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Reading, including phonics, is taught well and pupils quickly become fluent readers.




At Down Ampney, the vision for Phonics and Early Reading is to equip all children with the fundamental skills required to become fluent and proficient readers. The school’s leadership and staff have a clear understanding of the importance of phonics in developing foundational reading skills and are committed to providing a comprehensive phonics programme that is inclusive and meets the needs of all learners.

We have implemented the Sounds-Write systematic synthetic phonics programme as the cornerstone of our phonics and early reading curriculum.

In Key Stage 1, all pupils participate in daily 30-minute phonics sessions. These sessions are specifically tailored to emphasise blending, segmenting, and phoneme manipulation. Throughout these lessons, children actively engage in blending to read words, segmenting to write words, and using syllables to deconstruct words. The strategies employed include specific gestures and phrases for effective learning.

Sounds-Write phonics strategies are used throughout Key Stage 2 for teaching spelling rules. We emphasise reinforcement of phonics through dictation and focus on word morphology and etymology to enhance students’ spelling skills effectively.


To ensure that our teachers are well-equipped to deliver high-quality phonics instruction, all staff participate in a diverse range of Continuous Professional Development opportunities. The Reading lead, in partnership with the Headteacher, has engaged with the Ramsbury English Hub, attending regular training sessions and Sounds-Write webinars to further enhance their teaching practices. The school is an English Hub graduate school.

Teachers provide frequent opportunities for children to apply their phonic knowledge in meaningful contexts, such as through writing activities, and phonics games.

KS2 teachers have benefited from the ‘Reading teachers-Reading pupils’ programme in collaboration with the Year of Reading project, Summer Reading Challenge, and Readathon initiatives to further engage children.

We maintain a rigorous review process of previously taught sounds to reinforce learning and offer error correction strategies within lessons to support all pupils in meeting their potential. Additionally, interventions are put in place and reviewed on a termly basis to provide additional support for children who may need it.

Pacey phonics sessions ensure high engagement, interest, and pupil participation in every lesson.


Through daily formative assessments and teacher judgements, any difficulties or misconceptions that pupils may have are identified promptly. Pupils are continually challenged through dictations where they apply their phonetic knowledge, aided by having small cohort sizes and support staff assisting with reading and spelling within lessons.

Children make rapid and sustained progress in their phonics skills, with the majority reaching or exceeding expected levels of phonic knowledge for their age. This progress is reflected in the school’s data, showing high rates of phonics screening check success and reading proficiency among pupils. Those pupils who join in-year are assessed and required interventions put in place rapidly to ensure they make good progress.

Our phonics teaching approach is meticulously structured, continuously evaluated, and aims to cultivate a love for reading among all our pupils.

What is Sounds-Write? 

At Down Ampney, we teach phonics using a linguistic phonics programme called Sounds-Write – a proven Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme validated by the Department for Education. It is based on the science of reading and provides a structured, cumulative, and code-oriented approach to teaching reading and spelling. It starts with what children learn naturally, the sounds of their own language, and teaches them to represent those sounds in writing. Sounds-Write is a complete phonics curriculum that teaches the skills, concepts, and code knowledge necessary for children to read and spell. 

Students are taught four key concepts

  • 1. Letters are symbols that represent sounds  
  • 2. Sounds can be spelled using 1, 2, 3 or 4 letters (dog, street, night, dough
  • 3. The same sound can be spelled in different ways (rain, break, stay, gate
  • 4. The same spelling can represent different sounds (head, seat, break) 

Students are taught to master three key skills

  • 1. Segmenting – the ability to pull apart the individual sounds in words  
  • 2. Blending – the ability to push sounds together to build words 
  • 3. Phoneme manipulation – the ability to insert sounds into and delete sounds out of words. This skill is necessary to test out alternatives for spellings that represent more than one sound.  

What do children learn in Reception? 

Children in Reception begin with the Initial Code where they practise all three key skills whilst learning the one-to-one sound-spelling correspondences and securing their understanding of key concept 1. This builds up confidence and phonic knowledge enabling them to read and spell a wide range of words and sentences.  

At first, children learn to read and spell simple one-syllable words with a consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) sound structure (for example, ‘sat’). By the end of Reception, they can read and write one-syllable words with up to five, or even six, sounds such as ‘twist’, ‘grand’ or ‘scraps’. 

Children also develop their knowledge of key concept 2 as they learn to read and spell words containing some sounds spelled with two letters (the sound /sh/ in ‘fish’ or the sound /th/ in ‘thin’, for example) as well as the three-letter spelling < tch > for the sound /ch/ in ‘catch’. Key concept 3 is introduced towards the end of Reception as the students learn about a small number of sounds that can be spelled in more than one way (for example, the sound /k/ spelled as < k > in ‘kit’, < c > in ‘cat’ and < ck > ‘pick’). 

What do children learn from Year 1? 

Once the Initial Code has been mastered, children continue to practise all three key skills whilst learning the Extended Code and developing key concepts 2, 3 and 4. Learning of the Extended Code is a lifelong process – we all continue to develop our understanding how to read and spell in English whenever we encounter new words. This is why the Sounds-Write approach is used right up to the end of KS2 to read and spell polysyllabic words of increasing complexity. 

Children in Years 1 and 2 develop their code knowledge through explicit, systematic teaching of the Extended Code units. Polysyllabic words are introduced in Year 1.  

Children in Years 3 and 4 revisit all of the Extended Code units and learn to read and spell increasingly complex polysyllabic words.  

Children in Years 5 and 6 continue to consolidate and develop their knowledge, with the Sounds-Write approach used to teach the reading and spelling of vocabulary across the curriculum. There is a growing focus on etymology (the origin of words) and morphology (the structure of words). 

When is Sounds-Write taught? 

Children in Reception and Years 1 to 4 have a 30-minute Sounds-Write session every day. Children in Years 5 and 6 have discrete Sounds-Write sessions as required for the cohort, as well as planned and incidental teaching of reading and spelling across the curriculum using the Sounds-Write approach. 

Some children require more time and practice when learning to read and spell, and they are supported through ‘keep-up’ and ‘catch-up’ intervention sessions in addition to the whole class phonics sessions. 

What books or reading schemes are used? 

Children who are beginning to learn to read use phonically-controlled books that we call ‘decodable readers’. These books are carefully written to focus on the code the children have been taught in phonics lessons so far. Decodable readers allow the children to practise their developing skills and they will be sent home to give even more opportunities for practice. Parents/carers are asked to support their children by hearing them read aloud.   

At Down Ampney, we use decodable readers that match the scope and sequence of the Sounds-Write programme. 

Once children have developed their skills and their code knowledge, they begin to move away from decodable readers and read a wider range of books from the school library. 

We also send books in the book bag for you to read to your child. This helps to promote a culture of reading and develops your child’s vocabulary. In school we will hear your child read aloud a decodable phonics book at their phonic level 3 times before it goes home.

How can I help support my child at home? 

If your child needs some help when they are reading you can: 

  1. Encourage them to use their finger under the word from left to right. 
  2. Ask them to ‘say the sounds and read the word’. 
  3. Tell them to ‘listen’ for the words as they say the sounds. 
  4. If they need more help, tell them the sounds in the word and ask them to listen and blend them to say the whole word. 

It is important to say the sounds very precisely. You can watch and listen to Alex saying the sounds in this short video (click here). 

We encourage all of our parents/carers to access the free Sounds-Write online course so that they are well-informed about how best to support their children with reading and spelling at home. 

Spelling homework:

Each week every child brings home a spelling practise sheet, following recently taught sounds through their phonics lessons to review and consolidate their sound and spelling correspondences in both reading and writing. They can then practise reading the words, writing the word out to identify the sounds and breaking it down into its syllables. We also have time in school to practise these spellings together each week.  

If you have any questions about phonics, please contact Miss Homan-Green (Phonics Lead) or Mrs Gray (Headteacher).