Phonics- to group or not to group ?

This year we have experimented with a different approach to our phonics groups. Following research into mixed ability groups being an effect way of supporting all abilities, we decided to try it in the first term.

The children entered Year 1 with only 31% of children coming into Year 1 at the expected level for phonics.  (17 children were currently on track  41 not on track at the start of the year.)

Our target to achieve by June is the national average last year of 81% .

79 % if we are looking at Norfolk.

It meant that out of 58 pupils to achieve that ,we need 47 to pass . Which in turn means we need to get 30 children who are below, to get expected by June.

So what did we do?

So we looked at the children and following our phonics checks we identified the children working at the expected level and we grouped them to work through the sounds at the prescribed rate following Letters and sounds ( Phase 5 .)

The other children rather than ability grouping we mixed them into smaller groups of 12 pupils with levels ranging from phase 2 to 4.


We have organised our phonics timetable so that all the groups are taught by everyone over the week meaning that the groups are taught by teachers for 2 sessions and TA’s  for 2 sessions. It also means that as a teacher I see all pupils over the week and I can see their progress or areas for development which in turn helps with planning.

We have a whole class session on a Tuesday .

We reviewed the process at Christmas and when we did our phonics check we saw accelerated progress with a number of pupils.


I believe by giving all pupils quality first teaching and allowing all pupils access to the full range of sounds, children have had the opportunity to make good progress. Some children who still can’t remember all the phase 3 phonemes have learnt some of the phase 5 ones. The groups are also smaller as they are evenly split into 5 groups.

On top of this we have had in class interventions for those children still working at phase 1/2.

Results so far !

Data Analysis Spring 2018: Started the year with only 31% on to pass.

Certain Pass rate – 64%

Possible passes – 14%

Joint predicted pass rate – 78%  (1% off the Norfolk pass rate)

Other factors that affect our results

Unfortunately due to the transient nature of our year group we have a large change around of children. We have various children from families on short term work visas who have to return to their home countries. ( usually about now before the phonics check!- 3 children have just left all scoring 40 on our last check)

Also social/economic factors lead to changing addresses and children joining us and leaving us  a various points in the year.

So far 7 children left and replaced by 5  more ( 3 spaces to be filled after Easter ) We will see who we get after Easter and work with them where they are ability wise and phonics skill level. I think our way of working makes it as easy as possible for these children to join a group and continue to learn.

Still a while to go but fingers crossed for June !

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