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Phonics at Bearnes
At Bearnes, we understand the importance reading ability has on every pupils journey through education and life. With this at the forefront of our minds, we have designed a high quality, robust and systematic approach to our phonics teaching. The core elements of our phonics teaching programme stem from Bug Club Phonics, due to its systematic and synthetic approach to phonics teaching. Every pupil, at Bearnes, receives high quality phonics teaching that helps our pupils develop their reading, writing, spelling and those most important communication skills. The key skills developed during a pupils early stages of education at Bearnes enables them to feel confident to read fluently. Our approach means that every pupil receives targeted and high quality support as they embark on their early reading journey.   


  • To teach our pupils aural discrimination, phonemic awareness and rhyme awareness to support in the application of reading and writing.
  • To encourage repetition and consolidation, so that decoding and the skills of segmenting and blending are automatic and aid reading fluidity. 
  • To learn to read and write all 44 graphemes in the English language.
  • To learn specific strategies to help pupils remember common exception words.
  • To apply their phonic knowledge across all curriculum areas.
What is Bug Club Phonics?
Bug Club Phonics is a balanced approach to the teaching of reading using systematic synthetic phonics. It simultaneously teaches the segmentation of words for spelling and develops phonemic awareness skills. The pace and order of teaching meaning the basic 44 phonemes are acquired quickly, with early reading skills developing rapidly. Decodable readers are introduced after just 10 days teaching, enabling pupils to apply taught strategies and enjoy contextualised reading at the earliest opportunity. 
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What is a phoneme and a grapheme?
Now for many of you the words phoneme and grapheme might make little sense to begin with but you all use them on a daily basis. Our pupils are taught graphemes and corresponding phonemes just before the introduction of words that include these letters. To read these new words pupils are taught to pronounce the individual phonemes (sounds) associated with the grapheme (the letter). These sounds are then blended together to form the word. 
Take a look at the video below to see how to create the sound of the phonemes.
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Blending and Segmenting
As your child learns each sound (phoneme), they are taught how to blend the sounds together to make two and three letters words (CVC words - consonant, vowel, consonant - such as the word dog).  Your child will learn how to read real and nonsense/alien words using this blending strategy
Systematic synthetic phonics teaches letter sounds very rapidly, explicitly showing our pupils how to build up words with letters from the start.
Bug Club Phonics also allows spelling to be taught by reversing the blending process. This is known as segmenting or the breaking down of a word into its phonemes (sounds). This is practiced on a daily basis as part of all phonics sessions, allowing all pupils to identify each phoneme and choose the appropriate grapheme until the word is spelt.
Digraphs and Trigraphs
When the children have learnt the single sounds they begin to move on to two and three letter sounds these are called digraphs (2 letters making 1 sound like ‘ea’  in the word tea) and trigraphs (3 letters making 1 sound like ‘igh’ in the word light). Set 1 sounds include the digraphs 'ch', 'sh', 'th', 'ng, 'nk, and 'qu'.
What are Book Bands?

Primary school reading books are graded by difficulty by reading levels known as Book Bands. Each Book Band has its own colour.

The book bands listed below show the progress of an ‘average’ group of children – but no individual child is ‘average’, so no child makes smooth progress precisely in this way. Children tend to learn in fits and starts – periods of growth followed by periods of consolidation when their progress seems to halt for a while. The periods where you don’t see rapid progress may be worrying, especially after a ‘growth spurt’, but they are important as your child develops confidence in using and applying their newly acquired skills.

Bug Club book band colours graph

The table above shows book bands from EYFS to Year 6. However as a school we hope all children, by the time they enter Year 3, move to our Accelerated Reader programme.

Phonics lessons at Bearnes
At Bearnes all staff follow a systematic and synthetic phonics programme called Bug Club phonics. We use Cued Articulation within EYFS to support children’s understanding of sounds. All phonics planning and teaching has been adapted to meet the requirements of Statutory Framework of EYFS (2021) and the National Curriculum in order to provide a robust, consistent and high-quality level of provision. Staff within EYFS and Year 1/2 complete weekly plans for phonics which ensures progression and effective, high quality teaching for all children.
Discrete phonics lessons take place daily across EYFS, Year 1 and Year 2 with intervention lessons happening for some pupils in KS2 (part of Covid Catchup). They follow the four part structure of ‘Review, Teach, Practice, Apply’ to ensure that children are consolidating phonic knowledge and skills over time and that they are able to apply them in context. These lessons proceed at pace and incorporate a wide range of application tasks/activities to engage, challenge and support all children. Each task is carefully considered to ensure that children continue to develop their skills in aural discrimination, phonemic awareness, blending and segmenting as well as grapheme phoneme correspondence.
All groups have a range of resources to use which are appropriate for the level at which the children are working. This includes a large interactive board, mini white boards, magnetic letters and tablets, to mention a few. There are numerous displays in our classes to support the teaching of phonics.

Phonics Screening Check
In Year one, your child will have a Government Led, phonics screening check, this is normally held around June.  The purpose of the check is to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt decoding and blending skills to meet an age-appropriate standard.  The phonics screening contains 40 words and your child will work one-to-one with the teacher, reading words out aloud. There will be a combination of real words and nonsense/alien words.

There is not a set time limit to complete the screening in but it usually takes around 5-10 minutes. If your child's teacher thinks it would be appropriate, your child can have a break or stop if they are struggling. If your child does not meet the pass mark they will have to retake the screening test in Year 2. (You will be informed on their end of year school report on this.)

By the end of Year 1, it is expected that all pupils are able to recognise the grapheme-phoneme correspondences, segment and blend them confidently to create words.

What can you do at home to help with phonics and reading?
As part of our Bug Club Phonics subscription all pupils have access to their online reading world. This is an area where their class teacher will upload current reading books, that match their current phonics learning, as well as interactive games to practice that all important new phonic knowledge or to refresh and revise. 
Pupils have individual logins for the online world and their experience will be bespoke to them. Please encourage and help your child to utilise this fantastic resource and be part of their phonics and early reading journey on a daily basis.
For help with the online aspect of Bug Club please watch the video below, see the parent/carer help section on this page or contact your child's class teacher.

When children start school, it's important that you continue to encourage and support their learning as much as you are able. This could often be using school books, with which children may already have made a start – they may even be able to read some books to you.

Try to read together every day, as a fun and bonding part of your routine.

Encourage sounding out and blending, if children find any individual words difficult to read. Then ensure the meaning of the word has also been understood.

Read as a team, whether books are fun or difficult. Encourage children to join in with books you’re reading together, especially with rhymes and repeated phrases. If they find their own reading difficult or tiring, you could try taking turns to read a page each.

Begin to look at punctuation, and how if can affect both the way things are read aloud and their meanings.

Re-read favourite books, as this helps to embed learned vocabulary, assists with confidence and fosters that all-important love of reading. Easier texts can help with this, too.

Make connections with real life by reminding children of similar situations or people they have encountered.

Discuss big ideas and small details, asking children both to talk about the whole story and to tell you about specific points. Start encouraging children to make links between points, too.

Communicate with your child's class teachers, perhaps using children’s reading logs, about anything that stands out: unexpected difficulties or particular interests.

Remember, children will benefit from support with both phonics and understanding. The activities suggested above for building word reading and comprehension skills can be adapted and extended to fit with children’s new reading material and developing abilities.

Bug Club Quiz image

The quizzes can be accessed within the books by clicking the below image within the books - the number of Bug Club quizzes depends on the difficulty of the book (determined by the Book Band Level).

Bug Club Bug Head image

Help and advice for parents/carers

Getting the most out of Bug Club

Welcome to Bug Club! Bug Club is a powerful whole-school reading programme that is proven to raise attainment in reading and spelling and is loved by over a million children world-wide.

Children will have their own login details to Bug Club and will have the opportunity to use Bug Club either in school or at home or both depending on the preference of your child’s school. Class teachers are able to select a range of books appropriate for your child to read at home. These books will appear in children’s ‘My Stuff’ area on their personal homepages.

Throughout the books there are comprehension quiz questions which children should complete. To answer a question, click on the Bug icon.

Bug Club Bug Head image

When children have finished all of the quiz questions in a book, they will earn coins which they can then spend on ‘rewards’ in one of the reward areas accessed via their homepage.

All completed books move to the ‘My Library’ area of children’s homepages. Children can read these books again if they want to, or they can choose new books from their ‘My Stuff’ area.

How children learn to read

All children are different, especially when it comes to growing and learning. Children will learn different things in different ways and at different rates. Learning to read is no exception. There are lots of things that you, as a parent or carer, can do to help the process, as talking and listening are the starting points for learning to read.

Most children are competent speakers by the age of three. Young children learn to make connections between spoken words and objects, and eventually between spoken words and written words. Talk to children when you are doing things in the house or when you are out and about. Play with them, read to them and sing lots of songs. All of this helps to develop children’s early literacy skills.

Two key skills work hand-in-hand when children are learning to read: word reading and comprehension.

Word reading

The skill of word reading is begun by the practice of phonics. This is the understanding that the different sounds in language (called ‘phonemes’) are represented by letters or combinations of letters (called ‘graphemes’). Children are taught the sounds first, and then how to match them to letters. They are finally taught how to use the letter sounds for reading and spelling.

For example, the word ‘crab’ can be broken down into four phonemes, each represented by a single letter: c-r-a-b. The word ‘night’ can be broken down into three phonemes, one of which is represented by three letters: n-igh-t.

The ability to sound out and blend together different parts of a word helps children to decode new and unfamiliar words as they read, such as ‘black’ which can be broken down into the ‘bl’ blend, ‘a’ and ‘ck’: bl-a-ck.

The 44 sounds are usually taught in this order:

  • s a t p
  • i n m d
  • g o c k/ck
  • e u r h b f l
  • j v w x z qu
  • ch sh th ng
  • ai ee igh/ie oa oo (short) oo (long)
  • ar or ur/er ow/ou oi
  • air ear ure

It is important for children to practise saying the sounds rather than the names of the letters.

You can help build your children’s phonics skills by:

  • sounding out words.
  • playing ‘I Spy’ using the letter sounds rather than the letter names. This draws attention to words’ initial letters.
  • reading poems and songs with repeated word endings (rhymes).
  • looking at the high-frequency words and sounds in each Bug Club book, all listed on the inside front cover, and trying out the word games suggested there.

Bug Club IFC image

  • encouraging children to use the ‘Read to me’ function of the Foundation and KS1 Bug Club online books.

Bug Club Read to Me image


Comprehension is the skill of understanding.

This may sound simple, but it doesn’t happen automatically. Many young readers concentrate so hard on working out what words they are reading that they don’t stop to think about what the words are telling them.

For this reason, comprehension needs to be developed actively. Children should be encouraged to think and talk about the meanings of words and stories, their personal opinions and how books relate to their own experiences.

You can help build your children’s comprehension skills by:

  • asking questions about what has been read
  • discussing how books’ pictures relate to the text
  • talking about how characters might feel
  • asking the questions and completing the activities featured on the inside back cover of each Bug Club book

Bug Club IBC image

  • encouraging children to complete the ‘Bug Head’ comprehension quizzes in the Bug Club online books.

Bug Club Quiz image

The quizzes can be accessed within the books by clicking the below image within the books - the number of Bug Club quizzes depends on the difficulty of the book (determined by the Book Band Level).

Bug Club Bug Head image

Reading at home

Research shows that children whose families read together at home are much more likely to become successful, confident independent readers.

We’ve put together some top tips to help you support your children at different stages – but here are two general tips to get you started.

Be a model reader: Help your children to see reading as a fun and natural part of life by seeing you reading and discussing books, newspapers, magazines and other texts on a regular basis. Having lots of reading material around the house helps with this.

Provide lots of choice: As well as integrating books into daily life, having lots of different texts around the house helps children to choose their own reading material and to develop their individual interests. Joining local libraries or taking children into bookshops to make their own selections is also important.


Why does my child's book have no words?

This is normal at the start of a child's reading journey and relates to the lilac book band. These books are more about observations and discussions about what is happening within the pictures of the story. If your child has a lilac book try the following:

Look at what is happening on each page in order, discussing left-hand pages before right-hand pages. Talk about what is happening, rather than just what is in each picture.

Ask for interpretations of the whole book after reading, encouraging children to tell you who or what the book is about.

What if my child is struggling to read?

Some children really struggle with learning to read. However, most just need a little more help and encouragement. Here are some of the things you can do to help reluctant readers.

Communicate with teachers to compare notes on precisely how children are having trouble, and how their needs could be best supported.

Talk about a book together before you read it, looking at the cover, the title and the information on the back. Flick through the pages, look at some of the pictures and talk about what might be going on. If children understand what a book is about, they will be better able to place the words encountered in context.

Put new or difficult terms into context so children can try to work them out in a meaningful way. Don’t let the struggle continue for too long, though – this will cause frustration and disengagement.

Don’t always correct mistakes immediately, but give children the chance to recognise and correct their own mistakes.

Don’t force it – if children are disinterested or reluctant to read, or become upset, don’t force the issue. It’s much better to stop and try again when they are happy and relaxed.

Make it fun by choosing books that will really interest and entertain children. Encourage them to see how enjoyable reading can be.


What do I do if I think my child needs to be challenged?

Some children quickly learn to decode words, build up a wide vocabulary and simply love books! 

In the first instance talk to your child's class teacher as they will be able to give advice on progression steps.

They may suggest some of the following:

Provide access to a wider range of fiction books to broaden children’s reading experiences. Ask your librarian or a bookshop assistant for advice and the latest recommendations.

Don’t forget about non-fiction – these books often present a greater reading challenge, and it’s important to encourage a wide experience of genres and styles. Suggest books or magazines on subjects that fascinate your children.

Suggest creative activities based on children’s interests. A love of reading can be developed further by encouraging children to consider adapting stories into plays, performing poetry or giving presentations about non-fiction subjects. This might then become a love of writing stories or poems from scratch.

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Phonics roles and responsibilities
Mrs Kelly Yeo

EYFS and Phonics Lead

Phonics Lead

The phonics lead is responsible for phonics throughout the school and includes the following responsibilities:

  • Ensuring continuity and progression from year group to year group.
  • Providing all members of staff with guidelines and a scheme of work to show how aims are achieved and how the variety of all aspects of phonics is to be taught.
  • Advising on in-service training to staff where appropriate. This will be in line with the needs identified in the schools Strategic Improvement Priorities and within the confines of the school budget.
  • Advising and supporting colleagues in the implementation and assessment of phonics throughout the school.
  • Assisting with the requisition and maintenance of resources required for the teaching of phonics, within the confines of the school budget
  • Monitoring the quality of teaching and learning in phonics across the school.
  • Sharing of information with the Academy Head, English Lead and Governors

Class Teacher

The class teacher is responsible for:

  • Ensuring progression in the acquisition of phonic knowledge and skills with due regard to the National Curriculum for English and inline with the systematic and synthetic approach
  • Developing and updating skills, knowledge and understanding of phonics
  • Identifying needs in phonics and take advantage of training opportunities for themselves and their TA's
  • Keeping appropriate on-going records of pupil progress and raise any concerns early with Phonics Lead
  • Planning effectively for phonics, liaising with phonics leader when necessary
  • Identifying those in need of intervention and utilising available resources to plug gaps within an appropriate and agreed time frame
  • Informing pupils and parents of their progress, achievements and attainment