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Oakley Vale Primary school


What is phonics?

There has been a huge shift in the past few year in how we teach reading in UK schools. This is having a big impact and helping many children learn to read and spell. Phonics is recommended as the first strategy that children should be taught in helping them learn to read and spell. It runs alongside other teaching methods such as Guided Reading and on sight reading and Shared Reading to help children develop all the other vital reading skills and encourage a real love of reading.

So, what exactly is phonics?

Words are made up from small units of sounds called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words

In phonics lessons children are taught to:


They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order.


Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.


Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages learning phonics is easier because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes. Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

ch th oo ay (these are all digraphs - graphemes with two letters)

There are other graphemes that are trigraphs (made up of 3 letters) and even a few made from 4 letters.

Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example ch makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.

Oakley Vale Primary School follows the Read, Write inc phonics scheme. Children in Reception and year 1 have a dedicated daily session focussed on phonics. Please refer to the link below for more information about Read, Write Inc including helpful videos for parents:

In year 1 all of the children in England have to complete the phonics screening check. The phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard.

For more information on the phonics screening check and to be able to look at past screening papers please look at this link:

Please find below our school phonics screening check data compared to local authority and National data:

Oakley Vale Phonics data 2016-2023