Warden Hill Primary School Cheltenham


We use Unlocking Letters and Sounds which was validated by the DfE in December 2021.  

We begin teaching phonics in the second week of term 1 in Reception and children make rapid progress in their reading journey. Children begin to learn the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception’ words for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write simple words, captions and sentences. Children leave Reception being able to apply the phonemes taught within Phase 2, 3 and 4.  

In Year 1 through Phase 5a, b and c, they learn any alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words. By the end of Year 1 children will have mastered using phonics to decode and blend when reading and segment when spelling. In Year 1 all children are screened using the national Phonics Screening Check.

In Year 2, phonics continues to be revisited to ensure mastery of the phonetic code and any child who does not meet age related expectations will continue to receive support to close identified gaps.  

For further details please see the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression:

To ensure no child is left behind at any point in the progression, children are regularly assessed and supported to keep up through bespoke 1-1 interventions. These include GPC recognition and blending and segmenting interventions. The lowest attaining 20% of pupils are closely monitored to ensure these interventions have an impact.  

We ensure that our parents are fully involved in their children’s journey of learning phonics. We organise and deliver an interactive parents’ session to support in helping our children at home with their phonics, as well as uploading videos of the correct pronunciation onto our website. We are extremely lucky with the support from volunteers in our school. We rely on this help and support to give our learners extra opportunities for reading within a school day. We invite all our volunteers in to train, in the Warden Hill way, to ensure the very best for our children. 


At Warden Hill we promote a ‘phonics first’ approach and in both our guided reading sessions at school and in the books children take home.  In addition to our Phonics program which is taught daily in EYFS and KS1, our reading scheme has been devised to support the program fully. All of our reading books are fully decodable and are very closely matched to a child’s current phonics knowledge meaning that when children are reading their books either at home or in school, the sounds that they meet, will have already been taught within their phonics session, giving each child every chance of success in their reading.  

In these crucial early stages of reading we primarily use books from Big Cat Collins, to ensure complete fidelity to the Unlocking Letters and Sounds progression we follow.   The books are underpinned by rigorous phonics progression to build our pupils’ reading confidence. 
The Big Cat Phonics books encourage the children to talk, develop a rich vocabulary and build a strong foundation for learning to read.  Once children progress beyond decodable texts, they move onto our book scheme so that they can continue to progress in their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills to become avid, expert readers.  

We want all children to be successful readers that enjoy reading for pleasure at Warden Hill Primary School. The books that we send home ensure our children’s fluency and comprehension develops accordingly. Children have their books changed twice a week (every Monday and Thursday). This is because we want children to read their book three times to help them develop all of their reading skills: 

  • The first read will focus on their decoding skills to read phonically regular words and recognising common exception words. 
  • The second read focuses on their understanding of what the text is about. 
  • By the third read the child will feel like an expert and enjoy sharing the story with fluency and explore using expression. 


Words = Knowledge = Success and this is what we want for our children – success with their reading that allows them to explore the other curriculum areas with confidence and grows their knowledge and love of learning. 

Our KS2 class libraries have books that cater for all readers.  Once secure in their phonic knowledge our children onto Barrington Stoke 4u2read (normally in Y3) and then onto further Barrington Stoke books and additional class library books. All the books are housed in the class libraries, therefore supporting children in their own personal selection allowing them to develop ownership of their book choices, whilst still finding success and enjoyment in reading. 

We also have a selection of books that supports our SEN pupils with high interest low reading age. We have a very good selection of books from Barrington Stokes. These books are expertly edited to ensure unnecessary words don’t hinder comprehension while the text will still challenge the reader, lots of illustration to break up the text and keep the story moving and short, sharp, un-patronising content matched to the age of the reader not their reading level. As well as this we also supplement the class libraries with challenging books from a range of authors.