Durham Trinity School and Sports College is a 2-19 generic special school catering for a wide range of learning difficulties including Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD), Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), Communication difficulties including autism, Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) including multi-sensory impairment and visual impairment. Pupils access learning in one of three pathways depending on their learning needs and destinations. These are Pre-Formal, Semi-Formal (including Post 16) and Specialist Autism Provision (see Appendix 1). This changes year on year as cohorts change – more complex pupils with speech, language and communications needs are joining in EYFS and Key Stage 1. Therefore, we anticipate the proportion of the school population accessing pre-phonics and phonics to increase over the coming academic years.


Durham Trinity School and Sports College offers a curriculum that is designed to enable pupils, no matter what their special needs to learn in a way that will maximise their potential. All pupils learn through different approaches and at different rates and their achievements vary. The key to success is in providing fun, interactive and challenging learning opportunities appropriate to the needs of the pupil. A whole school reading overview has been created to reflect the different reading practices (including phonics) taking place across the different stages and ages to ensure all pupils are taught to read where appropriate, at the appropriate level and make progress.

The processes by which pupils comprehend spoken language are the same as those by which they comprehend the words on the page; the difference being that the first relies upon listening skills and hearing the word and the second upon picture recognition to seeing the words in written form. In order to comprehend written texts pupils must first learn to recognise, that is decode, the words on the page.

There are skills required before they are able to decode and read fluently. High-quality phonics teaching will secure these crucial skills of word recognition that, once mastered, enable pupils to read fluently and automatically thus freeing them to concentrate on the meaning of the text.

Some pupils at Durham Trinity School and Sports College will secure automatic decoding skills and progress from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ for purpose and pleasure. The ultimate goal of learning to read is comprehension. To achieve this, practitioners and teachers are clear about which activities are designed to teach pupils to acquire word recognition skills, and which will help pupils develop high-level comprehension skills supporting them to achieve across the whole curriculum.

What Reading looks like at Durham Trinity School and Sports College:

Reading takes different forms at Durham Trinity School:

  • Reading for pleasure
  • Pre-phonics
  • Phonics
  • Lexia
  • Accelerated Reader programme
  • Shared and guided reading – whole class, small group and individual reading sessions
  • Reading embedded across the curriculum, e.g. researching topics.
  • See and learn
  • Use of symbols and visuals embedded and communication aids.

Phonics (SSP) Programme at Durham Trinity School and Sports College:

The teaching of phonics provides the building blocks for reading. Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen phonics programme. It is a synthetic, systematic phonics programme validated by the DfE. The aim of ELS is ‘Getting all young people to read well, quickly’. It teaches pupils to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.

Pupils begin learning phonics at the beginning of their school journey if they are ready to do so (pre-phonics activities precede this if they are not yet ready to access phonics teaching) and it is explicitly taught regularly during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Pupils accessing phonics in the Primary Semi-Formal Pathway are working between phases 1 and 4 within the ELS progression framework.

Throughout the day, pupils will use their growing phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, with a partner during paired reading and as a class.

Pupils continue regular phonics lessons throughout the school to ensure all young people become confident, fluent readers.

We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our pupils to practise their existing phonics knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence). As a result, our pupils can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover.

Please see our Reading Policy that provides more information about Phonics and alternative reading approaches and how we assess reading.

2024 Durham Trinity School Reading Policy

There are 64% of our pupils accessing phonics teaching from phase 1 onwards, which includes various pre-phonics activities (May 24). Of this 64%, 34% are accessing phonics teaching from phase 2 onwards, which is when letter sounds start to be taught. The remaining 36% are accessing alternative learning experiences for the teaching of reading such as whole word reading and functional reading activities.

Supporting Reading at Home:

  • Children will only read books that are entirely decodable, this means that they should be able to read these books as they already know the code contained within the book.
  • We only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound)
  • We want children to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills:

Decode – sounding out and blending to read the word.

Fluency – reading words with less obvious decoding.

Expression – using intonation and expression to bring the text to life!

We must use pure sounds when we are pronouncing the sounds and supporting children in reading words. If we mispronounce these sounds, we will make reading harder for our children. Please watch the videos below for how to accurately pronounce these sounds:

Phase 2 sounds: Phase 2 Pronunciation

Phase 3 sounds: Phase 3 Pronunciation

Phase 5 sounds: Phase 5 Pronunciation

There are no new sounds taught in phase 4. Pupils learn how to segment and blend longer words using known sounds, e.g. CVCC/ CCVC words and CCVCC words.

When reading the decodable books, the video below demonstrates how to blend sounds to read words:

Phonics: How to blend sounds to read words | Oxford Owl

The reading policy will give more detailed information about the range of reading activities across our school which can be found above.