Monika Singala, Deputy Headteacher
Highfields Primary School, Leicester
What elements of ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds work well?
The ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds approach to phonics has really helped gain consistency in teaching across the school. The structured teaching sequence for each individual phase has helped both children and staff.
For the children, they are so familiar with the structure they have confidence to know what is coming next and as they progress through the phases the teaching sequence remains the same with slight adaptations to support the sounds being taught. This means they do not have to get used to a new way of teaching as they encounter more sounds.
Teachers really value the structure as they know what is expected from them and what makes a good quality learning experience for the children. We have certainly found that weaker teachers flourish using this programme due to the clear expectations for each phase.
The resources really support the programme well, especially the assessment that runs alongside each phase. It is extremely clear to see which sounds need revisiting and which sounds children have confidently mastered. The teaching progression has time built in for response to the assessments so teachers don’t move on to the next phase until they are confident the children have grasped the previous phase and can apply in the context of reading and writing.
The programme clearly support phonics leaders in school to ensure that provision in all year groups where phonics teaching is required is high quality.
How has your involvement in ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds changed what happens in the classroom and your school in relation to the teaching and learning of phonics?
There were two main differences for our classroom practice.
One was the specific teaching of Phase 1 in Nursery. The programme we were using before did not allow for the dedicated time to teach children how to listen carefully and distinguish between different sounds they hear in everyday life. The children now leave Nursery confident in their listening skills and are ready to hear specific differences between sounds in Phases 2 and 3 in Reception where they are then introduced to the written representation.
The second biggest difference was adopting a whole class approach to the teaching of phonics supported by interventions for children who struggle. This support is immediate to ensure that gaps are not created between the most able children and the lowest 20%. This has in turn impacted on school level data as more children are able to succeed. Children do not see phonics as an isolated session but are instead able to apply within a reading context (shared and guided reading) and writing (shared and guided writing). They see reading and writing as a skill that phonics enables them to access.
Training is accessible for all teaching staff, including support staff who are often the ones delivering interventions.
What impact has ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds had on children’s phonics attainment?
Data source: Year 1 phonics screening, apart from for 2020 which is Year 2.
We adopted ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds in September 2013, therefore it is clear how the programme has impacted on our results from 2014 onwards.
What other improvements has your involvement with ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds led to across the school?
Improvement on teaching:
- Immediate impact - Simplicity is key
- Consistent, systematic and structured approach
- Focused high quality CPD – staff confidence raised
- Increase of good / outstanding lessons
- Enthusiastic and interactive
- Emphasis on speaking and listening
- Transferrable across the curriculum
- Relentless focus on improving teaching and learning
- Inclusive and engaging for all learners and caters for different learning styles
- Technical language introduced early on
Improvement in learning:
- Impact on progress
- Child involvement
- Enjoyment and enthusiasm
- Insistence on correct language structures
- Emphasis on reading for meaning
ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds has always adapted its training package based on latest government guidance and demonstrates exactly what teaching and learning should look like in the classroom at that moment in time. Previous phonic programmes we have used focus solely on how to use the programme rather than the quality of teaching and learning within the classroom setting. With ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds, time is taken to show schools how to adapt key principles based on the individual circumstances of their school. We have been using the programme for almost 10 years and I have personally accessed the training sessions at least five times in that period and have always been able to bring something back to school to further help to improve outcomes for children.