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At St. James’ C of E Primary, we are proud of our approach to reading, recognising its importance as an essential life skill. We are committed to ensuring that every pupil will learn to read regardless of their background, needs or abilities; reading lies at the heart of our curriculum.

Our aim is for children to develop a genuine love of books and thirst for literature. We ensure pupils are given the opportunity to read and have read to them a broad range of high-quality texts, including a variety of authors and different text types, from classics to newly published literature. We understand that when children make good progress in reading they also find success in other individual subject disciplines; fluent readers learn more because they can read and gain knowledge for themselves. The ability to read fluently, comprehend and interpret is a prerequisite to success in later life. It is therefore essential that our approach to teaching phonics and reading is accessible to all learners.

We believe reading is a gateway skill that makes all other learning possible. The first step in enabling pupils to access the joy of books and begin to develop the skills for word reading is for them to learn the sounds associated with each letter. The teaching of phonics is crucial to unlocking the reading code. From the Summer term 2022, we have introduced Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS), a systematic, synthetic phonics program( SSPP), which has been created to ‘ensure every child can read well, quickly’.


The principles of ELS are based upon:


  • The delivery of whole-class, high-quality first teaching following consistent lesson structures

  • The use of consistent terminology by teachers, children and parents

  • The use of consistent resources that support effective teaching

  • Repetition and reinforcement of learning

  • Regular assessment to ensure that all children ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’

  • Decodable reading books that support each pupils’ growing knowledge of the alphabetic code and are matched to the ELS progression.

We start phonics teaching phonics from the very beginning of Reception. During the children’s first few weeks of school we also focus on using Phase 1 of Letters and Sounds (2007) and then continue this throughout the school day in Reception where necessary (as recommended by the ELS program).

The systematic teaching of phonics, alongside working in partnership with parents, supports each pupil’s development in early reading and writing, providing them with a firm foundation on which to build. We have clear milestones for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2, and following the ELS progression it enables rapid learning as well as time for consolidation and assessment. Our aim is that all pupils will have a sound knowledge and understanding of phonics by the end of Year 2.

We continue to support both phonic needs and fluency throughout the school and have a vast number of fully decodable books on offer for KS2 and staff trained in ELS in KS2 to support their needs.


Phonics Milestones (ELS)


Decodable readers

It is vital that whilst children are learning to read, they read books that match their phonic knowledge. At St. James’ we use the Oxford University Press decodable readers that have been written to support Essential Letters and Sounds. These books have been carefully matched to every aspect of the program and a matching chart can be found here. Click here to read the document.


When children are confident with the sounds in the phase, there is also opportunity for them to move to phonetically plausible reading books which continue to embed their early reading skills. Children are also encouraged to take home a richer reading book, which could be in the form of a sharing book or a ‘free choice’ text from our school or class libraries or a richer reader from the scheme.

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