St Mary's Church of England Primary School

Early Reading



At St Mary's CE Primary Primary School, we teach phonics using a linguistic phonics programme called Sounds-Write. This programme is successful in teaching children to read and spell because it starts with what all children know from a very young age – speech sounds. Then, using a very systematic approach, it teaches them how these sounds are coded within our writing system.


The four key concepts children need to learn are:

  1. letters are symbols that represent sounds
  2. sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters
  3. the same sound can be spelled in different ways
  4. the same spelling can represent different sounds


The three keys skills children need to master are:

  1. blending
  2. segmenting
  3. phoneme manipulation


Children in our Foundation Stage begin with the Initial Code where they practice all 3 key skills whilst learning the 1:1 sound-spelling correspondences and securing their understanding of key concept 1. This builds up trust in a truly reversible system, enabling them to decode and encode a wide range of words and sentences. At first, children learn to read and write simple one syllable words with a CVC structure. Complexity of word structure systematically builds up so that children apply their code knowledge to monosyllabic words with up to 6 sounds. 


Once the Initial Code has been mastered, children continue to practice all 3 key skills whilst learning Extended Code which explores key concepts 2, 3 and 4. Learning of the Extended Code is a lifelong process – we all continue to develop our understanding of this code whenever we encounter new words! Whilst learning the Extended Code, children read and write monosyllabic and polysyllabic words at an age-appropriate level.


Based on much educational and cognitive research, the Sounds-Write programme uses a multisensory approach using an apprenticeship model.


Children in Foundation Stage and KS1 have a 30 minute phonics lesson every day, in addition to their reading and writing lessons. Each week children will take home phonics books exactly matched to the unit in the Sounds-Write programme. This repetition at home aids recall and then builds automaticity and fluency, allowing them to read and understand increasingly challenging texts.

Guidance for parents and carers


Helping your child to becoming fluent readers is a priority for most parents and carers. The phonics scheme we use to ensure all children are able to decode words is taught in a very specific way. Parents and carers may want to enrol in this free online course to see how it is taught to empower them to support from home.