Literacy and Reading

By beginning with phonics at an early age, we aim to lay firm foundations for literacy and seek to build on them throughout a pupil’s time with us.  Like all learning at Joseph Clarke School, we always respond to each pupil’s individual needs which means pupils learn at their own pace using methods that best suit their needs.  For some pupils, this will mean using an Intensive Interaction approach to communication and tactile signs and symbols.  Some pupils will follow a Functional Approach to Braille focussing on key vocabulary whilst others go on to use Braille as their primary medium.

Phonics at Joseph Clarke School

At Joseph Clarke School we feel that learning to read using either braille or print is an essential part of developing independent learners and a life skill that will be used beyond a pupil’s schooling with us. Teaching of phonics and the development of reading for each pupil personalised according to each pupil’s individual needs. This may involve communication development, sound awareness, playing with sounds, reading their name, functional reading skills that will impact upon a student’s independence skills, or reading to access the curriculum which could then lead to a love of reading for pleasure throughout their lives.

Why phonics is used to develop reading and spelling?

Phonological awareness is an important aspect of the development of phonics for reading and spelling. It also plays an important role in the development of vocabulary and impacts on the development of grammar and comprehension skills.

During the early stages of reading, phonics is taught as a way of decoding written letters and spoken sounds. As their knowledge and use of phonics is practised and consolidated, pupils will need to focus less on the actual decoding of words which then allows them to focus on the understanding and meaning within a text.

The teaching and learning of phonics

At Joseph Clarke school we are committed to ensuring our pupils develop their phonic skills to enable them the best possible chance in becoming lifelong readers. We use the Read Write Inc (RWI) programme which follows a method of teaching reading and writing, centred on learning the sounds of the letters and then blending them together to read words. The children will also learn to break down words into individual sounds in order to support them along their journey of developing their writing skills.  

The stage in which the children at Joseph Clarke begin will be determined by the pathway they are on but children will initially learn the single letter sounds and begin to blend these together. Once the children have been taught all of the single letter sounds they will be assessed and grouped according to their ability and or provided the necessary support within the classroom delivered by either the teacher or support staff. The children will be taught in small groups delivered by either teachers or support staff who have had the appropriate Read Write Inc training, which means learning can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each child and in line with their Education Health Care Plans.


Read Write Inc will commence in Reception and children will continue their RWI learning throughout their primary and secondary experience (depending on pathway and ability) and will have at least four sessions per week, lasting 20-30 minutes. Children will be assessed every half term to track their progress and to ensure they are working within the appropriate group. All children will begin by learning the Set 1 sounds in a specific order and progress through each set at their own speed and according to ability.

Rwi 2

Children will also begin learning to blend sounds together to make words after learning the first 5 sounds, firstly through practising oral blending.

Once children can blend independently, they will progress on to reading green words. After they can read green words, children will move on to begin reading stories in their sessions. Each storybook is matched to the sounds the children have grown familiar to, which supports the transition onto the next stage and aids them to build their confidence with reading. The children are exposed to and start to learn the red words through these storybooks, which are irregular words that cannot be sounded out using Fred talk. The process is repetitive and supports learning at Joseph Clarke, as it builds upon a consistent a systematic approach as each storybook is taught in the same way, with children practising reading the green words in the story and also the red words, before they begin to read the book. Children will then read the book several times to help build their fluency and comprehension skills.

Phonics Implementation and Impact at Joseph Clarke School

Read Write Inc tutors will plan (according to need and ability) for the children to work with a partner as Talking is an important part of the process as it provides opportunities for children to support each other with orally building their sentences and writing their ideas down.

Praise plays a significant part in encouraging children to engage with their phonics learning at Joseph Clarke School and this will be carried out in accordance to the environment and context of children.

Assessment is ongoing in response to our pupils needs but formal assessment will take place termly for those pupils identified.

Phonic Sets.  The sounds are broken into three sets and children will only move onto the next set when they are confident blending and recognising the previous set.

Students who use braille:

When teaching phonics, we include adaptations for braille users; the order of learning sounds in Read Write Inc and learning of the braille letters is different. This means the early stages of phonics for braille readers may involve more oral learning alongside presentation of the braille grapheme prior to learning of the specific recorded braille letters. This stage is carefully assessed and tracked using our assessment materials to show progress and highlight areas to develop further.

Students with complex needs:

Communication development is essential for students with complex needs and the daily routines and short phrases that are repeated and linked to the daily routines, are essential. Playing with sounds and words is an enjoyable way of introducing sounds awareness to students with complex needs. The focus can then be on words that are important to the pupil and these words are incorporated into personalised stories as appropriate to their needs

How will Joseph Clarke parents be supported and encouraged to support at home?

It’s very important even if a child is not at the stage of reading words, to have stories read to them. Parents/carers will be invited to parent meetings, provided with information to support learning in school and sent links to short clips to watch, which will explain the benefits of reading to their child, including encouraging parents/carers to:

  • Enjoy talking with their child and encourage them to tell share ‘stories’.
  • Demonstrate their love of reading and enjoy share a range of books together (fiction, non-fiction and poetry).
  • Listen to child read regularly.
  • Discuss the different features of various books.
  • Explain the meaning of new words.
  • Read cereal packets, shopping lists, road signs, web pages, magazines, newspapers etc as reading can take place anywhere!
  • Support their child with pre-braille activities and reading braille

Reading for Pleasure at Joseph Clarke School:

We recognise that reading for pleasure directly links to our pupils’ success beyond the classroom, throughout their time at school, to support their quality of life now, and into adulthood.

We firmly believe reading for pleasure also supports our pupils’ well-being, empathy, their ability to gain insights into the world, others viewpoints and supports their independent living skills.

At JCS, we promote our pupils’ reading for pleasure in a number of ways:

  • We have a dedicated reprographic department to convert high quality texts into braille reading material.
  • We value the books pupils choose to read so if a pupil has a special interest we make sure we stock books to fuel that passion and reproduce them in Braille.
  • Our in-school library is well stocked with a great range of fiction and non-fiction books, journals, poetry, publications and our braille texts. Pupils are actively encouraged to visit the library to choose books independently and/or with support.
  • Set aside times when pupils read for pleasure or to research an area they are interested in with support and guidance from staff.
  • The staff get caught reading ourselves!  We show that reading for pleasure is not just for children. We show this in lessons, assemblies and at other times of the school day.
  • Set reading challenges e.g. can they read a book from six different genres: a comic, an information book, a funny book, a sci-fi book, a classic and an instruction manual over the summer?
  • Reading buddies where pupils read to/with younger pupils to boost interest, self-confidence and communication skills.
  • Audiobooks.  We provide audiobooks to allow pupils to experience a book above their own reading level, to share a book together.
  • Celebrations and author visits and special events. World book day is always a major event at JCS! This helps pupils to know their characters and deepen understanding about storylines that can be a helpful bridge into reading a longer story.
  • Local library visits and Book Clubs.