Note: in addition to this webpage about our Phonics Approach, please also check out our webpages for our overall English curriculum webpage and our Reading Schemes webpage.


What exactly is the phonics approach?

Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children to be able to listen carefully and identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps children to learn to read words and to spell words 

In Clavering phonics sessions, children are taught three main things:


They are taught GPCs. This stands for grapheme phoneme correspondences. This simply means that they are taught all the phonemes in the English language and ways of writing them down. These sounds are taught in a particular order.


Children are taught to be able to blend. This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is. This skill is vital in learning to read.


Children are also taught to segment. This is the opposite of blending. Children are able to say a word and then break it up into the phonemes that make it up. This skill is vital in being able to spell words.

What makes phonics tricky?

In some languages, learning phonics is easy because each phoneme has just one grapheme to represent it. The English language is a bit more complicated than this. This is largely because England has been invaded so many times throughout its history. Each set of invaders brought new words and new sounds with them. As a result, English only has around 44 phonemes but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes! Obviously we only have 26 letters in the alphabet, so some graphemes are made up from more than one letter.

Another slightly sticky problem is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme. For example 'ch' makes very different sounds in these three words: chip, school, chef.

So why bother learning phonics?

In the past, people argued that because the English language is so tricky, there was no point teaching children phonics. Now, most people agree that these tricky bits mean that it is even more important that we teach phonics and children learn it clearly and systematically. A written language is basically a kind of code. Teaching phonics is just teaching children to crack that code. Children learn the simple bits first and then progress to get the hang of the trickier bits.


What is ‘Little Wandle’?

Clavering Primary Schools uses ‘Little Wandle’ as part of its phonics approach to teaching. The programme was validated by the Department for Education on 10th July 2021.

‘Little Wandle: Letters and Sounds Revised’ is a complete systematic synthetic phonics programme (SSP) developed for schools by schools. It is based on the original Letters and Sounds programme, but has been extensively revised to provide a complete teaching programme, meeting all the expectations of the National Curriculum, the Ofsted Deep Dive into reading and also preparing your children to go beyond the expectations of the Phonics Screening Check.

How does ‘Little Wandle’ work?

In Nursery, children begin sound discrimination skills within the environment, and build upon their general speaking and listening skills. In Reception, we start formally teaching phonics and follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised progression, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.

As a result, all our children are able to tackle any unfamiliar words as they read. At Clavering Primary School, we also model the application of the alphabetic code through phonics in shared reading and writing, both inside and outside of the phonics lesson and across the curriculum. We have a strong focus on language development for our children because we know that speaking and listening are crucial skills for reading and writing in all subjects.


There are many technical terms which are used in phonics. It can sometimes seem that teachers, teaching assistants and even pupils are talking in a different language, leaving parents and carers bewildered and confused.

Below is an explanation of the most commonly used phonics terminology:

Adjacent consonants

Two (or three) letters making two (or three) sounds.

Example: the first three letters of strap are adjacent consonants.

Previously known as a consonant cluster.


The process of using phonics for reading. Children identify and synthesise/blend the phonemes in order to make a word.

Examples: s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap.

Consonant digraph

Two consonants which make one sound.

Examples: sh, ch, th, ph


The abbreviations used for consonant-vowel-consonant and consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant words, used to describe the order of sounds.

Examples: cat, ship and sheep are all CVC words. Black and prize could be described as CCVC words.


Two letters which together make one sound. There are different types of digraph – vowel, consonant and split.


A letter or group of letters representing one sound (phoneme)

Examples: ck, igh, t, sh


The smallest unit of sound in a word.


The process of using phonics for writing. Children listen to the whole word and break it down into the constituent phonemes, choosing an appropriate grapheme to represent each phoneme.

Example: ship can be segmented as sh-i-p.

Split digraph

Two letters, which work as a pair to make one sound, but are separated within the word.

Examples: a-e as in make or late; i-e as in size or write.


The process of using phonics for reading. Children identify and synthesise/blend the phonemes in order to make a word.

Example: s-n-a-p, blended together, reads snap.


Three letters which together make one sound.

Examples: dge, igh

Vowel digraph

A digraph in which at least one of the letters is a vowel

Examples: ea, ay, ai, ar