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At Steep, we teach phonics through the ‘Essential Letters and Sounds’ programme. Designed by one of the Department for Education’s English Hubs, the knowledge Schools Trust, it aims for all children learn to read well and make speedy progress.  ELS provides a simple consistent approach to phonics.  The programme keeps routines simple to  maximise the chances of success.


Essential Letters and Sounds follows the original Letters and Sounds teaching order.  The programme includes “tricky words” from the original Letters and Sounds document with some additional words from the National Curriculum. The teaching is fully aligned with matched decodable books, meaning we can closely match children’s phonics practice to their secure phonics knowledge.


Decodable Books for Home

At home, children have access to online decodable books and a real book.  These books are linked to the phonics taught in school providing children with the opportunity to practise their decoding skills for the phonics they have been taught.



Assessment of the children’s sound, grapheme knowledge and word reading is key to ensuring that all children make rapid progress though the programme and that children keep up rather than ‘catch up’. Using the assessment cycle alongside daily in-class assessments will ensure that we know where every child is within their early reading journey.

The key assessment points within ELS are as follows:

  • Reception baseline assessment
  • Half-termly assessments (in week five of each half term)
  • Diagnostic assessment
  • Year 1 Phonics Screening Check practice (half-termly from Year 1 Autumn 1) 

Phase 2 pronunciation

Phase 3 pronunciation

phase 5 pronunciation

How to blend sounds to read words