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Essential Letters and Sounds for Phonics

Essential Letters and Sounds


At Offham we use Essential Letters and Sounds as a framework for our daily teaching of Systematic Synthetic Phonics in Reception, Key Stage One. We also use ELS to support children who need additional help with Reading and Writing in Key Stage Two. Essential Letters and Sounds is a Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme which is designed to teach children how to read and write through the act of decoding and blending.


An SSP teaches children the link between the sounds of our language (phonemes) and the written representation of these sounds (graphemes), or the spellings of the sounds contained within the English language. Essential Letters and Sounds is a complete Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme (SSP).


ELS was validated by the Department for Education in the June 2021 validation window.


“Validation will indicate that a programme has been self assessed by its publisher and assessed by a small panel with relevant expertise, and that both consider it to meet all of the most recent Department for Education (DfE) criteria for an effective systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programme.”

Department for Education, 2021


Essential Letters and Sounds 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.


Essential Letters and Sounds 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.


Through the rigorous teaching programme, children build an immediate understanding of the relationship between the sounds they can hear and say (phonemes) and the written sounds (graphemes). Every lesson has been designed to ensure that the minimum cognitive load is placed on the learner. The structure of the lessons allows children to predict what is coming next, what they need to do, and how to achieve success. Children will get the same high-quality first teaching every lesson, every day throughout the programme.