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St Cuthbert's Catholic School

St Cuthbert's Catholic School

Phonics and Reading



At St Cuthberts we believe that the ability to read is fundamental to the children’s development as independent learners, during their time at school and beyond. Reading is central to our ability to understand, interpret and communicate with each other and the world around us. 


We teach reading using a range of reading schemes, grouped together into book bands. We use Oxford Reading Tree as a scheme across the Key Stage, and Collins Big Cat books for guided reading and interventions. This enables the children to read widely and become secure in not only decoding text but comprehension skills from an early stage.


Early reading


At the early stages of reading, the children are taught to decode texts by following a synthetics phonics programme (Letters and Sounds – see below for more information). Children are taught phonics in differentiated groupings so that the content of phonics lessons closely matches the ability of children in the group. Assessment is used frequently to diagnose anything that may be hindering progress in reading and so that children can move between groups flexibly according to ability.


Reading books are consistent with each child’s developing phonic knowledge and are taken home daily. This means that children can practice their reading outside of the school day using a fully decodable text so that they experience success in reading.




Reading books are colour coded according to reading ability level and children select a reading book matched to their reading level. Assessment takes place half termly so that pupils can move through the reading scheme according to ability eventually becoming a ‘free reader’. Assessments may include running records, NFER assessments and comprehension tasks. Children are expected to read at home 4 times a week and can also select a reading book of their own choice from the school library or from their classroom library shelves. Every child has a reading record to record the books they read and this is checked by school staff.


Reading skills are developed through regular 1:1 reading, guided reading in smaller groups and whole class shared reading. Literacy Shed’s VIPERS are used across school to develop the acquisition of higher level vocabulary and comprehension skills, as well as developing reading for enjoyment.


Children who are making slow progress with their reading need to be heard read by an adult at least three times a week. Additional resources to support children who are struggling to make progress with their reading include the RAPID reading programme. These are to be used as directed by the SENCO.


Reading for pleasure


There should be story time every day in all classes, so that children can hear how a good reader sounds. It is a time for children to enjoy books, while providing language rich experience and opportunities to develop vocabulary and comprehension skills.


Teachers also encourage children to read widely by promoting reading and by using class rewards and reading diaries to stimulate this love of reading. ‘Quiet Reading’ slots are built into each class every day to allow every child dedicated time for reading for pleasure.


A reading buddy system across school where KS2 pupils ‘buddy up’ with KS1 and EYFS pupils to share stories together.




At St Cuthbert's Catholic Primary School, we follow the Letters and Sounds systematic phonics programme, which teaches the children all the phonemes and skills to help them to read and write.  We use ‘Phonics Play’ for assessment and teaching resources and ‘A Song of Sounds’ to help children memorise the various phonemes. All the children in EY/KS1 receive a 25-minute discrete phonic session on a daily basis.  The children are assessed and streamed into Phonic groups (phases) based upon their knowledge of letters and sounds and ability to blend/segment sounds within words.  Children continue to have regular phonic sessions into Key Stage 2 if they are not secure at the end of Key Stage 1.


How does it work?

The Letters and Sounds programme has six specific phonic phases. 


Phase 1 starts within EY and continues throughout school life.  Children play games to develop their knowledge of environmental, and instrumental sounds, body percussion, general sound discrimination including listening and remembering to different sounds, rhythm and rhyme, alliteration, voice sounds and oral blending and segmenting.  At this stage, no alphabet letters have been taught and the focus is very much on playing games and activities e.g. I spy with the children having fun.


Phase 2 begins in Reception or if children are ready earlier.  This phase is taught up to 6 weeks and introduces children to some of the alphabet sounds.  Letters are taught in a specific format to enable children to then develop their word building skills.


Phase 3 is taught up to 12 weeks; so, during the summer term in Reception, children should be secure at this stage.  Children are taught another 25 graphemes including phonemes which consist of two letters e.g. ch.  Children should be able to read and spell CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words e.g. cat, dog, mum, dad, leg, and hat.  They will be able to read two syllable words e.g. football and be able to say letter names.  You can help to teach your child an alphabet song to learn these letter names.


Phase 4 is a consolidation phase which lasts between 4-6 weeks.  All children should be secure at this phase by the end of Reception.  During Phase 4, children will practise reading and spelling CVCC words e.g. t-e-n-t as well as reading two syllable words


Phase 5 is taught throughout Year 1 and teaches children new graphemes as well as alternative pronunciation for graphemes already taught e.g. ay – play, ai – train and a-e – cake.  In June, Y1 children will undertake a statutory Phonic Screening Check where they will be expected to read 40 words (20 real and 20 nonsense words) consisting of the different phonemes which they have been taught.  This is a national screening check and results will be reported to the Local Authority, Department for Education as well as parents.  The pass mark can change each year as it is decided by the DFE, in previous years the pass mark has been around 32/40.  If any child does not reach the expected standard, support will be put in place by school and they will be able to retake a different Phonic Screening check in the following June, when they are in Year 2.


Phase 6 is taught throughout Year 2 and focuses more upon spelling rules.  Children are taught how to write words in past tense, add prefixes e.g. un at the beginning of words (unfriendly) and suffixes at the end of words e.g. ing – playing.


What do children need to know and when?



Letters taught which children should recognise:

Words children should read and spell:

When children should be secure:

Phase 2

Set 1: s, a, t, p, i, n

Set 2: i, n, m, d,

Set 3: g, o, c, k

Set 4: ck, e, u, r

Set 5: h, b, f, ff, l, ll, s, ss


Read the tricky words: to, the, I, go and no


Blend and segment VC (vowel and consonant) words e.g. if, am, on and up


Children should be able to form most letters correctly.

By the end of October in Reception

Phase 3

Children should recognise and write:


Set 6: j, v, w, x

Set 7: y, z, zz, qu

ch = chip,

sh = shop,

th = thin/then,

ng = ring,

ai = rain,

ee = feet,

igh = night,

oa = boat,

oo/oo = book/look,

ar = farm,

or = for,

ur = hurt,

ow = cow,

oi = coin,

ear = dear,

air = fair,

ure = sure,

er = corner

Read the tricky words: he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, her, they, all and are.


Read phonically decodable words: will, with, that, this, then, them, see, for, now, down, look and too.


To be able to blend and read CVC words.


To spell the tricky words: to, the, I, go and no


To form all the letters correctly.

By the end of Reception


Phase 4

To give any sound when shown any Phase 2 or Phase 3 grapheme.


To be able to read the tricky words: some, one, said, come, do, so, were, when, have, there, out, like, little and what.

To be able to spell the tricky words: he, she, we, me, be, was, my, you, her, they, all and are.

To be able to write each letter formed correctly.

Children to be secure at this stage before the end of Reception.

Phase 5

For any given sound, write the grapheme

ay = play

ou = mouse

ie = pie

ea = beans

oy = boy

ir = girl

ue = clue

aw = awful

wh = when/who

ph = phonics

ew = new

oe = toe

au = autumn

a-e = cake

e-e = Pete

i-e = kite

o-e = home

u-e = cube

Read and spell most of the 100 High Frequency Words.


Read and spell two and three syllable words.


Form each letter correctly.

By the end of Year 1

Phase 6

Adding ing, ed, er, est, ful, ly, ment, ness and y to words.


Adding s and es to plurals e.g. cats and fishes.

During this phase children become fluent readers and accurate spellers.

Children should be encouraged to read aloud and silently.

To be able to read the next 200 High Frequency words.

To add suffixes to words when spelling.

By the end of Year 2


Useful website links: = interactive games for all the phases. = song to teach majority of Phase 2 and 3 sounds