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Phonics and Early Reading

At Balfour Primary School we aim to provide all of our children with an inclusive reading environment; enabling them to engage in in-depth discussions around a range of texts and authors.

Our goal is to enable all of our children to leave Balfour Primary School as confident and fluent readers, who have a passion for reading and for exploring their favourite authors and genres.

We expect all of our staff to be excellent reading role models, inspiring an ethos and culture for a love of reading. In doing so, staff facilitate regular conversations around their own current book choices that they are reading for pleasure, and emphasise making links between authors and themes. Our curriculum is enriched by our staff’s broad and comprehensive knowledge of both new published texts, in addition to the classics.  We aspire to deliver a reading curriculum that demonstrates an awareness of diversity and explores worlds and cultures beyond our children’s experiences. 

We recognise as a school that reading opens to door to the rest of the world, and most importantly, to accessing the whole school curriculum. For this reason we strive to ensure that no child is left behind and that catch-up learning is put in place for any child who requires additional support.


At Balfour Primary School we use Read Write Inc Phonics (RWI) to facilitate your child in their journey of becoming a reader.

Below we have put together a guide to explain the teaching of RWI. We have two Reading Leaders as a school: Sally Geard and Isabelle Harris. In addition to this, all staff have been RWI trained so if you have any questions regarding the teaching of RWI, please speak to your class teacher in the first instance.


Read Write Inc at Balfour Primary School


What is Read Write Inc?

Read Write Inc (RWI) is a systematic synthetics phonics programme (SSP) which aims to help all children learn to read fluently and at speed so they can focus on developing their skills in comprehension, vocabulary and spelling. The programme is designed for children aged 4-7 years old. However, we recognise as a school that some children will take a little a longer to develop their phonological awareness and fluency in reading, so your child will continue to be taught the RWI programme until they are assessed as able to graduate. 

How will RWI be taught to my child?

RWI works on the principle of ensuring that your child’s phonics teacher knows the exact sounds to target through careful and regular phonic assessments.

Children are assessed around every 5-6 weeks by a school assessor- who may not be your child’s class teacher but is most likely an adult within the school with whom they feel confident and comfortable around.

In order for us to target your child’s phonic level, following the assessments, your child will be put into a phonics group. It is important to note that your child’s phonics group may not be taught by their class teacher. We use this approach to ensure that we can target the needs of the children and match their phonic level. However, it is important to emphasise that these groups are fluid and your child may move group depending on their progress.

To ensure that you are able to support your child from home, we will send out regular Weducs to communicate the key sounds that your child’s group are focusing on. We will also send out the RWI online video links to explain and show how these sounds are taught.


The focus of learning in Reception is to enable all children to learn how to ‘read’ the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down.


The children will:

  • learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letters/letter groups using simple picture prompts
  • learn to read words using Fred talk and sound blending
  • read from a range of storybooks and non-fictions books matched to their phonic knowledge
  • work well with partners
  • develop comprehension skills in stories by answering 'Find It' and 'Prove It' discussion questions


The children will:

  • learn to write and form the letters/letter groups which represent the 44 sounds with the help of fun phrases
  • learn to write words by using Fred Talk
  • learn to build sentences by practising sentences out loud before they write 


The children will work in pairs so that they:

  • answer every question
  • practise every activity with their partner
  • take turns in talking and reading to each other
  • develop ambitious vocabulary

It is important to emphasise that any child who is not making the expected progress or is struggling to grasp and retain initial sounds will be closely monitored and parents will be informed. In addition to this, any child who comes to Balfour Primary with Pre-SENDs around Speech and Language will also be closely monitored during the initial stages of RWI to ensure they are able to follow and keep up with their taught sounds.

Year One & Year Two 

The same cycle and approach to teaching RWI continues in Year One and Year Two, and beyond where appropriate and needed. The children will continue to be assessed and grouped to match their phonics levels.

By this stage, most children will be progressing through more complex sounds and they will continue to access reading texts that are matched to their phonic sound knowledge.

Once children become fluent and speedy readers, they will move off the RWI phonics programme onto books that are not specifically linked to phonic sounds taught and focus more on comprehension skills. It is important to note that as the children progress with their phonics, their fluency is measured in regards to how many words per minute they are able to read with accuracy.

One of the most important aspects of following the RWI scheme and the fundamental practise of home-learning support is that your child will be sent home with a book level that matches their phonic level. This means that your child should be able to fluently read the book that they are coming home with. They would have been taught and focused on the sounds within that book during the week and should have secure previous phonic knowledge to support them in accurately reading the book. The aim of reading this book at home is for enjoyment and confidence building!

Read Write Inc Fresh Start - KS2 approach to teaching phonics 

At Balfour Primary School we use Read Write Inc Fresh Start for children who require phonics teaching in upper KS2. The programme is designed to teach phonics at a more age-appropriate level, whilst staying true to the strategies and pedagogical practice of RWI. The children will be assessed in the same way as RWI, to ensure that they are placed in a group which matches their phonic ability. Fresh Start focuses on developing the children’s phonetic understanding, in addition to their fluency.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Engage with any RWI videos/ learning you are sent home.
  • Ensure that you read to your child- offering them an opportunity to explore a range of book genres beyond those of phonic decodable texts!
  • Explore reading spaces- such as the local library/charity book shops.
  • Be reading role models-
  • talk about your favourite books
  • use character voices when reading aloud
  • re-read books you’ve read with your child to build familiarity with texts
  • help your child make links with authors and themes
  • explore genres outside of non-fiction and stories- poetry/comic strip/news
  • continue to explore nursery rhymes and traditional tales

Most importantly, if your child is struggling with engaging in reading, reach out to your class teacher. We are here to help!

Below is an information document for parents/carers - Getting to know Read Write Inc and Early Reading at Balfour Primary School.