What is phonics?

Phonics is a method of teaching children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify and use different sounds (phonemes) that distinguish one word from another in the English language.

Written language can be compared to a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters and how those letters sound when they’re combined will help children decode words as they read.

Understanding phonics will also help children know which letters to use when they are writing words.

Phonics involves matching the sounds of spoken English with individual letters or groups of letters. For example, the sound k can be spelt in different ways, including c, k, ck or even ch.

Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out. For example, when a child is taught the sounds for the letters tpa and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”.

- Phonics in Early Years

- Phonics in Key Stage 1


Synthetic phonics

The most widely used approach associated with the teaching of reading in which sounds (phonemes) associated with particular letters (graphemes) are pronounced in isolation and blended together.

For example, children are taught to take a single-syllable word such as cat apart into its three letters, pronounce a phoneme for each letter in turn /k, æ, t/, and blend the phonemes together to form a word.


Phonics is taught through a systemic synthetic phonic approach, based primarily on the Letters and Sounds programme. Year groups work closely to ensure that there is consistency and progression in planning, practice and provision across the years. This is adapted, where appropriate, to meet the needs of individual classes and identified groups. Planning is structured to ensure opportunities to review, teach, practise and apply, with Phonics lessons delivered daily for 20 minutes, in addition to daily English lessons in Key Stage One. Opportunities to apply phonics, both in reading and writing are planned for and reinforced through areas of provision, daily guided reading sessions and reinforced across all curriculum areas.  

Please see the Reception and Year One phonics PowerPoints for further advice on the teaching of phonics and how to help at home. This includes how to pronounce sounds, which is a key part of phonics.