Meath School

Meath School

Talk, Learn, Grow

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Reading and Phonics



At Meath School reading skills are central to our everyday learning. We create as many opportunities to talk about books and text we have read. Opportunities are promoted to increase talk through arising observations, questions, and learning about themes, vocabulary and language within core texts and ability matched reading books.

We teach phonics and reading through a variety of appropriately matched specialist approaches and hands on learning experiences. We scaffold the learning carefully to equip children with the motivation and confidence as they grow, to attempt, apply and develop their reading skills and value and enjoy it as an everyday life skill reading for information and also pleasure.


Our Aims:



  • To develop the underlying attention and listening skills vital for reading


 (Progression: - phonological awareness, decoding, grammar & punctation)

  • To develop an understanding that symbols and written words have a permanent meaning
  • To decode symbols and or words for functional use within their daily lives
  • To ensure that all pupils will have the opportunity to develop their phonological awareness and phonic skills or overcome barriers with individualised reading approaches where needed
  • To apply phonic knowledge to decode words, where this is successful continue until this is embedded automatically
  • To develop a growing bank of sight words/ high frequency words/common exception words/tricky words
  • To understand the effects of punctuation and grammar to interpret meaning, fluency and expression when reading.



  • To show comprehension of signs, symbols, differentiated sentences/stories that they have shared or read through retelling/role play, information retrieval, inference and prediction.
  • To link reading themes to own experiences and share with others

Enjoyment in reading

  • To develop pleasure in reading a range of text including stories, non fiction, poems and rhymes.
  • To enjoy sharing pictures, symbols and books with adults and peers
  • To see purpose and develop motivation in reading to interpret labels, signs, and instructions as an everyday life skill

Implementation: Reading at Meath School


Context: Why is Reading a Challenge for our Children?

Children arrive at Meath school with speech language and communication as their primary barrier to learning. The areas below give examples of why reading is such a challenging task. Our children have difficulties with:

  • Attention and listening difficulties
  • Processing, storing and articulating sounds
  • Recalling and sequencing sounds and letter names
  • Vocabulary learning and word finding 
  • Understanding and forming a range of sentences including using grammatical markers
  • Using the context to predict a word and understand what has been said
  • Comprehension and expression of language in words, sentence and text levels


The Reading Process:

Reading is a skill, access to written language is required, which is based on spoken language. However, it is not just spoken language written down. There is a complex code that children need to understand. This includes letters and sounds, word boundaries, grammar, intonation, stress, different styles of writing e.g. fiction vs non-fiction.

Skills Children Need to Begin to Read:


  1. Semantics (Language):

Challenge: To become fluent at reading, the learner needs experience, knowledge and competence in understanding and using spoken language. Alongside this, the learner needs experience and knowledge of the world to understand and use vocabulary and emotions in context.

Provision: Opportunities to model and practice communicating are promoted throughout the whole school day and into residential setting, in all areas of the school environment. Communication is a key thread throughout the whole school curriculum as children explore vocabulary and practice using in context.

The English Curriculum provides structured sessions such as Weekly News for children to share personal experiences and onwards to  ‘Points of View’ to share thoughts and opinions. This leads onto discussion, recording/writing/typing experiences, and views.

Example of  News:

News on VOCA’s:



Storytelling, our vehicle for our English curriculum uses Core Texts to explore and lead into our topic work. It provides continuous opportunities to understand the language within stories, use spoken language and retell the story as a model to developing complex language.  



Word of the Week focuses on a maths concept word for each class which is explored and applied throughout the week. These are words that commonly occur throughout different subjects and in daily language e.g. ‘more’, ‘before’, ‘first’.

 Differentiated key vocabulary is integrated in planning by each teacher and SLT as part of our Word Aware project.




Challenge: In order to decode words, children need an understanding of the inner structure of the words and sounds, and rules that govern sound combinations e.g. igh, ur, er, ear, air.

Children with poor phonological awareness have poor language skills and find it difficult to apply to literacy skills such as reading and writing.  Firstly, children need to develop skills in listening and attending. Pre-Skill phonics focus on these areas, in order to focus attention on listening to sounds. Then for most of our children, they spend a substantial amount of time on the gaps identified within our Phonological Awareness programme, before moving to our Read Write Inc programme.

 Our children with speech production needs including children with hearing impairment, are obviously particularly challenged in this area. Some children are unable to make a particular range of sounds, which leads to speech reading and writing challenges.

Provision: We run daily whole school phonics sessions. Our aim is for all children to be able to read (decode) text and symbols. Daily phonics sessions are timetabled at the same time across the school so children may be working with children from other classes. We track ongoing progress, and each child moves through each stage as soon as they acquire each skill.

We have 3 progressive programmes for phonics running to enable all children to develop their individual phonic knowledge and skills:

· Pre Skills – focused sessions to develop the foundation listening skills needed to begin to identify words and sounds.

·Phonological Awareness - A pre phonics programme that builds on listening skills and teaches children to segment and manipulate parts of words (syllables) and sounds (phonemes).

·Read Write Inc – A synthetic phonic programme that introduces letters (graphemes) and how the sounds they know are represented as letters in words when reading.

Once children have completed these programmes, we move onto a comprehension programme matched to their individual ability, as this is an identified area of need for our children.


3.Pragmatic difficulties (Understanding and use of language skills in a social context)

Challenge: Our children with pragmatic language difficulties may also experience difficulties with fully understanding a text as they may not understand a character’s motivation, understand the context, or range of emotions.  This lack of understanding leads to difficulties understanding the text and plot as a whole and at  a deeper level.

Provision:  Within a daily social contexts staff model and encourage opportunities to practice these skills as part of their school day.   Zones of Regulation are referred to and strategies integrated into classroom and wider school practice. Weekly friendship groups develop emotional literacy language and application of these skills.  When children reach Blanks Level Questions (level 3&4) the focus on  skills such as generalising, justifying, and explaining inferences.  These are integrated into Storytelling sessions, reading sessions and daily cross curricular opportunities.

Daily comprehension groups for those children who have completed the phonics programmes, focus a range of progressive comprehension skills. This is an area of need identified to develop the whole reading profile for our children. This is in addition to whole school approaches mentioned above to develop understanding of language and concepts.        




Reading : The Technical Strand Context:


The primary barrier to learning for our pupils is speech language and communication which impacts phonological skills. Our pupils often have difficulties including processing, storing, and articulating sounds. Recalling and sequencing sounds and letter names can also be challenging for many of our pupils.

Children with poor phonological awareness have poor language skills and find it difficult to apply to literacy skills such as reading and writing. 

Our pupils have various gaps within their reading ability.   Our phonics programme is in place to plug the gaps to develop the whole reading profile of each individual child as they learn and grow through Meath School. We dedicate daily phonics teaching time to the areas of difficulty in order to equip our children with the best potential skills to be successful decoders and together with language and comprehension work become readers that enjoy reading as a tool and hobby.


Phonics Provision


As part of our approach to teaching phonics at Meath School we use the Newcastle Intervention for Phonological Awareness (NIPA). Author of NIPA Dr Helen Stringer led whole school training on Phonological Awareness.  Over a four-year period, we have developed and embedded the programme with adaptions to the programme to increase the impact on our pupils.

Last year Helen visited again to see the programme in action.


I had a really inspiring morning with you all. You are a great team and are doing great work.”  

Helen Stringer


This term we are trialling this adapted version, and we hope that this will be available on the Speech and Language UK website next term.


At Meath School we run daily phonics session. All pupils are baseline assessed and grouped according to their need. Daily phonics sessions are timetabled at the same time across the school.  This allows for individuals to be supported according to at their incremental skill level, 1:1 or in small groups daily. We track ongoing progress, and each individual child moves through each stage as they acquire each skill for all programmes.

We have 3 progressive programmes for phonics running in order for all pupils to develop their phonological awareness, knowledge, and skills. Over time this helps children to decode text and for some children apply to their writing:

  • Pre Skills – focused sessions to develop attention and listening skills
  • Phonological Awareness - pre phonics programme. A developmental sequence for learning phonics (not always linear): word -> syllable-> phoneme
  • Read Write Inc – A synthetic phonic programme


What skills are taught within each programme?


Pre-Skills   - Our Foundation Stage pupils enter Meath often with very limited attention and listening skills.  We track ongoing progress and children move up within the programme as they acquire each skill.



Progression of Skills:

Group 1 - Sound vs silence

Group 2 – Sound vs humming

Group 3  - Sound vs another sound

Group 4  - Words vs silence

Group 5  - Words vs humming

Group 6 – Words vs meaningful sounds

Group 7 – words vs other words

Group 8 – Listening for part of a compound word

Group 9  - Blend word syllables


Phonological Awareness - This programme focuses on “overteaching” phonological awareness skills e.g. identifying initial and final sounds, progressing to substitution and manipulating sounds.


Progression of Skills:

Stage 1. Counting single syllable words

Stage 2. Syllable segmentation

Stage 3. Syllable deletion

Stage 4. Initial sound identification

Stage 5. Final sound identification

Stage 6. Initial sound deletion

Stage 7. Final sound deletion

Stage 8. Initial sound substitution

Stage 9. Final sound substitution

Stage 10. Rhyme Identification

Stage 11. Consonant cluster identification and manipulation     -  This stage is split into 6 sub sections.



Read Write Inc – This programme is a sequential progressive phonic programme; children work at their own progressive pace as they learn to recognise each unit of sound.


Set 1 Group A  - m a s d t i n p g o c k u b f e

Set 1 Group B – l h r j v y w z x

Set 1 Group C -  oral blending words using above  Set 1 Group A&B sounds

Set 2 Sounds Group – ch ng nk qu sh th

Set 3 Sounds Starter Group – ay ee igh ow oo oo( u) ar or air ir ou oy

Set 3 Sounds Advanced Group – a-e  ea  i-e  o-e   u-e oi ai oa aw ur er ire ear ure ew are ow

RWI Phonics Bridge Group

(using and applying phonics to reading and writing)


How is impact and progress in phonics monitored?


Regular Learning Walks take place by the Phonic Leaders during daily phonics sessions to identify where to upskill staff where needed, adjust groupings, adapt provision etc. Phonic group leaders review and analyse phonics progress termly. A range of adaptation are then trialled as appropriate to find most effective strategies to support learning. Some skills can be particularly challenging for individual pupils, and an extended period of time is needed to work on a particular skill.


What happens after phonics?

The three strands at Meath we work on to support our children as reader are:

  • Technical / Decoding skills (phonics)
  • Comprehension Skills
  • Enjoyment in reading

Once children acquire phonic knowledge, the common route would be to move onto spelling, punctation, grammar (SPAG).


At Meath school these areas are worked on extensively and supported by Speech and Language Therapists individually, in small groups and within the classroom.


Next step in reading skills is profile dependant, therefore personalised for each child. Although often children completing the RWI programme are more able in decoding skills but less able in reading comprehension which obviously links to ability to enjoyment of reading.


Therefore, once children progress through the RWI programme they begin a comprehension programme.  Children access a range of programmes to suit their levels and interests as readers.  This programme is in addition to daily integrated comprehension focused work within class work in English and across the curriculum.


Reading within the Curriculum

Reading opportunities are promoted throughout each day within our curriculum and include cross-curricular topics. Children learn to talk about and read signs, symbols, and text for everyday life such as reading signs, instructions and recipes as well as fiction and nonfiction texts (books). 

We choose key texts (books) for each class that link to each topic. These texts are explored within storytelling sessions to bring the story to life, develop language skills and encourage a love of reading and stories.

As children move through the school the focus begins to shift from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’. As children become more confident, they will be able to use their skills to assist their learning and read for pleasure. 


Progression in our Reading Books


Vocabulary Builders: encourage children to develop their    early vocabulary and enjoyment of books using familiar settings and themes.



Wordless picture books: help our children comprehend and sequence a story plot or theme and verbally retell a story. We move on to adding key word flash cards to these books as appropriate for each child.



Phonic scheme books: books that match phonic sound and letter patterns taught each week within our Read Write Inc Phonic programme.



When children complete the phonic scheme books they progress as a free reader and are guided to choose their own reading book according to their ability and interest.


Book Bag Books 

Children take 2 books home in their book bags that are changed regularly (each week).  A “Reading Book” – ability matched and decodable for each child to read to their family, and a “Sharing Book” to enjoy and read with their family.