My child will have lessons in phonics. What does this mean?

If your eldest child is due to start to primary school in September, you should soon hear whether or not they have a place at one of your three choices of school. During the Summer term, most schools will then invite parents to at least one parents’ evening to talk about the school day, routines, the reception year curriculum, uniform and hot dinners, amongst other things.

This may be the time when you find out that your child will start to learn about phonics. According to the Department for Education’s information leaflet, “Phonics is a way to teach children to read quickly and skilfully”. Children will start by learning the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, though not necessarily in the same order. They will then start to identify certain letter combinations and the sounds these make; for instance, sh, er, and igh. Then, they will learn how to blend these sounds together to sound out simple words.

Most primary schools will teach phonics in small groups, 4 or even 5 times a week, with each session lasting about 20 minutes. Phonics is taught all the way through Key Stage 1, ie, up to the end of Year 2.

Towards the end of Year 1, all children will take the phonics screener test. Each child sits with a teacher to look at the 40 words on the test, some of which are “made up words” but which are designed to test the phonics sounds already taught.