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Phonics & Reading

At Heatherwood School we believe that communication is at the centre of everything we do and that it underpins all learning. As a school, we believe that every child is a reader and that all forms of reading are important. Reading is a journey we are all on, and we promote the love of reading through a range of opportunities to develop skills that can be transferred into real life experiences and into adulthood.

Print is everywhere in our world, and reading in its purest form is accessing meaning. This can be from symbols, objects, pictures, interactions with both the environment and people. Every learner's journey to becoming a reader will be different; they will begin and end at different points.

At Heatherwood School we aim to:

  • Ensure we meet the needs of all our learners through the provision of learning pathways which enables us to personalise learning to the learner’s interests and learning styles,
  • Use a total communication approach to ensure all pupils are provided with the opportunity to express opinions and to communicate in all aspects of their own lives,
  • Provide opportunities to practice reading skills throughout the school day,
  • Support families by working in partnership to share the love of reading and access to reading materials and visual stimuli,
  • Ensure that all staff have the appropriate skills, knowledge and training to support every learner’s reading journey.


Implementation of reading

Pre-reading and reading skills are developed through the following learning activities at Heatherwood School.

  • Engagement with people, objects and experiences;
  • Beginning to look and attend;
  • Noticing stimuli – sounds, visuals;
  • Responding to a familiar voice;
  • Starting to notice changes in the environment;
  • Attention skills;
  • Intensive interaction;
  • Developing understanding of cause and effect;
  • Building anticipation in response to familiar activities;
  • Responding to changes in environments and their sounds;
  • Tracking skills;
  • Choice making using objects, photographs and symbols;
  • Response to and understanding of environmental sounds;
  • Recognition of symbols and logos;
  • Phonics and whole word reading (Read Write Inc.);
  • Reading environmental prints;
  • Reading for information and pleasure;

Read Write Inc.

We believe that high-quality phonics teaching secures the crucial skills of word recognition. Once this is mastered, it enables learners to read fluently and allows concentration on the meaning of the text.

At Heatherwood School, we follow the synthetic phonics programme of Read, Write, Inc. which allows for the incorporation of multisensory stimuli to support the retention of information for our learners and which has a strong focus on the structured teaching of specific letter sounds. As all of our learners have very specific learning styles due to their complex learning needs, teachers use their skills to adapt the teaching of phonics as required.

We recognise that a structured phonics programme may not work for all learners due to their sensory impairments and their learning needs and that sight-reading as an intervention will be in place for those learners who require a different approach.

As a school, we aim to inspire all pupils to appreciate the pleasure and knowledge gained from accessing literature in all forms by providing an appropriate literacy-rich environment to enable all learners to flourish. We ensure learners are able to access a range of different reading formats, such as non-fiction, fiction, comic books, magazines, newspapers, photographic books, stories without words, and Kindles, alongside an appropriate reading scheme.


To best support us with your child’s learning journey, we ask that you share stories with your child at home, helping us to instil a love of reading from the very beginning of their reading journey. Class teachers will share reading resources, games and activities to use at home, along with communication and reading strategies.

Parents will be invited to a range of training sessions to provide them with skills and an understanding of how to use a range of pre-reading and reading skills.