At Shiphay Learning Academy, we are committed to delivering high-quality, rigorous, and systematic phonics teaching that meets the needs of all children. Through our teaching of reading and phonics, both set within a broad and rich language curriculum, we aim to develop each child so that they are able to read with fluency as well as developing a love of reading that will stay with them all their lives. We want all pupils to benefit from a consistent and systematic approach to the teaching of phonics from entry to school in order that they may have the best start possible in reading and writing. 


Teaching and Learning:
Phonics teaching is provided daily in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1. The phonics programme used is Bug Club Phonics. Bug Club Phonics is the dedicated phonics strand of Bug Club. The programme 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.


Bug Club Phonics teaches a new grapheme and related phoneme, or alternative spellings to previously taught phonemes, in every Phoneme Session. Each unit concludes with a Language Session, which includes the teaching of associated irregular words. This fast pace, backed up by daily revision of past teaching, has proved the most effective and successful method of phonic training. This means that the basic 40+ phonemes (Units 1–12), and then the alternative spellings of these phonemes (Units 13–30), are acquired quickly, and early reading skills develop rapidly. Decodable readers are introduced after just 10 days of teaching at the end of Unit 2. This enables children to apply the taught strategies and enjoy contextualised reading early on.


The order of grapheme introduction ensures that children start reading and spelling a wide range of words at the earliest possible stage. Teachers plan for the progression of phonics teaching, ensuring that it is matched to children's needs.


What is systematic synthetic phonics?

In systematic synthetic phonics, the graphemes and corresponding phonemes are taught just before the introduction of words that contain these letters. To read these words, children are taught to pronounce the individual phonemes (sounds) associated with the graphemes (letters) they see, and then to blend them together (synthesise) to form the word. 

The process is as follows:

  • Children see a word, e.g. cat; it is not pronounced for them.
  • They break it down into its individual letters (graphemes) and pronounce the corresponding sounds (phonemes) for each letter in turn: /c/ /a/ /t/
  • Then they blend the separate phonemes together to form the word.

This process is known as blending. Systematic synthetic phonics teaches letter sounds very rapidly, explicitly showing children how to build up words with letters from the start, and always includes blending with printed words.

Systematic synthetic phonics does not normally teach spelling, but Bug Club Phonics does teach spelling by reversing the reading process described above, i.e.

  • Children hear a word, e.g. ‘cat’, and say it.
  • They say the first phoneme: /c/.
  • They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘c’.
  • They say the word again and say the next phoneme: /a/.
  • They write the corresponding grapheme: ‘a’, and so on.

This process is known as segmenting and is followed by the children reading the word they have produced by sounding and blending.

In our approach, both blending for reading and segmenting for spelling are fully scaffolded. We model for the children how to sound and blend words for reading, but in each lesson, children must attempt to sound and blend words for themselves to find out how they are pronounced. We also model for the children how to segment for spelling and continue to scaffold the children through the process with each word they spell. This ensures that they identify each phoneme and choose the appropriate grapheme in turn, until the word is spelt.


Assessment and Monitoring:
The phonics skills of children are rigorously and regularly assessed using the school's assessment criteria. Children identified as struggling with phonics are given additional support through intervention sessions. 


  • Ongoing formative assessment: Daily assessment is carried out in two ways. Firstly, through using the whole-class revision section of the Phoneme Sessions to identify strengths and weaknesses at an early stage and intervene to support those children who need it during the guided independent work. Additionally, monitoring how well children complete the independent tasks in order to give an ongoing indicator of how each child is progressing. Feedback about progress is given to the children so that they know what they need to do to improve. Children are also assessed on their ability to use taught strategies to read unknown words. This is done individually when they are reading their reading books to an adult. Such a regular, rigorous system of formative assessment reduces the opportunities for children to fall behind. It facilitates efficient, responsive catch-up tutoring so that the whole class can stay together.


  • Self-assessment: Children are encouraged to practise self-assessment and peer-assessment, measured against the learning outcomes for the day. 


  • Summative assessment: Regular assessment activities are undertaken in line with the programme's Schedule of Assessment. 


To keep the class together, some learners will need extra help to target their areas of difficulty. Where there are a couple of, or a small group of, children who are struggling with the same element (for instance a specific sound), a separate nurture group, in addition to the whole-class session, is formed to practise and consolidate knowledge. For those with greater needs, daily one-to-one tuition is delivered to diagnose their difficulties and consolidate their learning. These approaches enable the whole-class sessions to continue, with every child having the chance to keep up and enjoy them.


Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND):

Bug Club Phonics is grounded in a proven pedagogy, based on seven years’ of research which produced remarkable gains in reading and spelling in the vast majority of children and very low levels of underachievement. Frequent assessment opportunities ensure all children’s needs are identified and evidenced at an early stage, and additional support can be put in place. All children together, with targeted catch-up support. The Bug Club Phonics approach to the teaching of systematic synthetic phonics advocates teaching all children together through daily whole-class sessions. This has been shown to foster a sense of social inclusion and boost the performance of children who are progressing more slowly.


To eensure all children make good progress, targeted support is delivered to those who require it.

  • Repeated teaching sequence builds familiarity to support all learners 
  • Revision to reinforce previous learning
  • Resources to practise and apply core phonics
  • Adapting teaching approaches to support all learners
  • Differentiation


The school has fidelity to the Bug Club scheme and has invested in an extensive range of Bug Club resources to support the teaching of phonics. These include matched decodable reading books, flashcards, and sound mats that children can use to support their learning.



The pace at which sounds are taught – all the way through Reception and Key Stage 1 means that time off school, at any stage, can create real gaps in children’s phonic knowledge. Children’s phonic skills are checked at the end of Year 1 with the statutory Phonics Screening Check, and success in that relies on daily exposure to phonics teaching so as to learn the grapheme–phoneme correspondences and develop the blending and segmenting skills to the expected level. Bug Club Phonics is designed around whole-class teaching. In order to maintain that inclusive approach the class needs to move forward together as much as possible. Periods of absence for individual children may result in them needing additional catch-up support and tuition in order to be able to keep up with their peers.


Parental Support: 

Parents and carers are encouraged to support their children's phonics learning at home to increase the children's chances of progression and success, as well as enhancing their confidence with, and enjoyment of, learning to read. Parents and carers are provided with information about the phonics programme and how they can support their child at home. Regular workshops are held to discuss phonics teaching and answer any questions parents and carers may have.


Reading the Bug Club Phonics readers at home – both in physical form and as eBooks – offers children the opportunity to apply the phonic skills they’ve learnt at school. The eBook features not only support children reading at home, but support parents listening to their children reading at home. The phoneme pronunciation guide and ‘Read to me’ functionality are particularly useful tools for parents with English as an additional language, or who might struggle themselves with the texts. Parent and child listening to the pronunciation guide together can be a rewarding activity for both parties, increasing their knowledge of, and confidence with, the grapheme–phoneme correspondences. Listening together to a book being read aloud, after the child has attempted it independently first, is a way for books to be mutually enjoyable, regardless of potential challenges.


A basic phonics introduction video for parents and carers