How to make everyone a phonics expert

I saw this article on the TES website and it piqued my interest.

Effective teaching of reading and writing means effective phonics teaching. Indeed, phonics enthusiasts such as Debbie Hepplewhite have dedicated their careers to ensuring high quality phonics instruction is delivered in schools. In England, we are leading where others are following with regard to phonics instruction. Australia is currently launching a phonics drive with an assessment not too dissimilar from the phonics screening check.

From my own experience, I can see where this statistic comes from. In many schools I’ve worked in, phonics has been seen as the job of the EYFS and Year 1 teacher. As long as they pass the phonics screening, they don’t need to learn phonics anymore.

Phonics is the responsibility of every member of staff. Phonics goes far beyond Year 1; particularly in a language that has 44 phonemes represented by around 250 graphemes.

So how do you get every member of staff onboard with phonics instruction?

You need to support your colleagues to overcome the fear, uncertainty and doubt they have regarding phonics. This includes SLT. As a phonics leader, you need to be able to answer the following questions:

If you are clear on the answers to these questions, then you can convey your reasoning effectively.

Appeal to their frustrations. I know that the KS2 staff are frustrated because they don’t know how to support their weaker readers. They don’t know phonics (or are out of practise) and it’s an alien language to them. The key is to empower them. Break the vocabulary down for them without being patronising. It was new to you too once.

I’ve found that short, focused sessions have worked best with practical takeaways that can be used in classrooms straightaway. Suggesting that you will come and observe puts barriers up, but offering to work alongside and share the responsibility allows you to get into the classroom and tailor your coaching to support the teacher at the same time as supporting the child.

There will be experts in your school – use them.

Sometimes TAs can be overlooked but quite often they are fantastic phonics practitioners and can be used to support other members of staff.

I’ll post some follow up blogs around the implementation and monitoring of phonics alongside the resources I use.

But remember: phonics is not difficult. We expect 4 and 5 year olds to be able to do this – and they can.