  • activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending
  • attention to high-quality language.

We ensure children are well-prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending.

Daily phonics lessons

We teach phonics for 20–30 minutes a day. In some classes, we build from 10-minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson where appropriate.

  • Children develop and secure knowledge of phase 2 GPC’s
  • Children are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.
  • Children working within Phases 3 and 4 are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.
Teaching reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week

We teach children to read through reading practice sessions at least three times a week. These:

  • are taught by a fully trained adult
  • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge

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.

Home reading

The decodable reading practice book is accessed at home via online E-books.
  • Reading for pleasure books are also encouraged to use at home for parents to share and read to children. We share the research behind the importance and impact of sharing quality children’s books with parents through workshops, leaflets and the Everybody read! resources.
  • We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.
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 Castlebar School, and our local community as well as books that open windows into other worlds and cultures.
  • Every classroom has an inviting book corner that encourages a love for reading. We curate these books and talk about them to entice children to read a wide range of books.
  • Children have access to the reading corner every day in their free flow time and the books are continually refreshed.
    Each class visits the school library each week.



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

Summative assessment is used:

  • Every term to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support.
  • By SLT and scrutinised through the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessment tracker, to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.