This year, the Department for Education has brought in some changes that will impact the teaching of phonics in many schools, as well as the phonic books and resources that will be needed to support it. Our reading scheme specialists have put together some FAQs to help schools ensure their teaching programme is up-to-date with current Ofsted guidance and has the right reading books and resources in place.

Context

The 2007 Letters and Sounds Framework set out to provide schools with a basis for teaching systematic synthetic phonics (SSP). Although this has never been statutory, over 50% of schools use this as the basis of their phonics teaching and it was included on the list of approved phonics programmes on gov.uk. However, it is not, and has never been a full programme setting out in detail how phonics will be taught on a week-by-week basis. It relied upon schools building their own programme of resources around the handbook and in many cases updating the progression to bring it in line with current best practice.

Although some schools have created their own teaching programme based on 2007 Letters and Sounds very successfully, this is not the case for all schools. Moreover, it is no longer sufficient to simply state to Ofsted that your school is following Letters and Sounds — you will need to show you are using a successful approach including a teaching programme, relevant resources, reading books and high-quality staff training that builds on this or another Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching programme (SSP). Ofsted specify that the approach must be rigorous, systematic, used with fidelity (any resources used should exactly match the Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence (GPC) progression of their chosen SSP approach), and achieve strong results for all pupils, including the most disadvantaged. There is emphasis on children being able to keep up rather than catch up so that children at risk of reading failure are given the o