‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ (ELS) is our chosen Phonics programme. The aim of ELS is ‘Getting all children to read well, quickly’. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.

Children begin learning Phonics at the very beginning of Reception and it is explicitly taught every day during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Children are given the knowledge and the skills to then apply this independently.

Throughout the day, children will use their growing Phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff.

Children continue daily Phonics lessons in Year 1 and further through the school to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers.

We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence). As a result, our children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover.

We teach children to:

• Decode (read) by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently

• Encode (write) by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Since interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher, any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 interventions are used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective.

What Are Phonics Phases Taught?

Phases are the way the Essential Letters and Sounds Programme is broken down to teach sounds in a certain order. At the same time some whole words that cannot be broken down easily, (we call these “Harder to Read and Spell Words”) are taught to the children.

Phase One (Nursery)

Seven aspects:

  • environmental sounds
  • instrumental sounds
  • body sounds
  • rhythm and rhyme
  • alliteration
  • voice sounds
  • oral blending and segmenting

Phase Two (Reception, Autumn 1)

  • Oral blending
  • Sounding out and blending with 23 new grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • 12 new harder to read and spell (HRS) words

View the pronunciation of the Phase 2 sounds here:


Phase Three (Reception, Autumn 2, Spring 1, Spring 2) 

  • Oral blending
  • Sounding out and blending with 29 new grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • 32 new harder to read and spell (HRS) words
  • Revision of Phase 2

View the pronunciation of the Phase 3 sounds here:

Phase Four (Reception, Summer 1)

  • Oral blending
  • No new grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs)
  • No new harder to read and spell (HRS) words
  • Word structures- cvcc, ccvc, ccvcc, cccvc, cccvcc
  • Suffixes
  • Revision of Phase 2 and Phase 3

Phase Five (including alternatives and lesser-known GPCs)

Reception, Summer 2

  • Introduction to Phase 5 for reading
  • 20 new GPCs
  • 16 new HRS words

Year 1, Autumn 1 and 2

  • Revision of previously taught Phase 5 GPCs
  • 2 new GPCs
  • 9 new HRS words

Year 1, Spring 1 and 2

  • Alternative spellings for previously taught sounds
  • 49 new GPCs
  • 4 new HRS words
  • Oral blending
  • Revision of Phase 2, 3 and 4

View the pronunciation of phase 5 sounds here:

Beyond Phase 5 (Year 1, Summer and Year 2 and KS2)

  • With ELS, phonics teaching does not stop at the end of Year 1, but continues as children move through the school, with links being made between their GPC knowledge and spelling
  • Revision of all previously taught GPCs for reading and spelling
  • Wider reading, spelling and writing curriculum


What do the Phonics terms mean?

Phoneme: The smallest unit of sound in a word, e.g. c/a/t,  sh/o/p, t/ea/ch/er.

Grapheme: A letter or group of letter representing one sound, e.g. sh, t, igh.

Clip Phonemes:  when teaching sounds ,always clip them short ‘mmmm’  not ‘muh’

Digraph: Two letters which together make one sound, e.g. sh, ch, ee, ph, oa.

Split digraph: Two letters, which work as a pair, split, to represent one sound, e.g. a-e as in cake, or i-e as in kite.

Trigraph:  three letters which together make one sound but cannot be separated into smaller phonemes, e.g. igh as in light, ear as in heard, tch as in watch.

Segmentation: means hearing the individual phonemes within a word – for instance the word ‘crash’ consists of four phonemes: ‘c – r – a – sh’. In order to spell this word, a child must segment it into its component phonemes and choose a grapheme to represent each phoneme.

Blending: means merging the individual phonemes together to pronounce a word. In order to read an unfamiliar word, a child must recognise (‘sound out’) each grapheme, not each letter (e.g. ‘th-i-n’ not ‘t-h-i-n’), and then mergethe phonemes together to make the word.

Adjacent consonants:  two or three letters with discrete sounds, which are blended together e.g. str, cr, tr, gr. (previously consonant clusters).

Comprehension: understanding of language whether it is spoken or written.