English Hub

Supporting schools to improve teaching of phonics, early language and reading in Reception & Year 1

English Hub Lead: Liz Kenny 

Background to English Hubs

In the spring of 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) identified and invited 924 eligible schools to apply to become an accredited English Hub as part of a new national initiative to drive up standards in literacy. Following a competitive application and selection process, the DfE announced the designation of the inaugural English Hubs in autumn 2018.

Learners First is thrilled to confirm a lead Teaching School within the partnership, Whiston Worrygoose, was successfully designated as one of only 32 English Hubs in the country. As a partnership, we are excited by the opportunities this creates for local schools and are keen to share more information about the support and resources available and how schools can access and contribute to the work of the English Hub.

Learners First is pleased to announce that we have been appointed by the DfE (09th July) to the dual role of delivery hub and co-ordinator hub as part of the government’s accelerator fund programme in 2021/22. We will be working in partnership as one of the 5 accelerator hubs in the Midlands zone to support eligible schools with an assessment of their phonics provision and the selection and purchase of an approved SSP programme.

As defined by the DfE, each English Hub will:
‘…promote a love of reading and support schools across the country to provide excellent phonics and early language teaching. Literacy specialists within each hub will provide tailored support to schools. This will include running events to showcase excellent practice in teaching reading and working with local schools to develop their practice’.
Department for Education (DfE), October 2018

Additional SSP Funding

Focused English catch-up sessions to help pupils boost core skills announced by DfE

The Government has announced today (Friday 09 July 2021) a package of support to boost numeracy and literacy skills and help pupils catch-up in these core subjects. Specialist training and materials will be provided to support focused sessions targeted at schools with high proportions of children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those most impacted by the disruption to education.

The funding for English will be focused on systematic synthetic phonics, a highly effective method for teaching early reading and an important component in the development of early reading skills, particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. A number of English Hubs working across the country will allocate funding to eligible primary schools in selected Local Authority Districts and support them to purchase training and resources for one of the phonics programmes on the DfE’s validated list, all of which have been quality assured by an expert panel.

The offer will be rolled out from Autumn term 2021. 

To register your interest, please complete the form via the link provided with all relevant details and a member of the English Hub team at Learners First will be in touch with further information as soon as it is released from the DfE.

For schools in the Midlands region your main contact will be Liz Kenny, English Hub Lead.

English & Literacy CPD Opportunities – 2021/22

New Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers and Leaders including opportunities related to CV-19 Recovery, Phonics, Ofsted updates, Y2 Screening Preparation, Reading and Vocabulary

As documented by the National Literacy Trust, Covid-19 is ‘set to have a disastrous impact on the literacy of the 4.6 million children living in poverty in the UK, who we know already start school with vocabularies up to 19 months behind their better-off peers and who are twice as likely to leave secondary school without good GCSEs in English and maths.’ (National Literacy Trust, 2020). Thus, there has never been a more important time for us to have a collective focus on supporting children’s literacy and mitigating the impact of recent events on their development, learning and later life chances.

National Remit

All support offered by the English Hubs across the country will promote the Department’s three priority areas:

  • 1. Early language development

    Providing evidence-based approaches to early language development and closing the word gap in school-based early years settings, including appropriate use of formative assessment;

  • 2. Age-appropriate phonics provision

    Encouraging best practice in systematic synthetic phonics teaching from school-based early years provision to the end of Key Stage 1, and as the primary reading strategy throughout the school. This includes:

    Encouraging fidelity to a single systematic synthetic phonics programme;

    Supporting the effective use of decodable books in the early stages of learning to read, as a way of establishing phonic decoding;

    Supporting effective practice in formative assessment in relation to phonics/early reading.

  • 3. Promoting a Love of Reading

    Encouraging reading for enjoyment including by supporting whole school reading approaches, reading to children at least once a day and encouraging reading at home, developing teachers’ knowledge of appropriate children’s literature.

Accessing Support

There are opportunities available to all schools. Schools are encouraged to approach and access the support of any English Hub with which they already have an existing partnership and/or would prefer to choose to work. The DfE’s intention is for schools to access the provision offered by English Hubs through a ‘Self-Referral’ system.

In addition, English Hubs have been asked to work with local partners including (but not limited to) the RSC, Opportunity Area Boards, NLEs, MATs, Dioceses and LAs to identify and encourage engagement from schools that would most benefit from support, with a focus on schools with high numbers of disadvantaged children.

English Hubs have been asked to prioritise schools based on a set of criteria (provided by the DfE) which is available in our English Hub Update. However, there will be a range of opportunities available to all schools via the Learners First English Hub. We would like to encourage all schools interested in finding out more about the opportunities, CPD and resources available to make contact to discuss the options available in more detail.

 A self-referral form is available should schools wish to make an initial contact.

English Hub Literacy Specialists

As a DfE designated English Hub, Learners First has 6 experienced Literacy Specialists who are currently working with schools across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire in supporting the development of early reading and phonics.

The Literacy Specialists work with the Hub to offer intensive support to schools in implementing or improving all systematic synthetic phonics teaching. All Literacy Specialists regularly undertake nationally delivered training provided by the English Hubs Training Centre.

Letters and Sounds Online Lessons

Daily Lessons Continue!
With your support our daily lessons have received more than 8m views. Lessons are continuing throughout the rest of the academic year and are ideal to share with your families who may be self-isolating.
Find our lessons on YouTube as new lessons continue to be uploaded. You can also find a full list of all lessons we have planned for the term on our Letters and Sounds website. Once our lessons are live, they stay live and are available for on-demand viewing 24/7.

Letters and Sounds Update

The DfE have recently announced that they will not now be publishing the previously promised update to the Letters and Sounds progression. Schools will continue to be able to access the original 2007 framework online. Following this announcement, schools will naturally have questions regarding the continuation of Letters and Sounds and the DfE have provided the following reassurance:

  • There is no suggestion that Letters and Sounds will disappear.
  • Current L&S accredited training will continue until July 2023, so there will be continuity for schools who are already using the current programme.
  • The new validated list (following a re-validation process to begin Summer 2021) means there will be more high-quality choice for schools looking at which SSP to use.
  • There will be no expectation that schools using Letters and Sounds well, and achieving excellent results, will have to change to a new programme.
  • There is no need to rush any decision about choosing an SSP; schools will be provided with support and guidance about the range of options.

Home Learning

Here at the English Hub we are determined to continue to offer support and advice to schools throughout these difficult and unusual times. With this in mind we have produced a resource which provides access to a selection of resources and websites which can help ensure that children are accessing high quality content which is both educational and engaging. This document can be accessed by following this link and can be shared with colleagues who are in school or home educating or through your school website.  Use the materials as a stimulus for speaking and listening activities, engaging with high quality texts or to motivate children to write down their own ideas or responses. If you would like any further help or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.


DfE Visit

It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Gordon Askew MBE and Chair of the English Hub Council to the English Hub here in Rotherham. The focus of the visit was to review our own practice in the teaching of phonics and early reading and make sure that the example being promoted and shared nationally is as strong as possible. Gordon observed the teaching of discreet phonics lessons in both our Early Years and KS1 classrooms and spoke with both staff and pupils about the teaching of reading and reading culture promoted within the school. Gordon was very appreciative of the standard of teaching observed, the attitudes and behaviour of the pupils and with the quality of provision and school ethos as a whole. We are happy to report that he fully endorsed our continued role in supporting schools to improve the teaching of phonic, early language and reading.

Closing the Reading Gap Seminar

Alex Quigley returned to Rotherham in March to contribute to our programme of Professional Development following the overwhelming success of his first seminar for us last year which explored how to address the growing vocabulary gap.  This time Alex was back to lead his new ‘Closing the Reading Gap’ masterclass seminar and we were all very excited to hear what Alex had to share with us as we continue to support school improvements in literacy and language development. During the session, Alex unpicked the challenges faced by all of our pupils as they grapple with the academic reading demands posed by the school curriculum and considered the implications for pupils at all phases of their education. He explored a range of issues including what makes reading in school so difficult and what to prioritise when seeking to improve reading and provided a plethora of practical strategies to improve provision in all schools.

English Hub Team

Kate Davies
Kate Davies was appointed CEO of Whitewoods Primary Academy Trust in July 2019 of which Whiston Worrygoose Primary School was the founding lead school.  She has worked across all phases in education, serving as a head teacher for 15 years and working as a ‘National leader of Education’.

David Taylor
David Taylor is the senior lead for the English Hub and accredited Letters and Sounds training Hub. David is the head teacher at Whiston Worrygoose Primary School in Rotherham and leads a team of dedicated and experienced professionals who are committed to ensuring each learner reaches their full potential.

Liz Kenny
Liz Kenny is the English Hub lead and is based on site at Whiston Worrygoose Primary School. Liz has a strong track record of leading literacy across all primary phases and heads the team of literacy specialists, who work across the region, alongside her role as a DfE accredited Letters and Sounds trainer.

Literacy Specialists
A team of nationally recognised literacy specialists who provide support to schools in the region in line with the key objectives of the English Hub. All are experienced professionals with detailed knowledge of phonics programmes and pedagogy and are drawn from a diverse selection of school contexts across local districts.

English Hub Administration Team
A team of experienced professionals at LearnersFirst@WhistonWorrygoose who provide administrative and financial management support to the English Hub.

See what OUR supported schools say

Contact English Hub

For information regarding the English Hub, please contact:

English Hub Lead : Liz Kenny

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    01709 267021

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