I’m frequently asked if I can provide the name and contact details of people in schools that are using one (or more) of my systematic synthetic phonics programmes. It may seem strange to refer to using ‘one or more’ of my programmes but all my systematic bodies of work are underpinned by the same rationale, and my recommended teaching and learning ethos. You can hear something about my particular approach via this video discussion with Carl Pattison, Early Reading Lead for the Flying High Trust:
Some of the testimonials and findings below are from people who have more recently adopted one or more of my phonics programmes, and some are from people who have used my programmes and approach sustained over a number of years. I suggest that hearing from people in different contexts contributes to the bigger picture of informing teachers’ choices for adopting new programmes in their schools.
Floppy’s Phonics (published by Oxford University Press) is designed specifically as an infant programme. The body of work in Phonics International, however, is designed to start from infants (age 4+) but to extend throughout primary (ages 7 to 11) and some secondary schools use Phonics International in the lower years and/or for intervention purposes. Some schools using Floppy’s Phonics in the infants continue with Phonics International in primary with perhaps two lessons per week (Y3/4) or one lesson per week (Y5/6) as required and preferred. Phonics International contributes to children’s spelling, knowledge of spelling word banks, and guards against word-guessing and word-skipping as children get older.
The No Nonsense Phonics (Skills) resources are published collaboratively by Raintree and Phonics International Ltd. These have been developed from the original Phonics International programme but in hard-copy ready-made resources. No Nonsense Phonics starts from age 4+ designed for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. Some schools use the No Nonsense Phonics Skills Pupil Books in Y3/4 for intervention purposes too – possibly alongside utilising some of the additional Phonics International resources which are complementary (the full Phonics International programme, including the ‘Early Years Starter Package’, is completely FREE – which means you can review it transparently). The No Nonsense Phonics range of resources are so explicit, comprehensive and easy to ‘pick-up-and-go’ that, on request, we have now made the series of 9 Pupil Books available as single copies for use by parents, carers and tutors in the home.
Floppy’s Phonics (Oxford University Press)
When asked about ‘nursery’ phonics provision, I suggest that practitioners (and parents or carers) for children aged 3 to 4 (or older EAL children internationally) might also be interested in two bodies of work designed specifically for this age range along with the ethos of ‘experience, exposure but no expectation‘ for learning alphabet letter shapes (lower case and capitals), their associated first sounds, and the full range of phonics skills and their sub-skills. These nursery resources are also FREE. You can visit the site below for more information:
HOT OFF THE PRESS NEWS: I have been working with a company to create Wand Phonics. This is an online digital interactive body of work with audio throughout which will complement both No Nonsense Phonics and Phonics International. This is a very exciting development as it will provide huge support for new teachers, teachers in contexts of teaching English as an additional language, and for supporting understanding, practice, self-assessment and supplementary teaching direct in the home. Wand Phonics is at the trial stage with the intention of submitting the programme for DfE validation in October 2021.
FURTHER NEWS: Phonics International Ltd is also in the process of publishing a range of cumulative, decodable ‘reading books’ in the order of letter/s-sound correspondences introduced in the No Nonsense Phonics programme and the first half of the Phonics International programme. Bear in mind that an extensive range of ‘plain, cumulative sentences and texts’ [‘MATCHED TEXTS’] are provided already in these programmes for every letter/s-sound correspondence introduced – and these involve not only ‘reading’ but also the full range of phonics skills and sub-skills for writing, spelling, vocabulary enrichment and language comprehension, and building up knowledge of spelling word banks! Wand Phonics also includes 200+ ‘matched texts’ for reading (with the option of audio) throughout the programme.
TESTIMONIALS AND FINDINGS
Carl Pattison writes about his interest in No Nonsense Phonics and Phonics International:
I became interested in Debbie’s programmes in 2020. Having observed numerous phonics lessons, in a range of schools, I wanted to increase my knowledge of phonics programmes as I felt it would enable me to help schools make informed decisions about a change of Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme. NNPS and PI are clearly comprehensive approaches and they both have the capacity to really challenge and support children’s early literacy. In my Academy Trust role, I support schools to implement the No Nonsense Phonics Skills materials and Phonics International resources, as they offer a rigorous and challenging approach to foundational literacy. Early evidence suggests that both bodies of work will have a significant impact in schools and I am privileged to support this journey across a range of schools within our trust.
Flying High Trust Early Reading Lead
Gavin Morris, English and Curriculum Lead, is currently leading the adoption of No Nonsense Phonics and Phonics International at Poolsbrook Primary Academy.
We recently adopted No Nonsense Phonics in January 2021 and supplemented this with the resources from Phonics International following close partnership development work with our local English Hub. As a school we had identified that the teaching of phonics using Letters and Sounds had become fragmented and wasn’t providing the children with suitable challenge or academic progress. We adopted NNP and PI for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, they provided low threat but high rewards for all children. Upon first using the materials it became apparent how much harder the children were working in their phonic lessons – and they loved it! Secondly, we were interested in adopting a systematic synthetic phonics programme which supported children’s early reading but also developed handwriting and spelling – the approach of NNP certainly addresses all of these areas. Finally, for teaching staff, NNP and PI has provided everything they need to deliver high quality and consistent phonic lessons across EYFS and KS1, from textbooks, wall friezes, flash cards and display materials which are used across school to create consistent learning environments and provide support for children’s reading and spelling across the curriculum. KS2 staff have begun to adopt the PI resources as a scheme to support interventions for identified children and for whole class spellings. We have found both NNP and PI easy to pick up and use and a valuable resource during the recent lockdown where staff could easily record teaching videos for the children to access their textbooks at home. Debbie provided three amazing webinars for all staff when we were first adopting her materials and the training ensured all staff had the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to begin delivering high quality lessons. Since adopting NNP and PI we have seen a significant increase in our children’s phonic scores, moving from 50% passing the PSC in 2019 to now having 89% on track to pass this year. We have also seen a significant increase in many children’s reading ages with an average progress of 5 months in the first 6 weeks of using the programme due to the children reading more quality decodable texts daily. We are thrilled to have worked so closely with Debbie to implement NNP and PI in our school and we know we are now providing the very best early reading teaching for our children.
English and Curriculum Lead
Poolsbrook Primary Academy,
Rachel Field, Headteacher, promotes the use of No Nonsense Phonics at Ashfield Infant and Nursery School:
We are a larger than average Infant and Nursery School and in 2016 began using No Nonsense Phonics initially to support small groups of children requiring additional help in Year 1. I was immediately impressed by the high quality of the resources, and the progress that the children made, which led us to trial the scheme with a whole class in Year 1. Until this point we were a Letters & Sounds school for many years, yet as a new Head I felt that despite good teaching across the school, both phonics delivery and children’s progress were not consistent.
The class teacher trialling the NNP scheme with the whole class became so passionate about the advantages of the NNP scheme that as an SLT we decided to move away from Letters & Sounds altogether. At the start of 2017 we welcomed Debbie into our school to train our staff. The training was both inspirational and transformational. Teachers who felt uncertain about such a change of direction and approach in phonics teaching began to feel empowered and enthused.
A highly skilled and experienced EYFS teacher told me she had ‘fallen in love with phonics teaching again’ after working with Debbie and seeing what it can achieve for children. Our phonics screening check results rose from 78% in 2017 to 94% in 2018.
NNP incorporates not only a systematic approach to teaching phonics that is consistent, precise and effective but it is ambitious in terms of the richness of the language. Our curriculum is inspired by high quality texts and reading for pleasure, and NNP encourages children’s curiosity about new vocabulary. We very soon began to see the impact not only in terms of pupil outcomes in reading and phonics but also improvements in letter formation and the quality of children’s narrative writing.
Our children love their phonics lessons – when asked what they enjoying learning about in Reception and Year 1, ‘phonics’ is the most common response! In terms of day to day teaching, the routines are quickly and easily established and children respond incredibly well to the structure and familiarity of the programme. The visual resources available to support delivery are high quality and appealing, and particularly effective for visual learners. It is also highly inclusive, as children work through the programme as a whole class. The booklets give status to the children’s work, encouraging pride in their achievements and our phonics sessions create happy, motivated and confident learners.
No Nonsense Phonics has transformed the way we teach phonics, and last year we worked hard to align our book band scheme to the programme. I would recommend the scheme wholeheartedly, and visiting colleagues who see the scheme in action have invariably begun their own NNP journey too.
Ashfield Infant and Nursery School
01900 606 301
Louisa Mees, Deputy Headteacher, is leading the adoption of Floppy’s Phonics followed by Phonics International at Robin Hood Primary School.
Before the pandemic hit, the English team had identified that the phonics provision across school needed improving. As a school, we were following the DfE’s Letters and Sounds programme using another scheme but how it was being used and delivered was inconsistent. As a school we also wanted to ensure phonics provision continued in KS2. I spent time researching into different phonics schemes and started this journey by referring to the validated list of phonics programmes by the government and instantly liked the process and resources of Floppy Phonics. Alongside this, I came across Debbie Hepplewhite’s detailed Phonics Training Online self-study course and as a school we paid for all staff (Teachers and Teaching Assistants) to do this training. I also reached out to Debbie through Twitter. Debbie has been nothing but supportive and passionate about supporting our school in improving its phonics provision. We have already had great success using the Floppy Phonics programme (this began in September 2020) with children making huge progress in their phonics and even with a global pandemic, over 84% of Year 2 children passed the Phonics Screening Check in December 2020 (both above the National and Local Average score) from using the Floppy Phonics scheme twice a day. We are now working closely with Debbie to implement the Phonics International scheme in KS2 to continue to support children with their phonics, but mainly being used with a spelling focus.
Robin Hood Primary School
0113 282 3444
Jemma Calverly, Assistant Headteacher, is leading phonics provision with Phonics International at the Trumpington Foundation.
Phonics International has provided our children with a rigorous programme and depth of phonetic knowledge which has empowered the children to learn to read and write. It was back in 2017 when our new head teacher introduced Phonics International to the staff as she had successfully used it at a previous school. Debbie’s thorough training has taken place in person, via video conference (long before Covid) and supportive emails and telephone conversations where needed. The resources are comprehensive and easy to use. Teachers engage with the programme, track progress and use the resources to support the needs of individual learners. Parents have positively welcomed the phonics folder moving between home and school daily so that they can engage and support their own child with their learning. Teachers confidently deliver Phonics International giving all the children at the federation a consistent approach in learning phonics.
The Trumpington Federation
Fawcett Primary School
Experience of Assistant Principal, Georgina Rawling, of the self-study Phonics Training Online course and use of the Phonics International programme in different settings:
After taking on the leadership of phonics, I wanted to brush up on my subject knowledge so that I could support my team and ensure the children were receiving high quality phonics instructions. I came across Debbie’s Phonics Training Online and took the online course, which I highly recommend. I was engrossed in what I was learning and this led me to explore the Phonics International program.
Everything just made so much sense. The resources are easily accessible and easy to follow. When I first started trialling the program, the children found the sheets quite demanding. However they quickly got into the routine and their stamina for reading and writing grew. The children were used to reading banks of words everyday, so when it came to the phonics screening check in Year 1, they were no longer fazed by reading the 40 words. The variety of words on the sheets also enables the class to have rich discussions about vocabulary and then apply this in their writing across the curriculum.
I’ve always been concerned about what happens to those children in KS2 that haven’t yet got a secure understanding of phonics, or explored the complex phoneme-grapheme correspondences. The beauty of the Phonics International resources is that they aren’t babyish. There’s no puppets or rhymes, just the serious business of teaching children the code they need to read and write. This means that the children in KS2 aren’t disengaged by the resources. They enjoy the familiarity of the session and continuing to build their knowledge of the alphabetic code.
From a leadership point of view, the biggest challenge was encouraging KS2 staff to continue with phonics. Once they were onboard and understood that it’s impossible to expect seven year olds to have mastered the English alphabetic code, they began to notice the impact on spelling. We ditched the weekly spelling test that had no impact beyond the test and continued looking at GPCs and teaching the children how to use the alphabetic code charts to select the correct grapheme for their spelling. This trickled down into KS1 and we stopped accepting phonetically plausible spelling; improving spelling across the entire school.
From a finance point of view, it’s impossible to put a price on ensuring our children are confident readers and writers. However, Phonics International is so cost effective. I’ve introduced it in two schools and the impact has been phenomenal with above national average phonics scores, but more importantly, confident readers and writers in EYFS, KS1 and beyond.
I highly recommend any of Debbie’s programmes and frequently talk about them on Twitter and on my blog. Feel free to reach out @biscuit_crumbs and ask any questions.
Sam Bailey, Executive Principal of five primary schools in Yorkshire, writes about her experience with Floppy’s Phonics followed by use of Phonics International in KS2:
Having first encountered Floppy’s Phonics in 2011, I have placed my complete faith in the programme for over a decade and in my roles as both Headteacher and Executive Principal I have now introduced the programme in seven different schools. Whilst these schools have all had different contextual challenges and various starting points in terms of both pupil attainment and the level of staff subject knowledge, they have all benefited from the body of work that is condensed into the programme. Floppy’s Phonics is readily accessible to all staff members and I have consistently been able to ensure entire staff teams are quickly enabled to become expert in this critical area, are able to lead their teaching confidently and who have each secured rapid improvements in phonics and reading attainment in their schools. In 2014, having taken on Headship in a school with critically low phonics attainment in KS1 and pupils in years 4 and 5 who had yet to secure a pass mark in the Y1 Phonics Screening Check, I also implemented Phonics International throughout KS2 and have found the programme to have similar impact on staff subject knowledge and attainment in KS2 reading and writing. Through their daily practice, pupils become fluent and expressive readers and accurate and systematic spellers, leading to some staggering improvements in Y6 outcomes (rising from 9% to 80% combined within three years in one context). Our KS2 pupils who have received high quality phonics tuition from EYFS through to UKS2 evidence the impact of a consistent approach which has been enabled by Debbie’s work: I cannot advocate enough for schools to adopt an approach to reading and spelling which is truly ‘phonics first’.
Tel: 07795 366575
The Forest Academy, Thornton Road, Barnsley S70 3NG
Oakhill Primary Academy, Doncaster Road, Barnsley S70 5AG
Oakwell Rise Primary Academy, Doncaster Road, Barnsley S70 1TS
Ebor Garden Primary Academy, Rigton Green, Leeds LS9 7PY
Victoria Primary Academy, Ivy Avenue, Leeds LS9 9ER
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