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Phonics and Early Reading

Phonics and Early Reading


At St Mark’s, we use the DfE validated systematic synthetic phonics programme, ‘Bug Club Phonics’ from Pearson (Activelearn) to deliver phonics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1. We also use decodable phonics books from Bug Club, which is our reading scheme.



We use a systematic approach to the teaching of synthetic phonics to enable children to develop secure reading and spelling skills. It is proven that high quality phonics teaching is the best way to teach children to read, ‘the EEF considers phonics to be one of the most secure and best-evidenced areas of pedagogy, recommending all schools use a systematic approach to teaching it. There is convincing evidence of the value of systematic synthetic phonics (SSP)’ (The Reading Framework –Teaching the foundations of literacy January 2022). A strong emphasis on high quality teaching of phonics can substantially reduce the number of children at risk of falling below age-related expectations for reading.


At St Mark’s we aim to:

• Deliver high-quality phonics teaching, which secures the crucial skills of word recognition that, once mastered, enables children to read fluently and automatically enable them to concentrate on the meaning of the text

• To support pupils with targeted, differentiated phonics and spelling work where needed, in addition to the whole class teaching, so that all children are given sufficient support to progress and experience challenge at a level at which they can succeed




SSP Programme

Phonics is taught daily for a minimum of 20 minutes in Early Years and Key Stage 1, following the Phonics Bug SPP programme. Bug Club Phonics teaches new graphemes and related phonemes, or alternative spellings to previously taught phonemes, within the whole class teaching. This fast pace, backed up by daily revision of past teaching, has proved the most effective and successful method of phonic training. This means that the basic 40+ phonemes (Units 1–12), and then the alternative spellings of these phonemes (Units 13–30), are acquired quickly, and early reading skills develop rapidly. Decodable reading books can be introduced after just 10 days’ teaching at the end of Unit 2. This enables children to apply the taught strategies and enjoy contextualised reading early on. The order of grapheme introduction (see below) ensures that children start reading and spelling a wide range of words at the earliest possible stage.


High-quality Bug Club Phonics sessions:

• engage children in a range of activities and experiences to develop their speaking and listening skills and phonological awareness

• provide multi-sensory activities to enliven core learning

• enable children to explore a variety of fiction and non-fiction books that include 100% decodable words from phonics taught, and taught tricky words

 • entail fun, interactive videos and activities with games and pictures

• support children in their reading, spelling and writing skills

• follow the Bug club lesson progression as outlined below


Bug Club Phonics Lesson Sequence

Bug Club Phonics is structured with Phoneme Sessions and Language Sessions. This structure fully supports the daily phonics teaching sequence, recommended by the Primary National Strategy in the renewed Framework.


The following diagram illustrates the alignment of the Bug Club Phonics lesson structure to this teaching sequence.

Planning, the Teaching Sequence and Expectations

Bug Club Phonics is taught in Reception to Year 2, daily for up to 40 minutes. Children are taught in whole class/group sessions to ensure children are taught age-related phonics. Additional phonics intervention is given for children who need targeted support of earlier phonics with a member of staff trained in delivering high quality phonics, using phonics bugs games and lessons resources.


Phases 2 to 4 are delivered throughout Reception and Phases 5 and 6 in Key Stage 1. Children are taught phonics altogether with their year group. Those who need additional support or extension will receive this from the teacher or LSA during the practice and application part of the phonics session. Children requiring additional phonics support will receive this in addition to their daily session.


Phonics planning is provided within our SPP programme. The Phonics Bug planning follows the same teaching sequence for each lesson delivered through each and every phase: Introduce, Revisit, Teach, Practice and Apply. Teachers and LSAs enhance planning to ensure that there is a multi-sensory approach to the delivery of the teaching sessions; however, follow the teaching sequence to ensure consistency across the key stages in the delivery of phonics.

Reception – We aim for all children to have completed Phase 4 by the end of Reception.

Year One – We aim for all children to have completed Phase 5 by the end of Year One.

Year Two – We aim for all children to be working securely within Phase 6 by the end of Year Two.

Key Stage Two (Year 3 – Year 6) – Further phonics interventions are planned for children who are not yet secure in Phase 6 phonics. These sessions will be tailored to meet the needs of individual children and delivered by a trained member of staff, using phonics bugs games and lesson resources.


High Frequency (common) words:

Our school’s agreed approach to the teaching of common exception words is that children are encouraged to use their knowledge of synthetic phonics, as much as possible, to work out how to read unknown words aloud. The parts of a word that are 'irregular/tricky', and do not directly correspond to known grapheme/phoneme correspondence, are identified and discussed as a teaching point. Within this sequence, we have identified where we expect ‘irregular/tricky’ words and decodable high frequency words to be taught. This includes the decodable high frequency (common) word list from Bug Club Phonics (which makes up the 100 high frequency word list), alongside the National Curriculum Common Exception Words.



Children have access to whiteboards, pens, magnetic letters, flashcards and GPC mats. The Phonics Bug provides a range of digital resources that can be allocated to the children post direct teaching sessions, such as interactive games that allow for the application of newly taught knowledge. All classrooms must display friezes and/or grapheme wall posters that match the GPCs and progression of the Phonics Bug Programme.

Letter formation

Bug Club Phonics teaches letter formation (for both lower case and capital letters) at the point of introduction of every grapheme. Talking-through elements of such teaching also supports the children’s cognitive processes.


See our letter formation below, this is used consistently throughout the school.

Assessment and Tracking:

Teachers assess children’s understanding of phonics using the assessment tools and schedule provided by the Bug Club Phonics. The data is analysed termly to provide an overview of children’s phonics stages in classes, key stages and across the school. Progress is tracked and children/groups of children that need additional intervention are identified. At the end of the academic year, the class teacher passes on the end of year phonics data to the next class teacher stating where the children are within the Bug Club Phonics programme. This data will provide teachers with possible next steps for children to build on their personal phonics development.


Home Reading

Bug Club Phonics is supported by decodable reading books, which match the order of phoneme introduction. All of our home readers are decodable and have been organised to match the Bug Club Phonics progression. There are a variety of books to match each unit of the teaching programme. Following assessments, (using a variety of Bug Club, Reception Baseline screening, Salford, PMR benchmarking and PIRA from summer term in Year 1), children are matched to the correct unit of home reader. Thus, providing an opportunity for the children to practise and consolidate their learning at each stage. When the children have completed the first two units of Bug Club Phonics, they will have acquired enough grapheme–phoneme correspondences to start reading their own books. Prior to this there is a strong focus on communication and language where pre-readers (wordless books) will be sent home with guidance for parents.


The Bug Club also provides a library of ebooks that can be allocated to individual children post phonics teaching session. The Bug Club Phonics readers are designed to support children in practising and consolidating the knowledge they acquire during the whole-class teaching sessions. Bug Club’s online reading library helps children improve core reading skills, at school or home, with exciting texts and fun rewards. It also enables teachers to monitor every child’s progress. Children will receive one home reader from the school reading library each week. To complement this, the children are allocated the relevant book band of Bug Club eBooks to work through at their own pace. They are encouraged to read their reading books three times to aid with reading fluency. In addition to our Phonics Bug Scheme, at the end of each phonic phase, we also have a variety of other levelled decodable reading books that the children are allocated – these have been organised by their phonic phase that matches the Bug Club Phonics programme. This ensures that children are able to practice and apply sounds they have previously learnt, and encourages a range of reading, whilst promoting enjoyment of reading.


Meeting the need of the lowest 20% of children

A phonics baseline assessment is completed during the first six weeks of the school year. This aids the identification of those children who require additional support. In addition to this, please see ‘assessment’ for more information on how and when children working within the lowest 20% are identified. Children working within the lowest 20% will be supported by the following provision:

  • eBooks and digital games allocated and monitored by the class teacher
  • Children to receive direct phonics teaching in smaller group tailored to their specific needs
  • Children to read one eBook and complete the quiz in school, with support of class teacher or LSA, in addition to their home reading books and e-book allocation
  • Children to receive daily reading and flashcards on sounds they are focusing on


Progress and impact of intervention and support will be reviewed half termly.




In Reception, comprehension is taught through adult led session as part of our projects. Comprehension is also practiced throughout continuous provision in conversations with adults and during story time.


Key Stage 1

The teaching of comprehension in Key Stage 1 is taught through weekly ‘reading skills’ sessions. They focus on the 5 areas of reading: comprehension, inference, themes and conventions, language for effect and word reading. The skills are taught individually and practiced, applied and developed throughout the school year through these discrete reading skills sessions, and our wider integrated curriculum. These skills are recorded in individual reading journals. In addition, any reading learning objectives practised and applied within the integrated curriculum are highlighted as a reading skill clearly on the learning objective in project books.


Key Stage 2

Weekly ‘reading skills’ sessions of 1 hour continue as in Key Stage 1. 


In addition to these 1 hour reading skills sessions, the children are given a rich reading task to complete during the course of the week. These tasks may practice the skill taught in the reading skills session or build on a previous taught skill. These are also recorded in Reading Journals, or, if appropriate, in Project Books and clearly marked as a reading task.

EYFS and Key Stage 1 Reading Meeting Slides - Autumn 2023

Key Stage 2 Reading Meeting - Spring 2024

 Lheartve Reading


At St Mark's we believe that creating a love of reading in pupils is potentially one of the most powerful ways of improving academic standards in school.  Always remember that reading should be a joy not a chore.


We have a large variety of reading books which are taken from many different reading schemes and are carefully graded by reading levels known as book bands. Each book band has its own colour. Teachers select the appropriate book band colour for your child and children are able to choose a range of books from within this colour to enjoy reading at home. When a teacher is certain that your child is reading confidently within a colour they will move your child on to another colour.


Our Reading curriculum includes;

  • Guided Reading
  • Hearing books read aloud on a regular basis
  • Home / school reading with children selecting their own choice of texts
  • Opportunities to practise reading aloud to volunteers in school
  • Visiting our school Library and working in partnership with our local library
  • Taking part in reading challenges throughout the year


How can I support my child at home with reading?

In KS2, and when children become free readers, it is still important to encourage them to read both independently and out loud to an adult. Reading aloud is such an important skill to aid with fluency, presenting and performing. 


Talk! Talk! Talk!

Talk about books and reading! Talk about what you have read, what they have read and ask questions about their books. Sharing books together and talking about books can be a really special time - when asked, many children at St Mark's told us that their favourite time to read is bedtime stories or with an adult! 


See below for a reading bookmark with prompts to use to help you talk about books with your child.


Reading Challenge

Each class has its own reading challenge which the children complete independently to help encourage reading at home and to help expose children to a wider variety of texts. 


See below for more information!


Choosing books

Choose books together, recommend books, ask what books they have chosen. For help with this, there are a selection of suggested reads below:




How can you help with reading at home?

New Reading Bookmarks and Targets 2024



At St Marks we believe in providing the children with a real purpose and context within which to learn to be a confident writer.

We strive to achieve this through our unique integrated curriculum, please see our topic rationales for the English covered within each topic: