Tips, Guides and FAQs

Tips, Guides and FAQs

‘Elephant in the Room’ Q:

‘How do I get x further on with his/her reading and phonics, I’ve tried everything ?!’

A: It is my firm belief all children can be taught to read and write. Doesn’t always happen. Why not? For many complex reasons.

Some of the reasons are related to the school, some are related to the national systems that have been in place for some time. What I refer to as ‘The Standard Model’ which I have often found fails both children and teachers. I’ve been there, I know exactly how it feels to keep working incredibly hard with tools that don’t work for children who need better. Not a great place to be. I get it.

Certain decisions to change the above are beyond your control, many of them in fact. So, what do I do in the meantime?

A: Plenty.

‘New to this school’ teachers (including NQTs)

Find out what the ‘systematic approaches’ to phonics, reading and Writing are in the school See Key Questions below.

‘In this school for some time’ teachers

Look at the approach you have used at the school with ‘fresh eyes’ and ‘assess’ it using the Key Questions below.

Leader in my school’ teachers

What can we do next to accelerate catch-up and progress for all children? What can we do that doesn’t blow the budget and means we can still use resources we have already invested in? Consider Key Questions below.

Key Questions

  • What is the systematic approach to phonics in our school? A systematic approach means all adults in school deliver phonics using the same delivery tools and Systematic ‘anything’ demands complete consistency. Children who need it most will fall through any gaps in inconsistencies.
  • When does the above approach begin and end? It cannot end at the end of Year 2 if children need it beyond. How do I avoid this and provide for those children in the meantime, without them missing out on other learning? You develop a systematic approach which will end this.
  • What is the rate of progression expected within that approach? Yearly, termly progression markers are too few. Children don’t have that much time. Half-termly progression markers are needed as a minimum.
  • Daily assessment using the same systems by all teachers, acted upon in the same way. Phonics is fluid, one session can change outcomes.
  • How do we regularly communicate and share this approach to parents so they can help their child best at home?
  • How does phonics link with ‘Literacy lessons’? We teach phonics to read and write, it is fairly non-sensical to teach phonics and then go on to a Literacy lesson without links. If the links are difficult because different staff teach phonics to the Literacy lessons, we need to have established link systems in place that make sense to children. Otherwise, huge opportunities are being missed and ultimately the journey is much harder than it needs to be for staff and children.
  • What are the links for staff? What are the established systems which mean all staff can communicate on AFL of their group daily, weekly to make sure those who teach those children Literacy (if different to those who teach phonics) can continually pass on key AFL information to ensure maximum progress for all children?
  • Do the established and consistently used phonics delivery tools and strategies include daily expectations to read and write in books using phonics? From EYFS all the way through? Do expectations on volume of what is read and written increase across the school every day, week, half term, term? Do they follow consistently applied Key delivery reading and writing strategies? What are those strategies? Do all staff deliver them to children in the same way? Children are likely to fall through the ‘gaps’ if not.
  • Which early reading books are used to apply phonics to read and build fluency?


Most schools use the now ‘old’ Phoneme ‘order’. They are often taught in ‘phases’. Often the problem here is this ‘arrangement of phonemes’ into those phases makes sense to teachers, but makes less sense to children. Often children aren’t able to remember them consistently because they aren’t linked in any meaningful (to children) way. Seen in KS2 often – many children who often ‘never got on’ to the more complex phases can’t spell using those ‘long phonemes’ – split digraphs being a classic example.

There is another way. There is s proven to work system which radically and quickly improves phonics and reading Scores and OFSTED outcomes in all schools who use it. There is a system which works for all children. ALL.

Find out more here

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