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ellesmere college leicester
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Literacy at Ellesmere is a wide and varied experience. From EYFS through to Post 16 the students will have the opportunity to engage with many different strategies and learning environments. Visual clues will be provided to all students through a variety of different ways including the use of Widgit, Colourful Semantics and PECs where appropriate.

Students are taught thematically throughout the college, encountering basic skills alongside sharing stories, poetry, non-fiction and developing verbal communication skills. As the students progress through the college, they begin studying towards an appropriate qualification in Year 10. In Post 16, the focus is very much on functional literacy; looking at literacy in the community, in the home and in the workplace.


From September 2022, we have been using the Unlocking Letters and Sounds phonics scheme, which was validated by the DfE in December 2021.
We begin by checking what students already know and understand and then plan teaching around that. We use whole class, small group and individual teaching to support each student’s development in phonics.


Key terms

We use the follow terms when teaching phonics at Ellesmere:

Phoneme = sounds – for example /c/ as in c-a-t or /sh/ as in sh-i-p
Grapheme = the sound written down
Blending = putting sounds together to read words – for example h-a-t = hat
Segmenting = the opposite of blending. This is where you break a word down into its sounds – for example hat = h-a-t
Common Exception Words = these are words that have one or more irregular or unusual letter sequences or sounds that students may not yet have been taught
Decoding = the key skill in reading words. Students use their phonics skills to blend the sounds (phonemes) in a word to decode it
Fluency = reading with speed, accuracy and proper expression
Comprehension = the ability to understand what has been read

Progression through phonics

Students progress from Phase 1 to Phase 5, at each Phase developing and embedding their understanding of the main sounds heard in the English Language and how they can be represented, as well as learning ‘Common Exception Words’ for Phases 2, 3 and 4. They use these sounds to read and write words, captions and sentences. As they progress through Phase 5, they learn alternative spellings and pronunciations for the graphemes and additional Common Exception Words.


At Ellesmere College, we promote a ‘phonics first’ approach. Texts are very closely matched to a student’s current phonics knowledge so that every student can experience real success in their reading.
We primarily use books from Ransom Reading Stars phonics, which match the progression of the Unlocking Letters and Sounds phonics programme.
Once students progress beyond decodable texts, they move onto ‘free choice’ books so they can continue to progress in their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills to become avid, expert readers.
We have a dedicated reading slot on our timetables each day, where we focus on phonics and reading skills.

Reading for pleasure

We believe that we should take every opportunity to encourage reading, both at school and at home. 
Whilst we will focus on decodable texts to develop reading skills, we also actively encourage reading for pleasure. We know how much our students enjoy listening to, taking part in and independently reading a variety of books.
We aim to make sure that all of our students have access to a wide range of high-quality texts; picture books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels and magazines. These are available in classroom reading areas, hub spaces, leadership offices and in our libraries.

Supporting reading at home 

We know that parents and carers are very busy people, but if you can find time to read to your child as much as possible, it helps them learn about books and stories. They also learn new words and what they mean.

We have put together a handout that will give you some suggestions for supporting your child at home with reading

Online library

Students are now able to borrow eBooks from our exciting new eBook library, found here:

The library catalogue is full of bestselling, popular fiction titles and will offer our students a 24 hour library in addition to our well stocked print library in school.
Our guide to using the online library can be found following the link below:

We encourage all parents and carers to share books and stories with their children at home. During this academic year (2023/24), we will be supporting this by:
  • Holding reading and phonics focused parent and carer workshops and coffee mornings
  • Sending home termly reading newsletters, which include suggested books
  • Working with the Leicester Library Services to promote and support parents and carers with accessing our local libraries
We would love to hear any further ideas that our parents and carers have related to encouraging reading! Please get in touch with Ange Smith, Executive Vice Principal (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with any suggestions or ideas.