top of page
1 in 4 children need more support building a brain word bank!
Knowledge of Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences and Meaning are vital

Ortho-Graphix: Empowering Phonemic Awareness and Mapping Uncharted Linguistic Territories Beyond the Limits of DfE-Validated Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programs.

Ortho-Graphix facilitates Comprehensive GPC Learning: Going Beyond Where Others Stop, We Continue to Fill the Gaps.

Unlocking Orthographic Knowledge for ALL Learners!

"When children discover books that spark their curiosity, their engagement with reading ignites, transforming the written word into a portal of adventure and knowledge". Miss Emma 2023


Ortho-Graphix is a ground-breaking 'visual and linguistic' approach to Orthographic Knowledge, unrestricted and tailored to the learner's curiosity. As Ortho-Explorers venture into words that spark their interest, their engagement is ignited. Leveraging innovative IPA-aligned technology, Ortho-Graphix facilitates the understanding of speech sound connections within an opaque orthography, adaptable to any accent or dialect. This approach fosters a deeper, more intuitive understanding of language, empowering learners to confidently navigate the complexities of English orthography.

Speech Sound Pics Approach in Australia!
SSP in Australia!
Phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge MUST be developed early!

Relatively few Grapheme-to-Phoneme or Phoneme-to-Grapheme correspondences (when considering the Universal Spelling Code) are included in the DfE validated 'systematic, synthetic, phonics' programs, or the PSC, and there are elements that will prevent far too children from developing the skills needed to become a 'skilled reader'. Circumventing the mandate from the Department for Education that places systematic synthetic phonics as the primary approach, it is evident that this method fails to effectively teach reading to at least one in four children in the UK, thereby necessitating a more inclusive and varied instructional methodology in reading education. Ortho-Graphix fills those gaps, and especially for children with speech and phonemic awareness processing challenges.

By focusing on the rapid acquisition of orthographic knowledge for ALL learners at the WORD level - without the constraints of words with specific Grapheme-to-Phoneme correspondences, this LEARNER-INTEREST focused (words they will engage with) Neuro-Inclusive approach aims to bring more children into the self-teaching phase sooner, thereby improving their overall reading ability and confidence.

Emma Hartnell-Baker

Ortho-Graphix stands apart: it's not a phonics program, but a comprehensive solution designed to bridge the gaps left by synthetic phonics, enabling every child to acquire reading and spelling skills

In the UK, synthetic phonics is the obligatory and primary method for teaching reading, predicated on the belief that adherence to a validated systematic phonics programme – currently numbering 45 – will equip children with the necessary skills to become proficient readers. Yet, after more than ten years of this mandate, it is evident that this is not the case: at least one in four children are unable to read and spell at the expected minimum levels following seven years in primary education. Many of these children are neurodivergent. 

The Rose Report referenced a study from Scotland that utilised Jolly Phonics, a synthetic phonics program. Despite assurances that the 20% of students who struggled with word mapping by the end of Key Stage 1 would 'catch up', the supporting data was obscured (see bottom of page) Today, the national success rates are irrefutable. While the need to teach phoneme and grapheme mapping is uncontested, concerns have arisen regarding the methodologies employed in the UK.

Emma Hartnell-Baker, after a decade in Australia assisting thousands of teachers to achieve remarkable outcomes through a learning sequence not sanctioned for use in UK state schools, understands the deficiencies present here and possesses the insight to address them. Rather than asking schools to drop their synthetic phonics program, which she understands would be an impossible 'ask' in this present climate, schools can become more inclusive and ADD Ortho-Graphix, as a stand-alone learning experience, from term 1 of Reception. A TA could be trained to support the 1 in 4 children already identified as finding phonics difficult to master in term 1, due to poor phonemic awareness, oral language skills or interest.    

Synthetic phonics programmes typically instruct on approximately 100 grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs), predicated on the 'Simple View of Reading' which assumes that children with solid oral language skills will naturally progress to reading. However, only those who utilise phonics as a starting point, alongside robust phonemic awareness and oral language skills, could excel in reading and spelling: and even then they need to be intrinsically motivated to read. Many UK children, however, emerge from linguistically impoverished environments with limited early exposure to the verbal interactions and language play that foster advanced language skills – skills imperative for managing the formal, de-contextualised language encountered in academic settings. These children require not just immersion in rich language environments but also explicit classroom instruction to develop language skills, a provision absent in the existing Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP) programmes. Ortho-Graphix will fill that gap. 

Upon scrutinising the validation criteria and the currently validated programmes, Miss Emma posits that a vast number of children will struggle to develop phonemic awareness and orthographic knowledge and are unlikely to choose to read, with one in four not becoming literate – a trend that has persisted for a decade.
The emphasis on decoding, rather than understanding, when using reading schemes was represented in evidence presented to the Education Select Committee by those arguing for ‘phonics first, fast, and only,’ who summarised the position as follows: Children are only taught to read through texts fully within their current phonological ability. So, although children might encounter words they do not understand, they are not given texts they cannot decode and are therefore not expected to infer words from context or syntax. (HMSO, 2005, p. 14)

It is notable that Jim Rose, in his January 2006 oral evidence to the Education and Skills Committee, cited the statistic of 84% of eleven-year-olds reaching Level 4 as a basis for change – indicating that 16% failed to meet national standards.

The National Literacy Trust has indicated that children's reading for pleasure is at its lowest in 18 years. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) data reveals an uptick in the number of very low-achieving pupils, particularly in reading. A considerable challenge highlighted by the report is the widening attainment gap between socio-economically disadvantaged pupils and their peers since the pandemic, a gap that has remained consistent since spring 2021. For instance, in Year 2, the disadvantage gap in spring 2022 was approximately six months' progress in reading and five months in mathematics. In Year 3, the gap was even more pronounced: about nine months for reading and eight months for mathematics. Those interested in historical data may find this blog of interest. 

Amidst a 'Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)' crisis, Emma Hartnell-Baker firmly believes that many of the issues stem from the uniform teaching of phonics in Key Stage 1, arguing that while phonics instruction is essential, the 'systematic, synthetic phonics programmes used are not fit for purpose' within neurodiverse classroom settings. This is particularly true when considering their application across the board for all children, at the same time, with minimal technology employed to differentiate and engage neurodivergent learners. Her recent training sessions through PATOSS have addressed these concerns. The struggle with reading has far-reaching implications, impacting children's performance across the entire curriculum. Ortho-Graphix can be used within KS1 to change this trend for the 1 in 4 children: view Ortho-Graphix in this sense as an early intervention that takes place BEFORE the Phonics Screener Check.  

While children are taught a set of GPCs, the restrictive application – such as within decodable readers, and slow paced introduction of HFWs – limits their exploration of a broader range of texts and the opportunity to map them orthographically. Utilising known relationships between letters and phonological units to identify unfamiliar written words is the essential mechanism for acquiring word-specific knowledge, including knowledge of irregularly spelled words. This identification process fortifies the word-specific, sub-lexical connections between its constituent letter sequence and corresponding phonological sequence in lexical memory (Share, 1995, 2004) This process is fundamental for the automation of word recognition, which is necessary for developing "sight word" knowledge. (Ehri, 2005, 2014) When using Ortho-Graphix children will learn how to do this in KS1. Children also face limitations when reading schemes were used, prior to be removed from schools with the mandating of synthetic phonics. Ofsted (2004) noted that higher-attaining pupils read reading scheme texts quickly and were then free to choose books that appealed to them. In contrast, those who struggled read books from a tightly structured scheme and stayed with the scheme for longer. In many schools, pupils saw this as something to be worked through until they became a ‘free reader’ (p. 11). However, lower-attaining pupils often found that the books they really anted to read were too difficult, which did little to encourage positive attitudes to reading. Lack of competence often led to negative attitudes, which were reinforced by

a lack of independence in selecting books. These pupils saw reading simply as a chore (Solity 2009)

Synthetic phonics programmes aim to explicitly teach alphabetic coding skills to beginning readers but typically suffer from two key deficiencies. Firstly, they are predominantly teacher-centred, with a rigid, fixed curriculum delivered in a lock-step manner, providing the same lesson to every child in sequence. This approach clashes with the principles of differentiated instruction by failing to acknowledge the varied literacy learning needs of children, which depend on their developmental levels across different reading component skills. Secondly, these programmes often erroneously assume that children can only learn letter-sound patterns through direct instruction. However, English orthography contains too many letter-sound relationships for children to learn purely through direct instruction, estimated to be between 300 and 400.

Ortho-Graphix serves as a bridge between the explicit 'kick-start' phase and the acquisition of skills through implicit learning. It ensures that children can rely increasingly on induction to learn the necessary letter-sound relationships for reading, with explicit phonics instruction providing the initial boost needed for beginning readers to acquire untaught letter-sound relationships through implicit learning. Phonics instruction should be viewed as a means to an end rather than the end itself.

Emma Hartnell-Baker, with her unique experience in supporting teachers in Australia, has identified a significant trend in literacy education that has been largely overlooked. Emerging data from the Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach, particularly from reception teachers, illustrates the efficacy of delaying – not eliminating – the introduction of levelled readers like PM or F&P in early literacy development, in addition to a different introduction to word mapping that is far less restrictive and centres around meaningful context. As with Ortho-Graphix, activities in SSP classrooms are designed to meet needs, at the place where each learner is currently positioned in the 'developing orthographic knowledge' continuum.   

This data shows a clear pattern: Children introduced to levelled readers only after mastering the SSP's Yellow Code Level typically reach benchmarks around PM 10 - 12, surpassing traditional methods. Those who master the SSP Blue Code Level achieve even higher benchmarks, around PM 20, raising the average benchmark for Prep children to at least PM 16. It's important to note that expectations vary across Australia, with benchmarks in SA at 5, and in QLD at 9.

This trend is not a statistical anomaly; it highlights the critical role of learning sequence and preparation in reading readiness and challenges current paradigms in literacy education. It calls for a re-evaluation of the timing and methodology used in introducing reading materials to young learners. Expanding on this phenomena Emma Hartnell-Baker has secured the publishing rights to 'One, Two, Three and Away' and is mapping the books orthographically: buy the newly published books in the shop or on ebay. To this day, adults still talk about learning to read with 'Roger Red-hat, Billy Blue-hat and the Story People'

Adults remember the characters decades later. * These books show children WHY we are mapping words: to make learning new words easier! that we can expand on how many words we use when speaking, reading and writing. We are helping children build their 'word wings'. We are bridging the clear gap, for at least 1 in 4 UK children, between 'decodable texts' and 'real' books. 

Ortho-Graphix is designed for a broad range of applications. It is not a phonics programme; rather, its activities focus on ensuring that all brains are capable of perceiving phonemes. The speech perception process is complex due to the lack of one-to-one correspondence between segments of the acoustic signal and the information required to identify individual phonemes. This complexity can pose a significant barrier to mastering the skills necessary for relating letter sequences to phonological sequences, which is crucial for word recognition. Accurate identification of individual phonemes in spoken words is vital, as misclassification of even a single phoneme could result in retrieving incorrect lexical information.

Ortho-Graphix ensures the development of automaticity in word recognition by securing phonological decoding skills, the cognitive ability to map letters and letter patterns onto phonological forms. An essential aspect of Ortho-Graphix is the training provided to adults working with and caring for children – training that is unparalleled elsewhere in the UK.

Ortho-Graphix is distinct in that it is not a phonics programme; its purpose extends beyond teaching phonics. The activities are meticulously designed to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their starting point, are able to perceive phonemes accurately. Speech perception is a complex process, largely because the acoustic signal does not have a direct correspondence with the phonemic information necessary for identifying individual phonemes. The information for phoneme identification is interwoven, as the articulators—tongue, lips, teeth, and throat—move dynamically in speech production. This overlap can be a significant hurdle for children learning to relate letter sequences to phonological sequences, a foundational aspect of word recognition development. Accurate phoneme identification is critical, as a misclassification could lead to retrieval of incorrect lexical information, affecting both the meaning and syntactic category of the words (e.g., 'pan' vs. 'fan').

Ortho-Graphix ensures ALL children develop automaticity in word recognition by solidifying phonological decoding skills, which involve mapping letters and letter patterns to phonological forms. This skill is essential for fluent reading and is supported by research (Shankweiler & Fowler, 2004).

A key feature of Ortho-Graphix is the specialised training offered to adults working with and caring for children. This training, which is unavailable elsewhere in the UK, equips them with unique strategies and insights to support ALL children's literacy development effectively. It is a programme that transcends traditional methods, prioritising the individual learning needs of each child and fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to literacy education.

Emma Hartnell-Baker's experience in Australia has provided her with a perspective on literacy trends that appear to have been overlooked by the reading research community. The Speech Sound Pics (SSP) Approach, particularly data from reception teachers, indicates the efficacy of delaying the introduction of levelled readers, such as PM or F&P, in early literacy development, until children have a secure understanding of word mapping. The approach suggests that children who are introduced to levelled readers only after mastering the SSP's Yellow Code Level typically reach higher literacy benchmarks, significantly exceeding those achieved through traditional methods. This pattern is more than a statistical anomaly; it highlights the critical importance of the learning sequence and preparation in reading readiness and challenges the current paradigms in literacy education. It calls for a re-evaluation of the timing and methodology used in introducing reading materials to young learners, advocating for a tailored approach that accounts for the individual developmental needs of each child. Noticeably, children taught by SSP teachers also report that children acquire the core phonics skills outlined by the DfE 'systematic synthetic phonics' validation panel in half the time ie before the end of reception.     

In conclusion, Ortho-Graphix represents a paradigm shift in literacy education, moving towards a more nuanced and effective method of instruction that considers the diverse linguistic and cognitive needs of children. It seeks to bridge the gap left by synthetic phonics programmes, providing a comprehensive framework for literacy that is backed by evidence and practice from international education settings. With the inclusion of the One, Two, Three and Away series, Ortho-Graphix also seeks to give children a reason to develop orthographic knowledge: to experience joy while reading. 

Until the DfE revises its policy for state maintained schools, and allows teachers more autonomy with regards to their methods used to teach phonic skills, Ortho-Graphix can be used to bridge the gaps - and be kept totally separate to systematic synthetic phonics instruction. Despite being focused on mapping words orthographically activities are suitable for ALL learners and schools adopting it will become Neuro-Inclusive far earlier, also playing a role in reducing the SEND crisis.     

Various discussions around synthetic phonics, the data and the way 'the code' was taught were primarily ignored before synthetic phonics was mandated: 20% of the children were six or more months behind after having been taught with Synthetic Phonics in their first year at school in Clackmannanshire, and despite additional literacy support, 14% where two or more years behind by age eleven.
Discussions relating to dyslexia and synthetic phonics were also primarily ignored. 

* According to their web site Phono-Graphix ' is used for initial reading instruction for preschool through elementary students, covering the most basic sound-symbol correspondences through managing multisyllable words and special endings'
Miss Emma trained in this method before emigrating to Australia, and after reading 'Why Our Children Can't Read, and What We Can Do About It by Diane McGuiness while studying dyslexia at the University of Nottingam (Masters Degree in Special Needs). In many ways creating a system to make the written word 'visible' came about because of this book and training: a focus on 'linguistic' phonics and the mapping of words into 'speech sound pics' orthographically. 
Ortho-Graphix is unique however: Words are displayed to show both grapheme AND phoneme elements, as they align with the IPA. Tech eg the Clickable Library facilitates 'less teaching, more learning.'  

Show the Code! Code Shown, Word Known. Ortho-Graphix
Show the Code! Visible Spelling Code - Ortho-Graphix - Boosting Orthographic Knowledge
Word Wings: A Passion for Learning
Word Wings - Ortho-Graphix
Boosting Orthographic Knowledge - fillingg the gaps in synthetic phonics programmes - the missing link
bottom of page