Neville's Cross Primary School & Nursery

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Phonics & Reading

At Neville’s Cross Primary School and Nursery, we recognise the importance of phonological decoding as the key strategy to develop early reading skills. Alongside a rich reading curriculum, our effective phonics teaching ensures that our children can apply efficient decoding skills to tackle unfamiliar texts in tandem with developing a love of reading.

At Neville’s Cross Primary School and Nursery Primary School we follow a validated phonics scheme; Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS).

The programme provides a simple, consistent approach to phonics, provided through easy-to-use interactive whiteboard eBook lessons. ELS keeps routines simple to reduce cognitive load and maximise the chances of success. ELS follows the original Letters and Sounds progression for the order in which Grapheme Phoneme Correspondences (GPCs) are taught. All staff in school have completed extensive training on ELS delivered by the Knowledge Schools Trust and regularly receive refresher training.

Every child in Reception and Year 1 takes part in a daily phonics session where new GPCs are taught and they practise segmenting and blending skills. The programme takes a multi-sensory approach and builds in a range of visual and auditory strategies to help pupils learn what the letters (graphemes) look like and the sound (phonemes) they represent. Mnemonics and ditties help support children’s recall of the GPCs and letter formation for handwriting. As such, the scheme allows for a consistent approach to the teaching of phonics across the whole school.

The ELS programme is a whole-class phonics scheme with the core principle of ‘Keep Up not Catch Up’ at the heart of this. As such, rapid intervention is implemented within lessons and through additional phonic interventions throughout the day to meet the needs of individual children.

The Essential Letters and Sounds programme is separated into Phases beginning with Phase 1 in Nursery with the expectation that all children will be secure with Phase 5 by  the end of Year 1. Please view the document below to see the overview of the phonic phases.

For a detailed progression document of our phonic learning term by term, please see below:

It is important that pupils articulate the phonemes (phonic sounds) correctly. If you are unsure of how to pronounce the phonic sounds correctly,  the video links below offer support with this:

Parents and Carers’ Phonics Workshops

We host annual phonics workshops to support parents’ and carers’ understanding of our chosen phonics programme and how they can support their child at home. Please see below for the information from this year’s phonics workshop which was held on 19th September 2023 and some useful resources which you may find useful.

Phonics and ELS Workshop Reception parents 19.9.23

Useful Phonics websites and apps.pdf

Phonics Screening Information meeting for parents March 2024

Below you can find the ditties/mnemonics that are used in ELS to help our children learn to recognise the GPCs and to correctly form letters.




Supporting your child with reading at home

Reading at home is an essential part of learning to read and we recognise the crucial role that parents and carers play.

Reception and Year 1:

At Neville’s Cross Primary and Nursery School, we ensure that our home reading books are closely matched to children’s developing phonic knowledge. Each Friday, your child will bring home two books to read at home, one of which will directly match the phonics teaching they have had in school that week. In addition, children will also bring home a practice text to revisit previously taught GPCs. It is essential that children re-read their books to develop their fluency. We ask that each book is re-read four times to help your child develop their sight vocabulary and embed their blending skills. This article Why re-reading story books matters explains the benefits of re-reading a text. Your child may also bring home a reading for pleasure book from our school library to share with an adult. Books are changed once per week. Children are encouraged to read at home and rewarded through incentives developed within each class.

Year 2 onwards

For the vast majority of children, they will be secure within Phase 5 Phonics by the end of the Summer term in Year 1. Once children are secure with their application of the phonics content and are decoding effortlessly, they will move to the school’s colour banded reading scheme. The scheme will be used in school for Guided Reading and for children’s home reading. Teachers will assess the children regularly and children will progress through the scheme according to both their word reading skills and their comprehension.

Free readers

As children progress through Key Stage 2 and become confident, skilled readers, they will move beyond the school’s reading scheme to become an independent ‘free reader’. They will choose age-appropriate texts from the school library or class libraries which support their comprehension skills and develop their vocabulary. Children will be encouraged to read a broad range of texts, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

For more information on how to support your child’s reading at home, please refer to this booklet, which outlines some key strategies and questions you can ask your child whilst reading together.

NX Parents Reading Booklet

Reading Plus

In Key Stage 2, all children access an online reading programme called Reading Plus. Reading Plus aims to improve different aspects of reading (reading speed, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary) through a personalised programme. It does this by developing silent reading fluency (reading speed) and then introducing more complex stories (for comprehension) and advanced vocabulary (for knowledge). As part of the programme, children have access to 1,100+ high-quality online texts that are both engaging and inspirational and match each child’s reading level. Through the programme, teachers can monitor precisely what and how children read, meaning they
can offer targeted support.

The stories are short and engaging to keep motivation levels high, and your the children are exposed to many
diverse and inspirational texts – anything from ‘What can one child do to save the world?’ to ‘The future of AI’.
The programme is designed to encourage the children to challenge themselves to become better readers and, in doing so, develop better reading habits. They will better understand what they have read and be better prepared for assessments.

Children choose a story (typically 6-7 minutes long) from a level appropriate to their reading ability. Once
finished, they answer ten questions to assess their understanding.
Reading Plus is not meant to replace physical reading books. It’s also not just an eLibrary – the programme is
designed to teach your child to become a more efficient reader, which will add to their enjoyment of reading
independently – developing a lifelong love for reading.

If parents would like further information about Reading Plus, please visit the following link where you can watch a short video:


Our approach to teaching reading comprehension

At Neville’s Cross we use a range of strategies to teach both word reading and reading comprehension skills. In Early Years, Key Stage 1 and in Lower Key Stage 2 we use Guided Reading as a prime approach to the teaching of reading. Children read in small groups with a teacher to practise their word reading and reading comprehension skills. The texts read will link to the school’s ELS Phonics scheme and the colour banded reading scheme, which includes a variety of schemes including: Hero Academy, Project X, Alien Adventures, Story Sparks and Traditional Tales.

As the children move through Key Stage 2, we move to a whole-class reading skills approach where a class text will be read and comprehension skills are taught and discussed orally. The emphasis moves from word reading to developing higher level comprehension skills such as inference, analysing the effectiveness of a text and developing vocabulary. Within these sessions, our teachers model reading strategies using high quality, age-appropriate texts which are carefully selected by our staff. These are read to or with the children and provide an opportunity to teach children specific reading skills to widen their vocabulary and develop their levels of comprehension, as outlined in the National Curriculum. Questions are planned by teachers in advance to help children  develop a greater understanding of a range of reading materials including fiction, non-fiction and poetry materials.

Please refer to our reading progression document below which outlines the progressive of skills in the following aspects of reading: word reading – phonics and decoding; fluency; range of texts and genres and progression in comprehension, linked to VIPERS.

Reading Progression at Neville’s Cross

In our reading lessons, we use reading VIPERS (based on materials from ‘The Literacy Shed’) to help support our pupils to understand what a good reader looks like and how to approach answering reading questions covering the different reading content domains as outlined in the National Curriculum.

VIPERS is an acronym which stands for:

V – Vocabulary

I – Inference

P – Predict

E – Explain

R – Retrieve

S – Sequence (KS1) Summarise (KS2)

This covers the key comprehension skills in line with the content domains from the National Curriculum (2014). Reading skills lessons may focus on one or more specific question types or be more general as appropriate to the needs of the children.  The mnemonic VIPERS is used to ensure children understand the purpose of questions when reading.

For more information and example question types linked to VIPERs, please see the documents below:

KS1 Reading Vipers

KS2 Reading Vipers


 The explicit teaching of prosody formulates a key component of our teaching of reading. During prosody lessons, teachers model how to read with fluency, expression and the correct intonation to match the mood and punctuation of a text. In Key Stage 1 and LKS2 we have fortnightly prosody lessons through which children are taught how to read expressively a wide range of text types, including narrative, poetry, playscripts etc. See the videos below to hear some of our very expressive readers!

Reading for Pleasure

At Neville’s Cross Primary School and Nursery, we encourage a reading for pleasure ethos through daily reading sessions, class story time, outdoor reading, reading challenges, author visits and reading events, such as World Book Day. Children across school have opportunities to share their book recommendations with others through our Book of Books approach in KS2 and by reading to their Class Story Bear in Reception and KS1. We have been blown away with the entries so far! Children also have independent access to a wide variety of high-quality texts in their classroom reading areas and in our school library. It is these enriching opportunities and our ethos where reading is prioritised and valued that we believe give our children the necessary skills to become thoughtful and confident readers for life.

We encourage our children to take their reading anywhere by setting regular challenges to Get Caught Reading! To date, we have been caught reading outside and have had a challenge to make a cosy reading den to enjoy a book. Check out these amazing pictures of what we have been getting up to in reading!

Our staff nurture a love of books by introducing books with enthusiasm and enjoyment, promoting a sense of wonder and expectation as the book is explored. Our staff use high quality texts in all aspects of their teaching across the curriculum and provide opportunities that extend and enrich the children’s learning in their class. When we read for pleasure, our children can choose the books they wish to read and enjoy. They can choose to share a book with a peer, choose to read topic books related to our wider curriculum or listen to an adult reading aloud to them.

Additionally every day our children end their school day by sharing a story in their classrooms; class teachers read a class novel aloud to the children to further promote a love for reading into every school day.

Reading Bucket Lists

We believe in encouraging children to read a wide range of texts and actively encourage our pupils to try new genres and authors regularly. As such, we have developed ‘Reading Bucket Lists’ of 100 recommended reads for different age phases across school. We would love to hear about the books you are reading at home and would recommend in school. Happy reading!

NX 100 Books to Read in Early Years 

NX 100 Books to Read in Key Stage 1

NX 100 Books to Read in Lower Key Stage 2 

NX 100 Books to Read in Upper Key Stage 2

Useful websites

Oxford Owl eBook Library for Essential Letters and Sounds

For Phonics games please see: Please ask your child’s class teacher to match the activities to the GPCs that have been covered.