by Sarah Donald, Headteacher
We are a small rural school, situated in North East Fife in Scotland. Our current role is 39 pupils across two multi-composite classes (P1-4, P5-7).
We have a free meal entitlement of 10%. Most children live in SIMD 8. We also have a 0.3 staffing additionality which will be used to support the delivery of the Rocket Phonics programme.
The literacy of children in our P1-3 cohorts has been significantly impacted by remote learning with almost all children being behind the expected literacy levels for their age and stage. Furthermore, in the upper stages, spelling is weak across all stages which can be attributed to poor phonics provision over recent years.
Phonics has been a key focus for school improvement this session. I completed Debbie Hepplewhite’s online phonics course, and through knowledge gained I was seeking a new phonics resource that was cumulative and fully decodable. I did a bit of research online and came across the Hodder Phonics Training webinars which I signed up for. It was during one of the sessions with Abigail Steel and Debbie Heppelwhite that I heard about the Rocket Phonics Programme and requested to be included in the trial.
Since May, we have been using the Rocket Phonics Programme with all children in our P1-3 cohorts. Children are currently grouped by the level they are at, however, moving forward with our new cohort starting in August, they will start together and go through the programme as designed.
Children receive 4 days of phonics teaching as outlined in the Teacher’s Guide, and additional adults are used to support the delivery to ensure there is time for the Practice Readers. The class being multi-composite, we have to manage 2 different phonics groups and a spelling group across 4 primary years, in 4 days. We also have an outdoor learning day each week where the children are off site. We will continue to monitor and tweak our approach next session.
The pace of progression has been as expected so far. Each group has focused on two sounds per week and all pupils are keeping pace with their peers.
At present the teacher teaches the new sound to one group whilst the others are doing extension and follow up activities. Once they have finished they are supported to complete the pupil booklet whilst the next group has their focused teach. Target Practice Readers are read in the afternoons when time allows but we would like to refine this next session.
All children have increased phoneme and grapheme recall and recognition, this is evident through the review task within the Pupil Practice Booklet and also extension activities. Blending has also improved for all children, evidenced through the Target Practice Readers and extension activities. All children are demonstrating increased independence when working through the pupil booklet, with fewer children requiring support to complete the tasks.
The children’s enjoyment is evident through their motivation to complete their practice booklets and all children report that they enjoy Rocket Phonics.
We have found with the Rocket Phonics Programme that teachers have everything they need to teach phonics very well. We no longer have to photocopy resources from various programmes as was previously the case, which not only saves time but also ensures consistency. The digital shared ‘big books’ are great for group teaching and the detail in the Teacher’s Guide is fantastic, particularly for NQTs who don’t have a firm grounding in teaching early literacy – it’s easy to follow and outlines exactly what needs to be taught.
The storylines within the Target Practice Books are current, appealing to children and very well written. We absolutely love them! The children are having great success with these as they can decode the text without having to guess and look at the pictures. Our previous reading books were dated and encouraged poor reading habits as they are not fully decodable. With Rocket Phonics, staff know exactly which books to go to next and the supporting information, tips, questions and next steps for parents are exactly what we could wish for.
In the few weeks we have been using the resource, children have become increasingly independent working through the Pupil Practice Booklets. They take pride in their work and enjoy the repetition. All children have made progress. They are proud of their books and are noticeably excited to complete tasks. They also like to look back at their previous work. We can easily identify next steps, i.e. further sound practise, blending and letter formation.
I would recommend this resource and have already told colleagues about it. We like that everything is included and it is so straight forward and easy to understand. We are so excited to start the programme from the beginning in August to see the impact on progress.