Phonics and Early Reading at Whitehall Primary

At Whitehall we are driven to ensure that all our children develop as confident fluent readers. We place a huge emphasis in our curriculum on children being taught high quality phonics as the stepping stone into the world of reading.

We use Unlocking Letters and Sounds which was validated by the DfE in December 2021.   

We begin teaching phonics in the first few weeks of term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4.

In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, they learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check.

In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps.

To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact.


Reading Scheme


At Whitehall we promote a 'phonics first' approach and in both our guided reading sessions at school and in the books children take home, texts are very closely matched to a child's current phonics knowledge so that every child can experience real success in their reading.

In these crucial early stages of reading we primarily use books from Ransom

Reading Stars Phonics, to ensure complete fidelity to the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression we follow.

Once children progress beyond decodable texts, they move onto our book scheme so that they can continue to progress in their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills to become avid, expert readers.


The reading bookmark below shows the progression through the phonic phases and then onto the book banded books.

 Each phonic phase and book band has a number or colour that reflect progress in reading from early phonics through to fluent, competent reading around the age of 7 or 8. There are also bands beyond this but these are much broader and more about age-appropriateness than reading ability.


Helping our children to become lifelong confident readers

At Whitehall we believe the most important skill for each child to leave primary school with is the ability to read independently and effectively for meaning. We, therefore, provide a curriculum which offers a structured approach to the teaching of reading through discreet reading lessons and embedding this work within our broad and rich curriculum. 

In order for all our children to become successful confident readers, we would like to take this opportunity to remind all parents of the importance of ensuring that their child has their book bag, reading diary and book in school each day. Your child’s reading diary forms a vital link between school and home and enables teachers to let you know how your child is progressing with their reading. The diary also enables parents and carers to communicate with school and let us know that you have heard you child read.

If your child has misplaced their reading diary please let the teacher know and we will get a replacement for your child.

In order to develop our home school reading partnership further we thought it would be helpful to let you know how we as teachers will support your child’s reading in school and how we would appreciate you supporting your child with reading at home:


What teachers will do:

What parents and carers can do:

  • Hear your child read by themselves, once every fortnight, and make a comment in the reading diary when this has happened.
  • Read with your child in a group (guided reading)   each week, and stamp your child’s reading diary with a guided reading stamp.
  • Ensure your child is reading the correct book  level.
  • Change your child’s book regularly.
  • Ensure your child makes good progress.
  • Provide parents with a reading bookmark when your child progresses to the next reading colour. (The bookmarks provide tips to support you with reading at each level.)
  •  If your child is struggling with reading we will provide extra adults to read with them.
  • Make sure your child has a book bag, reading diary and book in school each day.
  • Hear you child read regularly and make a comment in their reading diary when you do (smiley faces and stickers are great to encourage positive attitudes to reading).
  • Discuss what your child has read to help develop their comprehension. Your child will shortly be bringing home a coloured bookmark (according to their colour book  band) with tips to support you reading with your child.


Whitehall’s fantastic reading results are not only because of what the children learn in school. Our pupils become successful readers with a love of books because of the support they get from home through daily opportunities to read and hear stories. We thank our parents, grandparents and carers for that!

Reception Phonics and Reading workshop

Below is the Powerpoint This explains how we teach phonics and the strategies we use to teach your child to read.


Supporting reading at home

As an ECaR (Every Child a Reader) school, we have book banded our books and children progress through the coloured book bands. You will notice that your child's book from school has a coloured tab on it. This indicates the colour they are reading. Children will have their reading level checked frequently by the teacher. When children are confident reading at one level they will be assessed (we call this benchmarking as it is a method of assessing if a child is ready to read the next level book).

To help parents with supporting their children at home we have, as an ECaR team, developed coloured bookmarks which help parents to know what book level children should be reading at for their year group.

Reading Volunteers

We have great partnerships with parents as reading volunteers as well as local businesses. We value the benefit that the reading volunteers bring to our children and are always happy for new people to join our reading volunteer team. If you are interested then please contact the office or Emma Cutmore.

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