Phonics & Reading

At The Free School Norwich we recognise that Phonics is the body of knowledge that is necessary for children to learn to read and spell and underpins access to the rest of the curriculum. We believe that following Bug Club Phonics, a systematic synthetic phonics programme from the very beginning of formal education enables our children to have the necessary skills to begin their journey as readers.

All you need to know about phonics – Pearson

Bug Club Phonics Sound Board


It is our intent for every child to leave The Free School Norwich as a reader. We strive to develop each child’s love of reading as well as building reading mechanics. We want learning to read to be an enjoyable process, that it is highly engaging and inclusive for all. Our reading curriculum is broad and diverse, exposing our children to high quality literature and cultural themes.


At the Free School Norwich we use Bug Club Phonics to teach our pupils to read. Bug Club Phonics is a DFE approved SSP that provides everything needed to help children succeed in early reading. It combines a comprehensive teaching programme and fully decodable print books with an online reading world which includes eBooks, interactive assessments and games.

In Reception, Year 1 and where required in Year 2, Phonic sessions take place every day using a whole class approach. Daily lessons are structured in four parts as: ‘Review, Teach, Practise and Apply’. All lessons allow time to blend (read phonemes within longer units such as words) and segment (orally break up a word in order to hear the individual sound so it can be spelt). The children read decodable books that match their phonics learning level. In addition, there are online versions for every printed title and a personalised website for each child.

We use Bug Club Phonics regular assessments and Phonics Trackers to assess children’s ability to identify individual phonemes at the phase we are teaching. This provides information for any additional support needed to give all our children the best chance of ‘keeping up’, with class learning. Towards the end of Year 1 the children complete the ‘Phonics Screening Check’, for which individual results are recorded and reported to parents. In Year 2 if necessary, this Phonics Screening Check is repeated, for those children who did not meet the expected level in Year 1. Any child who does not pass the PSC in Year 1will receive Phonics intervention to support.

Our children read regularly and individually with a trained adult and we expect our parents to read regularly at home with their children. It is vital that children’s phonic progression is supported at home and that our parents understand the importance of reading at home. Therefore, we work closely with parents to include them in our reading journey, by holding Phonics information sessions in Year R, by sending home regular information, by communicating in children’s reading records, and by involving them in reading through physical reading books sent home as well as our use of e- books. Early reading workshops support parents in knowing how best to support their young reader and weekly in class reading workshops for parents allow that support to continue throughout the early reading journey.

Please click on the link below to see the Bug Club Phonics Progression Plan.

Phonics Progression Plan

Once children have completed Bug Club Phonics, they will seamlessly transition onto Bug Club books and will move systemically through the Bug Club finely levelled reading books before becoming a Free Reader and choosing our carefully selected books from our school library. Assessment is ongoing, class reading sessions, 1:1 sessions with trained adults and reading comprehensions all enable class teachers to determine that each child is reading at an appropriate level for their ability. Summative reading assessments are carried out at multiple assessment points throughout the year for teachers to have accurate attainment for every child and plan their next steps to becoming a competent reader.

We pride ourselves on our culture of reading for pleasure across the school: teachers read to their class daily, selecting carefully chosen texts and engaging children through modelling effective story-telling techniques including intonation and pace. Each class has a dedicated reading corner and children have access to a wide variety of carefully selected books. We have links with local libraries and book shops, our ‘Eagle Reader’ termly competition, visits from local authors and book events to inspire. The principal leads the love of reading with his weekly ‘Head Read’ and a team of Reading Ambassadors support reading in School. Peer reading is timetabled weekly and is undoubtedly a highlight of the week.

Children are given opportunities to explore different text types, across all year groups, therefore systematically exposed to a variety of genres. Children are taught to understand text variety and recognise their purpose and organisation with opportunities to develop reading comprehension strategies and vocabulary extension. Year 2 – Year 6 complete weekly ‘Comprehension Dojo’ activities, with the goal of mastering key skills needed to become a Comprehension Ninja, such as capacity to predict, question, clarify, summarise, infer and activate prior knowledge


The impact of using Bug Club Phonics as a systematic synthetic phonics programme, along with the earliest possible introduction of decodable reading books, enable children at The Free School Norwich to get off to the best possible start on their reading journey. They quickly develop the necessary skills to see themselves as ‘readers’ and apply their knowledge when beginning to spell and write sentences.

Pupils will develop detailed knowledge and skills as they progress through our English curriculum. They will develop a receptive and expressive vocabulary, and they will learn to read as fluently as possible, with a reading style that supports their comprehension. They will have gained considerable capacity to predict, question, clarify, summarise, infer and activate prior knowledge. They will want to read for pleasure and enjoyment and be immersed in reading.

We believe that reading is the key to all learning and so the impact of our phonics and reading curriculum can be seen across all areas of the curriculum.



Using the printed books

Inside every Bug Club Phonics printed book there are notes to help you make the most of reading with your child.

Inside front cover: there are suggestions of things to do before your child starts reading, such as saying the sounds and practicing blending them to make words as well as things to do whilst your child is reading to you; for example, checking their understanding of the story or information on the page.

Inside back cover: the activities here are to help your child consolidate what they have read and increase their fluency.

Using the online reading world

If you have access to an internet connection, your child can enjoy reading Bug Club Phonics books online as well as in print. Each child has a unique homepage and can log into it by following these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Enter the login details.
  3. Your child’s homepage will appear.

Reading a book online

We allocate books to your child according to their reading levels. These books will appear in the ‘My Stuff’ area of their personal homepage.

The eBooks have three main additional features to help your child. Find them in the ‘Independent’ section of ‘My Stuff’.

  • Phoneme pronunciation guide: click on the bug icon to hear some of the phonemes (sounds) in the book.
  • Read to me: after your child has had a go at reading the book, you can click on this to hear the text read out loud e.g. to help your child with giving expression.
  • Quiz question: click on the second bug icon within the book to answer a question designed to reinforce your child’s learning. Their teacher will receive information about attempted questions.

When your child has finished the book, clicked on the phoneme pronunciation guide and attempted the quiz question, he or she will earn ‘ActiveLearn Coins’. By reading more books, your child will earn enough coins to ‘buy’ a reward in one of the many reward schemes.

When your child has finished a book, it will move to ‘My Library’. Children can read these books again if they want to, or they can choose new books from ‘My Stuff’.

After your child has learnt to read

Until they are fluent readers, younger children will benefit from reading aloud to you as often as possible. By the time they are in Years 5 or 6, many children prefer to read silently to themselves. Create quiet opportunities for them to do so, but then talk to them about the book they are reading. 

Sharing reading

When sharing a book with your child, try to take opportunities to talk about the book – before, during and after reading.

Before reading: look at the book cover and talk about your child’s expectations. Is the book likely to be fiction or non-fiction? Have you read other books together about these characters or by this author? What does your child think the book is going to be about?

While reading: support your child when unknown words need tackling: you can sound them out, split them into syllables, or identify suffixes and prefixes. Remind your child to listen to the words while reading them, to make sure that they make sense. Have a ‘meaning check’ every now and again to ensure that your child understands the text.

After reading: talk about the book. What was it about? Did it match your child’s expectations? Ask questions beginning with the words how and why to check that your child has been able to read between the lines. Ask whether anything seemed puzzling. Then ask your child to explain what the best and worst bits of the book were, and why.

Need help?

If your child is having trouble using the pupil world, help can be found in the Help Section of ActiveLearn Primary (in the top right-hand corner of the website).

There is also a Grown-Ups’ Area in ActiveLearn Primary where parents and carers can get advice on how to help their child at home. This information is accessed via the ‘Grown-ups’ tab on the child’s homepage.

Please note: We strongly recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers with ActiveLearn. If you prefer to use Internet Explorer, please check you have at least IE9 in order for everything to work as it should.

Phonics Glossary 

 blendingBlending is the skill of joining sounds together to read words. Children are taught to say the separate sounds in a word and to then blend them together to decode the word.
 digraph A digraph is a sound that is represented by two letters e.g. the sound ‘a’ in rain is represented by the digraph ‘ai’.
 trigraph A trigraph is a sound that is represented by three letters e.g. the sound ‘i’ in light is represented by the trigraph ‘igh’.
graphemeA grapheme is a visual representation of a sound e.g. a letter or a group of letters. Some sounds are represented by a single letter whilst others are represented by more than one letter.
 phoneme A phoneme is a unit of sound e.g. the word ‘cat’ contains three phonemes; c – a – t.
 segmenting Segmenting is the opposite of blending. Children are taught to segment a word into its separate sounds in order to spell it.
 split digraph A split digraph is a digraph that is separated by other letters e.g. the sound ‘a’ in the word take is represented by the split digraph a-e.

Your child will learn…