‘To strive for excellence in learning and all that we do’



At Great Dunmow Primary School, we enable and promote fluent and confident readers and writers from the very first days in Reception using a systematic, synthetic phonics approach. We use the Department of Education’s validated scheme Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) to plan and deliver high quality daily phonics lessons. Throughout our ELS lessons, children are taught to decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently and to encode by segmenting each sound to write words accurately. Whole class, daily phonics lessons begin from the very first week in Reception where children begin to build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes). The same daily structure of each lesson allows children to predict what is coming next, what they need to do and how to achieve success.

At Great Dunmow, we have adopted a whole school approach, with links being made between their GPC knowledge and spelling.  It is imperative that as children move throughout the school, they are able to read age-appropriate texts, independently and with fluency. To be able to fully access and fully engage in all curriculum areas, we encourage children to draw not only on their phonic knowledge but also their reading and comprehension skills, both of which are consistently taught throughout the whole school. We ensure that this journey is possible by connecting the link between spoken and written sounds.


Throughout all phonics lessons, there is no ‘down time’, a consistent, fast pace is maintained.  Opportunities for practice and repetition are key and throughout all lessons everything is modelled by the teacher, often using the action ‘Me, then you’. The purpose is not to test the children but to teach them.  Children are encouraged to use their phonic skills, familiar actions and understanding within all curriculum areas such as ‘Robot Arms’ to reinforce oral blending and the familiar six step spelling sequence:

Each lesson follows the same structure:


  • Previously taught graphemes, making sure the children are saying the pure sound for each grapheme.
  • Previously taught harder to read and spell words (HRS)
  • Oral blending words using review sounds


  • New HRS word
  • New sound using the drum roll action, see the sound say the sound, write the sound


  • Reading words with new sound


  • Read phrases or sentences that include the new sound and HRS word.
  • Children independently work through Apply Activity.
  • Teacher to assess the children’s understanding and identify children who may require additional support- ‘In the moment intervention’

At the end of each week, we have a ‘review lesson’ where the children are given the opportunity to read books that match their phonic knowledge. These books are also used in other reading sessions to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their phonic knowledge and reading fluency. Children keep the books for one week and re-read them at least four times in this period. Re-reading ensures that children develop their reading skills and fluency.

A whole-class approach ensures that all children benefit from the complete phonics curriculum. Our phonics programme 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, usually during the ‘apply activity’. If children require further support to achieve the outcomes of the lesson and keep up with the pace of the programme, they will be targeted through either one-to-one or small group interventions which are intended to be short and concise. The intervention programme focusses on oral blending, GPC recognition and blending for reading. These take place throughout the whole school.

Assessment of the children’s phonic knowledge and understanding takes place daily, within the lesson. Gaps are quickly identified and acted upon through the use of either ‘in the moment interventions’ or the intervention programme.


Children begin to make rapid progress and are able to read age-appropriate texts independently and with fluency. They will be able to engage with the wider curriculum, accessing a variety of texts, making inferences and drawing on background knowledge to support their developing understanding of a text when they read. They will be able to draw not only on their phonic knowledge but also on their wider reading and comprehension skills. The very beginning step is being made in Reception where they make the link between spoken and written sounds.


Mrs A. Sinnet – Phonics Lead