Testimonial 3

Sarah Mijatovich, Headteacher

Claycots School, Slough

What elements of ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds work well?

Whole staff training at the start of implementing the programme for teachers and support staff. Easy to follow lesson plans with a predictable structure which the children become familiar with quickly. This means that as children move through Early Years and KS1, phonics lessons are consistent and all children are able to receive the same offer of high-quality teaching. I believe that this also aids transition particularly for less confident learners as phonics is ‘the same’ which is reassuring for them.

The mantras learnt for reading and writing are simple and we use them consistently outside of the phonics lessons to create links in learning and to make it explicit to children how they can apply their phonic knowledge when reading and writing independently.

The in-school support is invaluable. Ann first demonstrates good practice through model lessons and then works alongside leaders in the school to monitor the implementation of the programme. She is able to provide bespoke support such as training Teaching Assistants to deliver phonic intervention programmes or working with teachers to plan revision programmes and catch up plans to plug gaps in learning.

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?

Prior to working with Ann there was no consistent approach to the teaching of phonics at the school and a scheme was not being used. This meant that the teaching of phonics was extremely variable and whilst some good practice existed it was not the norm. Working with Ann has resulted in rapid improvement in the confidence and understanding of staff as well as in the attainment of children.  

Children are now much more able to apply strategies effectively when reading and there is a more organised and structured approach to how phonics and reading is taught. Staff are able to assess children’s reading level more accurately and ensure that they are provided with the correct book in order to support them to make progress.

What impact has ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds had on children’s phonics attainment?

In 2019, 74% of children passed the phonic screening check.

In 2020, despite missing a significant part of Year 1 due to lockdown and low levels of engagement in remote learning, 77% of children passed.

Predictions are that this year the % of children passing the phonic screening check will rise again.

Perhaps the most significant improvement has been in how well children are able to apply their phonic knowledge when reading and writing. Observational data and feedback from staff is that children are now much more confident to do this when working independently.

Having worked with Ann at a previous school, I can be confident of the impact that the programme has on attainment. In the first year of working with her results in the phonic screening check rose from 24% in 2012 to 74% in 2013. This was then maintained and improved over time so that results from 2014-2018 remained between 75-85%. This was in a mainstream school with a large 65 place resource base attached for children with a range of complex needs.

What other improvements has your involvement with ALS Phonics: Letters and Sounds led to across the school?

We now have a whole school approach to the teaching of phonics and reading which links together in a meaningful way for the children.

These links are also made in Early writing where teachers are able to consolidate the use of the mantra ‘say the word, robot the word, write the word’ when modelling.

As mentioned earlier the consistent approach to the way that phonics and reading is taught across the school ensures that all children are able to receive the same high-quality teaching.

Ongoing teacher and support staff development is a crucial part of our involvement and our staff receive excellent personalised support from Ann and specific feedback on their practice and how they can improve which they find invaluable. Staff are much more knowledgeable about how to teach phonics and reading effectively and are therefore more able to unpick and address issues in children’s learning and development when they occur.

The use of the ongoing phonics assessments that are part of the programme means that we have a clear idea understanding of how children’s phonic knowledge is developing over time.

The emphasis on Phase 1 phonics and the ‘Hear’ sections of the lesson plan have supported our staff in recognising the importance of strong phonological awareness and we are now very conscious as a school about how we can prepare children for the start of Phase 2 phonics and learning grapheme, phoneme correspondence.

Additional Comments

I have seen rapid improvements secured in two schools as a result of working closely with Ann and cannot recommend her and her work highly enough.