Hillside Special School

Hillside Special School
Sudbury, Suffolk

Reading, including Phonics

At Hillside Special School, we strive to help every child to reach their potential and develop pre-reading skills in order to attain the ability to read at a level that corresponds to their developmental stage. Pre-reading and reading is an invaluable skill that allows our leaners to communicate with others, develop vocabulary skills and access the world around them. In all areas of the school, importance is placed on the ‘reading environment’ in order to foster reading and pre-reading skills through words, signs, photographs objects and symbols, with access to books for pleasure.

Our Approach to Reading:

  • acknowledges that stimulus (e.g., smell/sound/facial expressions) carries meaning
  • acknowledges that objects carry meaning
  • teaches that photographs and pictures represent objects, people and places and carry meaning
  • teaches that symbols can be used as labels to access text
  • ensures that narrative can be accessed through sensory-based activities
  • emphasises systematic synthetic phonics is our favoured approach to teaching reading using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme
  • teaches the reading of words, new vocabulary and comprehension


Our aim is that every pupil will be able to communicate in the way best suited to his or her needs, both in school and out in the wider community. We provide a ‘Total Communication’ environment so that pupils are enabled to communicate whenever and wherever they are, at their ability level.We also aim to provide a rich and broad literacy experience through verbal, non-verbal and written forms, appropriate to the developmental needs of each child. We aim to provide strong foundations for reading and writing to enable our pupils to access these at the highest level they can, in a way that is suited to them. These skills can then be transferred to daily life and beyond school years, enabling our pupils to access as independent a life as possible when they move into adulthood. 
At the Hillside Special School, we intend for pupils to:

  • understand their immediate environment so they feel secure and ready to engage in learning
  • use objects, photos, and symbols to anticipate and predict
  • read words
  • foster a love for stories and literature
  • read purposefully to gain information using non-fiction texts
  • apply reading skills to engage with the wider community in preparation for life after school


Read Write Inc. phonics is a DfE validated, bespoke and rigorous Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programme. It is organised using repetitive over-reading; pupils are scaffolded in their learning and progress is structured. Read Write Inc. phonics materials cannot be delivered without staff being trained on how to deliver sessions, this ensures consistency. The resources are multi-sensory and include pictograms, rhyming phrases, actions and sounds. The visuals are of concrete and relatable objects, which makes the programme memorable for pupils, especially those with additional needs, including Autism.

Phonics at Hillside:

The Read Write Inc. Phonics program is introduced where pupils have developed communication and language skills required to engage with this. At Hillside, this is when they are no longer assessed on the Engagement Model.

Using the Read Write Inc. Phonics across the school, allows phonics to be delivered in discrete sessions where appropriate. Students’ phonics levels are monitored every term by class teachers to ensure progress is on track and that sessions are relevant and targeted. Pupils engaged in Read Write Inc. are assessed on a Sound Analysis Grid and Phonics Tracker, twice yearly.


For further information, please refer to our Phonics and Reading Policy which can be found on our Policies page.