St Helen's Primary School

St. Helen's Primary School


Phonics and Reading

Reading across the school

Here at St Helen's we are passionate about reading in all forms. We strive to ensure that all children are successful, fluent readers by the end of Key Stage one and believe this is achievable through  combination of strong, high quality, discrete phonics teaching. We also promote a whole language approach that promotes a 'reading for pleasure and culture' across school.

Reading Approach - INTENT

Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised

At St. Helen's we teach reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. We start teaching phonics in Nursery through sound discrimination and we follow the progression structure, ensuring that children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they journey through school.  We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects, alongside a growing need for children to be exposed to rich vocabulary. For those children whom need extra intervention linked to their phonics we do this through 'catch-up', using The Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised assessments. 

Accelerated Reader 

Accelerated Reader (AR) is an assessment tool designed to ensure that children are reading books that are well matched to their reading ability. This then ensures that children are able to read independently at their own pace. The tool also informs teachers how well a child is understanding what they are reading so that they are then able to set goals and support ongoing reading practice.

Children begin Accelerated Reader when the teacher believes they are fluent enough readers and have successfully completed Little Wandle Phonics. The programme benchmarks children’s reading using a half termly online assessment (STAR Reading) where the software uses intelligent mapping to gain a child’s reading level. Children can then choose texts appropriate to their age and reading level. When they finish a book, they will take a short online quiz that monitors their progress within their book band. The teacher then uses this to ensure that every child has an appropriate reading book as well as monitor progress.

Reading Comprehension

At St. Helen's we recognise that this skill should also be taught throughout a child's learning journey and this element is integral to our teaching sequence and differing skills of reading are taught and learnt throughout the whole school to enable all children to confidently read for meaning. 


Reading Approach - IMPLEMENTATION

Foundations for Phonics within Nursery - We believe the importance of getting children off to a good start with reading cannot be overstated. The teaching of Early Reading starts from Nursery at St. Helen's. 

We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for 'Communication and Language' and 'Literacy'. These include:

  • Sharing high quality stories and poems
  • Learning a range of Nursery rhymes and action rhymes
  • Activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending
  • Attention to high quality language

We ensure that Nursery children are well prepared to begin learning grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception. We understand that key features of a rich curriculum which are essential to Phase One and beyond are the range and depth of language experienced by the children. We exploit the power of story, rhyme, drama and song to inspire children's imagination and interests, thus encouraging them to use language. 

Daily Phonics lessons in Reception and Year 1

We teach Phonics for 30 minutes a day. In Reception we build from 10 minute lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full length lesson as quickly as possible. Each Friday is used to review the week's teaching to help children become fluent readers. We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised expectations of progress. Children in Reception are taught to read and spell using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy. Children in Year 1 review phase 3 and 4 and are taught to read and spell words using Phase 5 GPCs with fluency and accuracy.

Daily 'Keep-up' lessons

Any child who needs additional practise has daily keep up support, taught by a trained adult. Keep-up lessons match the structure of class teaching and use teh same procedures, resources and mantras but in smaller steps with more repetition, so that every child secures their learning. 

Teaching Reading: Reading practice sessions three times a week

We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week. These are taught by trained adults to small groups of approximately six children. We use books matched to the children's secure phonic knowledge using 'Little Wandle Letters and Sounds' revised assessments and book matching grids. This is monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis. Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children's working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:

  • decoding
  • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
  • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text

In Reception these sessions start in week 4. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practise in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. In Year 2 and 3 we continue to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books.

Home Reading

The decodable reading book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family. Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents/carers to share and read together with their child. We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds revised parents resources to engage families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.


Parent Information Booklet for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds - Reading

Supporting Parents with Phonics and Reading


In addition to this, we send home grapheme-phoneme cards, word cards to blend and tricky word cards so that children can continue to practise at home. We ask parents/carers to make a comment should they see that their child is struggling with their words cards, so that we can intervene in school. 

Reading Assessment - IMPACT

Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised

Assessment is used to monitor progress and to identify any child needing additional support as soon as they need it. Assessment for learning is used:

  • daily within class to identify children needing keep-up support
  • weekly in the review lesson to assess gaps, address these immediately and secure fluency of GPCs, words and spellings.

Summative assessment is used every six weeks to assess progress, to identify gaps in learning that need to be addressed, to identify any children needing additional support and to plan keep-up support that they need. SLT use the assessment tracker to narrow attainment gaps between different groups of children and so that any additional support for teachers can be put into place.

 Statutory Assessment

Children in Year 1 sit the Phonics Screening Check. Any child not passing the check re-sits it in Year 2.

Accelerated Reader Assessments

Accelerated Reader (AR) uses both STAR Reading assessments and Accelerated Reader Quizzes to monitor and track the progress of pupils’ reading which begins in Y2. STAR Assessments are used at interim points throughout the year to track pupils’ progress and provide a ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development) score. This is then used to indicate the book banding range of the child. Accelerated Reader Quizzes are used to check pupils’ understanding of each text they have read. The assessment periods are outlined below:


Assessment Period

STARS Reading

Each Half Term

Accelerated Reader Quizzes

After reading each book  

 Children will be expected to complete an independent quiz after the completion of each book. The child is only able to move onto the next banding within their ZPD once they have demonstrated they can accurately comprehend the text. This is outlined below:

Accelerated Reader Quiz Score



Move onto the next book banding within their ZPD range

Below 100%

Pupils must remain on the current book banding

3 consecutive scores of 80% +

Move onto the next book banding within their ZPD range

Teachers and Teaching Assistants will monitor the progress of pupils using a class reading log. Teaching Assistants are expected to monitor the log each week to identify those that have not completed quizzes within the last two weeks. If a child has not completed a quiz within the last two weeks, a date will be given to be completed by and teachers may identify the pupils as daily readers to ensure that they continue to make expected progress.


Whole School Wider Reading:

Daily Story Time offers an exciting experience where pupils in every class are read to and can revisit their favourite stories regularly. There is a range of quality texts used in this session which has been carefully planned for to ensure pupils are provided with a rich and varied reading diet, and also are involved in the choice of the story too.

Bedtime Story event is held termly. This involves the whole school and parents invited to share in bedtime story reading and complete age-appropriate activities. This event is very popular and develops a love of reading within families and engages parents and the wider community.

Reading areas have been established in every classroom to offer pupils the opportunity to read for pleasure and can recognise them in any classroom. Pupils have been given the opportunity to organize and be responsible for their book selection to improve care and quality of books.

Classrooms use display boards and spaces to bring books that are whole class texts ‘alive’. 3D displays and themed books are readily available to ensure pupils are enthusiastic about their text and creates triggers to remember key parts in the story.

Library visits are timetabled across the whole school to ensure opportunities are given to all pupils to read for pleasure. The school library is also open weekly after school for families to visit and borrow books. 


Free Little Library

As part of our ongoing efforts to build the profile of reading and the opportunities for reading across the school, we are delighted to officially open our first Free Little Library. You may remember a newsletter last year, calling out for help to create the library. Thankfully, local company Hunters Home Improvements came to the rescue and built out first, fabulous Free Little Library.

The Free Little Library can be found on the KS2 playground and is available for pupils to access during the day, but more importantly for parents and families to access whenever they want to. The library is filled with high-quality literature from award-winning authors, meaning you can guarantee a great read at home as a family.

The books found within the library are a great example of the type of books that we want children in KS2 to be reading, but also have them read to them by family members as a shared experience.

Books can be taken at any time, by anyone. All that we ask is that books are returned in the same condition that they are taken.