Phonics in Functional Skills

With the introduction of phonics into the Functional Skills Curriculum in September 2019, many tutors may be concerned by their own lack of knowledge of phonics and how to incorporate it into their Functional Skills classes.

Details of one day training courses, run by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), can be found on and for those run by Sheila Mulvenney, from Attuned Education, contact her on

The ETF and a team of experts have produced a Post-16 Phonics Toolkit, to give guidance to Functional Skills tutors. It can be downloaded from:

The Toolkit is a comprehensive document detailing all aspects of using phonics in an appropriate way with Post-16 learners. It lists all the grapheme (spelling)-phoneme (sound)-correspondences (GPCs) and presents them in a phonic progression:

Basic Code – the single letter spellings plus a few 2-letter spellings such as ff, ss, ll, ng, qu

Basic Code Plus – the consonant digraphs such as sh, ch, th, plus a few vowel digraphs such as ay and oy and the split digraphs such as a-e (make) and i-e (bike)

One-to-Many – deals with the concept that one sound can be represented by more than one spelling, eg: the sound /ae/ can be spelt, as in day, as in rain, as in make, < a > as in David, as in they, as in eight, as in vein and as in straight. Also that one spelling can represent more than one sound, eg: the spelling can represent the sound /ee/ as in seat, /ae/ as in break and /e/ as in head.

It may not be necessary to start at the beginning of this progression, as many learners will have some elementary phonic knowledge and a bank of sight words. It may be possible to analyse their written work to discover in what areas their phonic knowledge is lacking and start work on that. This is more likely to be at the One-to-Many stage. However, for Entry 1 learners, whose phonic knowledge is very limited, work on the Basic Code and Basic Code Plus sections may be necessary before moving onto the more complex aspects of the code.

The books available on this website will provide you with a wide variety of resources to support your teaching at all the levels. Once you have established at what level the learners are working, use the chart, ‘Mapping Phonics Resources to the Post-16 Toolkit’, to guide you to appropriate resources. The range of resources will allow you to differentiate within your class, if the learners are working at different levels.

There are a few differences in the phonic progression used in the resources and the one in the Toolkit. A list of the variations can be found on the attachment, ‘Distribution of Graphemes’.

Phonic Stories for Older Learners and Phonic Resources for Older Learners:
Section One covers the graphemes in Basic Code and Basic Code Plus.
Section Two covers the graphemes in One-to-Many

The Drop-In Series is a set of 54 downloadable reading books, which allows you to print as many as you need.
There are four levels:
Level 1 and Level 2 equate to Basic Code
Level 3 equates to Basic Code Plus
Level 4 equates to One-to-Many

Find out more on the Resources page

Case Study

I was asked to run a Sounds-Write course for the teachers of a new NGO school which was being opened at the beginning of June 2011. The Banyan School is the latest project of The Lovedale Foundation... read more

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