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Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS)


ELS teaches children to read using a systematic synthetic phonics approach. It is designed to be used as part of an early learning environment that is rich in talk and story, where children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills to become fluent independent readers and writers.


ELS teaches children to:

• decode by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently

• encode by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.

We know that for children at the end of Key Stage 1 to achieve the age-related expectations, they need to read fluently at 90 words per minute. As children move into Key Stage 2, it is vitally important that even those who have made the slowest progress are able to read age-appropriate texts independently and with fluency.


For children to engage with the wider curriculum, they need to be able to read well, making inferences and drawing on background knowledge to support their developing understanding of a text when they read. To do this, they need to be able to draw not only on their phonic knowledge but also on their wider reading and comprehension skills, each of which must be taught.


The first step in this complex process is the link between spoken and written sounds. ELS whole-class, daily phonics teaching must begin from the first days of Reception. Through the rigorous ELS teaching programme, children will build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear and say (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes). 

Phonics: How to pronounce pure sounds | Oxford Owl

Phonics: How to blend sounds to read words | Oxford Owl

See below for the order in which we learn our sounds and harder to read words.


Autumn Term 1 – Phase 2

Week 1: s  a  t  p

Week 2: i  n  m  d

HRS words: I  the  no

Week 3: g  o  c  k

HRS words: put  of  is 

Week 4: ck  e  u  r 

HRS words: to  go  into

Week 5: ss

HRS words: pull

Assess and review week

Week 6: h  b  f  ff  l  ll

HRS words: as  his


Autumn Term 2 – Phase 3

Week 1: j  v  w  x

HRS words: he  she  buses

Week 2: y  z  zz  qu  ch

HRS words: we  me  be

Week 3:  sh  th (voiced and unvoiced) ng  nk

HRS words: push

Week 4: ai  ee  igh  oa

HRS words: was  her

Week 5: -es (where there is no change to the root word)

Assess and review week

Week 6: Review week

HRS words:  my  you


Spring Term 1 – Phase 3-4

Week 1: oo (book)

HRS words: said  so  have

Review week

Week 2: ar  ur  oo (food) or

HRS words: they  all  are

Week 3: ow  oi  ear  air 

Week 4: ure  er  ow 

HRS words: ball  tall

Week 5: Assess and review week             

HRS words: when  what

Week 6: Review week


Spring Term 2 – Phase 3-4

Week 1: Review week

HRS words: said  so  have

Week 2: Review week

HRS words: were  out  like

Week 3: Review week

HRS words: some  come  there

Week 4: Review week

HRS words: little one do

Week 5: Assess and review week             

HRS words: children  love

Week 6: Review week


Summer Term 1 – Phase 4

Week 1: cvcc words

-ed /ed/

Week 2: ccvc words

-ed /t/

Week 3: ccvcc

-ed /d/

Week 4: cccvc

Week 5: Assess and review week             

Week 6: cccvcc

-er -est  


Summer Term 2 – Phase 5 Introduction

Week 1: ay  ou  ie  ea 


HRS words: oh  their

Week 2: oy  ir  ue  aw

HRS words: people  Mr  Mrs

Week 3: wh  ph  ew  aw

HRS words: your  ask  should

Week 4: au  ey  a-e  e-e

HRS words: would  could  asked 

Week 5: Assess and review week             

HRS words: house  mouse  water

Week 6: i-e   o-e   u-e    c

HRS words:  want   very


HRS: Harder to read and spell words

GPC: Grapheme-phoneme correspondence