In England we have a ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium’ which is Government Funded.

All state-funded schools are eligible for pupils’ catch-up premium from Reception to Y11. Full information is available on the page – click HERE

If you are a Floppy’s Phonics School (Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics, Oxford University Press), or considering adopting the Floppy’s Phonics systematic synthetic phonics programme in your school, here is some information and suggestions for use of the programme.

Schools that have adopted the Floppy’s Phonics programme should not need ‘another’ programme for some children who may need to catch up with their learning after months of ‘lockdown’ – or for specific intervention (special needs specific to the child).

Teachers can work collaboratively with teaching assistants, special needs teachers, tutors and parents or carers in how to get best use of the Floppy’s Phonics outstanding and varied range of resources for filling alphabetic code gaps, honing the three phonics skills and their sub-skills, and for catching up and intervention. (See Debbie’s training options below the following suggestions.)

The Floppy’s Phonics programme for infants is very comprehensive. The rationale of resource-design and delivery has always been based on establishing active partnerships between school and home. First and foremost teachers discharge their duty to inform parents and carers routinely by sending children’s content-rich paper-based (marked and annotated) work ‘home’ in the schools’ bookbag routines. Teachers can also aspire to work in full partnership – facilitated by the fantastic range of resources in the Floppy’s Phonics programme.

Floppy’s Phonics is underpinned by Debbie’s ‘Two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching and learning’ approach. It has always been the case, then, that the teacher can teach any part of the alphabetic code as required in the wider curriculum, and this approach also provides plenty of ‘over-learning’ and opportunities for differentiation. Floppy’s Phonics teachers, therefore, should be familiar and confident in teaching the alphabetic code when needed, and not just ‘systematically’. This is a very useful and sensible approach in times of children experiencing such a long period away from school for catching up and filling gaps as part of general practice:

Floppy’s Phonics Online Digital Platform

Floppy’s Phonics schools subscribe to an Online Digital Platform to introduce systematically the letter/s-sound correspondences of the alphabetic code and to provide appropriate practice of the three core phonics skills and their sub-skills at code and word level. Rich illustrations featuring Oxford Reading Tree characters provide a wide range of themes for both oral language development (comprehension, speaking and listening) and for introducing the focus sounds and words (the phonics).

Schools that subscribe to the Online Digital Platform can provide comprehensive access for home-use. Teachers guide parents and carers to the focus pages and activities for this audio-visual, interactive resource.

Teachers can inform parents and carers of any letter/s-sound correspondences that require extra practice for the individual child as well as the ‘current’ code being studied by the class or group. Any additional practice (and conversations) at home raises the likelihood of children learning, remembering and, if necessary, catching up with lesson content.

Floppy’s Phonics Sounds Books

The Floppy’s Phonics Sounds Books, generally speaking, are intended for use in school – not ‘home’ reading. The Sounds Books’ main content mirrors the content provided on the Online Digital Platform. In some cases, however, teachers may decide that some children at least will benefit from these ‘hard copy’ books at home – and not all homes may be able to access the digital platform content.

Children’s own paper-based resources: Grapheme and Picture Tiles, Activity Sheets, Say the Sounds Posters, Mini Alphabetic Code Charts, Cumulative Texts

These resources are specifically designed to be used in school and, after school-use, also sent home in the school’s ‘bookbag routine’. Every child should be provided with a phonics folder in which to collect the phonics paper-based resources for informing home and revising at home. Teachers should annotate children’s Activity Sheets and Cumulative Texts so that parents and carers can see their children’s progress and show lots of interest. Children also ‘tick’ and ‘circle’ their own work – engaged with a sense of their own learning, understanding that it is OK not to know something, and that their teachers will help them with what they don’t know, teach them again as necessary, and give them extra practice time as required.

Guidance for extra safety measures

Some schools may choose to advise the parents and carers to keep the children’s phonics folders at home rather than returning them routinely to school. The phonics content usually goes back and forth between school and home for revision (overlearning with past content). To avoid worries and ‘quarantine’ practices, however, teachers could instead send home the children’s Activity Sheets and Cumulative Texts, one at a time when they have been fully-used and marked in school, to stay at home – building up content in the phonics folder at home – but still on the basis that children will revisit past learning to improve their phonics sub-skills and skills, and to recall and discuss any new vocabulary as required.

Assessment, grouping and practice arrangements for catch up and for intervention

As for all good teaching practices, when children have had some time away from school (which is for all children in the lockdown scenario), teachers would invariably assess where children are in their learning and then plan their next-steps teaching accordingly. With phonics teaching, this means assessing the alphabetic code knowledge of the children (the letter/s-sound correspondences known to automaticity and any ‘gaps’ in code knowledge) and also their three phonics skills and their sub-skills for reading, spelling and handwriting. Teachers would also decide whether some children require additional speaking and listening intervention which can be provided in the general curriculum and also using the Floppy’s Phonics resources and guidance.

Teachers will find alphabetic code and word level assessments in a printable format via the Online Digital Platform.

These graphics may be useful for considering the ‘Simple View of Reading’ and ‘Simple View of Writing’ of individual children:

This may be a useful graphic for noting the three phonics skills and the sub-skills of individuals – name and date per child:

When Floppy’s Phonics is launched at the beginning of Reception classes as a new programme, the suggestion is that teachers introduce the focus code to the whole class for ‘session one’ (of the ‘two-session teaching and learning sequence’) using the Flash Cards, the Online Digital Platform and the Frieze. For ‘session two’, teachers may train children in the routines with the Say the Sounds Posters, Activity Sheets and Cumulative Texts in manageable groups across two days with the aim of building up the size of the main group as children becoming increasingly familiar and able to work independently for the routines.

On return to schools after lockdown, some children have notably slipped behind others in their code knowledge and/or phonics skills and sub-skills. Teachers may decide to plan a different pick-up point for these children in an intervention group. It is really important that this group receives ‘little and often’ practice within school, and that teachers inform the parents and carers that any extra practice at home will be very much appreciated and the children will benefit from the interest and extra help at home. Teachers should account for the practice these children receive in school formally – that is, name the children, note what they need, name the adult/s supporting them, ensure any working spaces are fully equipped with visual display and appropriate aids. Note the extra practice time the children receive. Be accountable.

Many children may have remembered much of what they were taught before lockdown but with some code knowledge gaps here and there! For practical reasons, teachers can decide a ‘best fit’ approach that will suit most children as a main group for moving forwards with new code. Then consider providing extra bespoke sessions for any children from this main group who need a bit of extra practice to fill any gaps in code knowledge and/or skills’ weaknesses. As all the children know the routines (for example, how to do the Activity Sheets), you can mix these children with their various different gaps in one group for extra sessions working with different Activity Sheets and Cumulative Texts as required by individuals.

Collective Flash Card Routine – saying the sounds, blending the words, orally segmenting spoken words

It has always been advisable that children do not get over-excited such that they ‘shout’ the sounds in response to the Flash Card routines (the teacher shows the Flash Cards, the children call out the sounds in response). The vowel sounds are generally loud with a similar lowish pitch. The consonant sounds, however, are generally much quieter than the vowel sounds and the pitch varies – sometimes very high indeed like the sound /s/, /sh/ and /ch/ – and sometimes much lower such as /b/ and /g/. It is very hard to say some of the consonant sounds without adding an ‘uh’ to the focus sound such as ‘buh’ and ‘guh’. The quieter these ‘say the sounds’ routines are conducted, however, the more likely the children are to utter a sound close to the natural sounds in speech. Remember, too, not to say the focus sound multiple times. Train the children to say the sound once only exactly as they would when sounding out and blending a new printed word.

Teachers have various techniques for reducing the spread of any viruses in class for this Flash Card Routine such as seating the children well-spaced and facing forwards on the carpet, or at desks or on chairs spaced out and facing forwards. Ask every other child to ‘say the sounds’ at any one time to reduce how many children are calling out – for example, ask the girls, then ask the boys – and so on. Although this routine is generally a whole class routine, in light of the coronavirus this might become a group routine for now.


Teachers have noticed that many children’s handwriting during lockdown has not kept up with their recollection of the letters/s-sound correspondences. Some have started to write their names in capital letters for example. This means it is particularly important to build in a lot of extra practice for handwriting and letter formation. Conduct an assessment of letter formation of any letters of the alphabet that children have been introduced to already. Note the general picture across the whole class, or groups that work together, and re-teach letter formation – linking the letter shapes to their ‘sounds’ not letter names, and not the letter formation ‘patter’. Although you may use a ‘patter’ to teach letter formation, you still need children to ‘say the sound’ when forming the letter shape – this actually helps with both reading and spelling! You also need to address capital letter formation linked to ‘sounds’ and not letter ‘names’ or patter. Provide additional activities where children have to match capital letters and their lower case equivalent letters. My advice is to teach letter formation with simple print in Reception and build on this in Year One. Also provide any labelling in Reception and Year One in simple print – not a quasi-print with lead-in joins. Only teach joined letter writing in Year Two. For additional posters of print and joined writing and video guidance, you may want to take a look at this handwriting site:

Training for teaching and for tutoring

Just a reminder: England now has a ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium’ which is Government Funded.

All state-funded schools are eligible for pupils’ catch-up premium from Reception to Y11. Full information is available on the page – click HERE

To support Systematic and Incidental Synthetic Phonics provision for Reading, Spelling and Handwriting – and the National Tutoring Initiative (follow above link), Debbie Hepplewhite can provide:

Bespoke ‘Live’ Online Training and Consultancy

Via Zoom or Skype for the teaching/teacher-training profession based on ‘The Five Pillars of Literacy’, ‘The Simple View of Reading’ and her own unique ‘two-pronged systematic and incidental phonics teaching and learning’ for any of the programmes or bodies of work authored by Debbie Hepplewhite. £180 plus VAT per 90 minute session. Full details HERE
Training to support Catch-up Tutoring for the foundations of literacy

Via Zoom or Skype for those involved in the tutoring of individuals or small groups of children whether as independent tutors or via tutoring arranged through schools. £180 plus VAT per 90 minute session. Full details HERE
Self-Study Course – Phonics Training Online

An acclaimed comprehensive, highly practical self-study course written by Debbie Hepplewhite and accredited by The University of Cumbria. Over 20 hrs of audio/video content in module/lesson format. Only £20 plus VAT per person. Full details HERE
Floppy’s Phonics Training (Oxford Reading Tree Floppy’s Phonics – for initial adoption and/or to address staff turnover)

A series of pre-recorded videos to replace the pre-covid Floppy’s Phonics full-day INSET delivered by Debbie Hepplewhite. Can be viewed ‘whole school’ or in groups or as individuals. (The Floppy’s Phonics SSP infant programme and associated training are ‘DfE validated’) Priced at just £300 plus VAT. Full details HERE
Bespoke Live Training to support Tutoring in Floppy’s Phonics Schools

Via Zoom or Skype for those involved in the tutoring of individuals or small groups of children whether as independent tutors or via tutoring arranged through schools. £180 plus VAT per 90 minute session. Full details HERE


***The Floppy’s Phonics SSP programme post lockdown: Suggestions for teachers, teaching assistants and tutors working with ‘home’ – filling alphabetic code gaps, catching up and intervention as necessary

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