Phonics - Essential letters and Sounds

At English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School, we believe that being able to read and write are the vital skills that enable us to understand and express ourselves more effectively.

These skills open the door to learning. We passionately believe in helping children to develop not only the technical skills of reading and writing, but also in engendering a love for literature and the different genres of writing.

All of our teaching and support staff have been trained in the phonics programme ‘Essential Letters and Sounds. Our teaching of reading and writing within the school is, therefore, based on the Essential Letters and Sounds Programme (ELS). This begins very early on when children join in Reception and continues until a child is a confident and competent reader and speller. ELS is one of the DfE approved schemes.

The knowledge of sounds and symbols is an important starting point for understanding and using written language and we believe that a strong and consistent approach to the teaching of phonics is vital for our children to begin to access the rest of the curriculum. This is, however, used in conjunction with many other strategies to help children to begin to read and write.

Essential Letters and Sounds


Dear Parents and Carers,


Following an update from the Department for Education around phonics teaching we have moved to Essential Letters and Sounds, this is a phonics programme based on Letters and Sounds (2007). This new phonics programme will support your children in making quick progress to become fluent and confident readers.

To best support us in teaching your child to read, we ask that you read the decodable text provided by the school four times across the week. Spending 10 minutes a day reading with your child will hugely support them on their journey to becoming an independent reader.


We will be changing children’s books once a week on Fridays. This will allow your child to re-read each text several times, building their confidence and fluency. This is especially important as they begin to learn that the sounds within our language can be spelled in different ways.

For children, re-reading words and sentences that they can decode (sound out) until they are fluent (read with ease and precision) is a key part of learning to read. By reading texts several times, children have the greatest opportunity to achieve this fluency.


The texts sent home are carefully matched to the teaching taking place in school. Your child will be practising what they have been taught in school with you at home. We will only ask children to read books independently when they can decode these by themselves.


Any books that are not yet decodable for the children will be sent home as a sharing book. These books will be sent home for you to read with your child, helping us to instil a love of reading from the very beginning of their reading journey. These could be read together with your child reading the words they are able to decode or could be read to your child.


If you have any further questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the SLT via the school office.



An introduction to Essential Letters and Sounds
Click on the link below to open up a document which will cover the answers to some key questions about Essential Letters and Sounds and provide furtherinformation about the programme we use, at English Martyrs to deliver phonics teaching. 
The presenation will cover:
What is Phonics?
What is Essential Letters and Sounds?
How we teach phonics
Getting children ready to read
Supporting your child with reading at home
Pronouncing pure sounds
Using the letter formations and spelling sequence to support writing at home

In Phase 2, children begin to learn the sounds that letters make (phonemes). There are 44 sounds in all. Some are made with two letters, but in Phase 2, children focus on learning the 19 most common single letter sounds. ‘


By the end of Phase 2 children should be able to read some vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, and to spell them out. They also learn some high frequency, ‘harder to read and spell words’ (tricky words) like ‘the’ and ‘go.’ This phase usually lasts about six weeks.


The video above will help you to practice the sounds with your children. It is important that the 'pure sounds' are used to enable the children to sound and blend the words correctly. 

Phase 3 introduces children to the remaining, more difficult and/or less commonly used phonemes. There are around 25 of these, depending on which scheme is followed, mainly made up of two letters such as /ch/, /ar/, /ow/ and /ee/. ‘We need these sounds to be able to read and form useful words,’ says Sara.

Alongside this, children are taught to recognise more harder to read and spell words (tricky words), including ‘me,’ ‘was,’ ‘my,’ ‘you’ and ‘they’. They learn the names of the letters, as well as the sounds they make. Activities might include learning mnemonics (memory aids) for tricky words


The video above will help you to practice the sounds with your children. It is important that the 'pure sounds' are used to enable the children to sound and blend the words correctly.