Accelerator Fund: The phonics funding explained

Written by: Nicola Romaine | Published:
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The application window for the Accelerator Fund in English 2022/23 is open now and schools can access up to £9,000 of funding to support pupils’ reading. Nicola Romaine explains how

Did you know you can access up to £9,000 in early language training and resources to help pupils in reception and key stage 1 with their reading, whatever their background, ability or need?

In this article I want to give a quick overview of how to access this all-important funding for your primary school.

Assess your eligibility

First thing’s first – you will need to check your eligibility and what funding you could access as a result.

All state-funded schools can apply to the English Hubs network for up to £9,000 towards phonics resources and training. That includes infant schools, primary schools, and junior schools as well as special schools and pupil referral units with primary-aged children.

The amount of funding your school is eligible for depends on a number of things, including where it is located. Applicants in one of the 24 government-identified Priority Education Investment Areas (DfE, 2023) can claim up to the full amount of £9,000. Schools in non-priority Education Investment Areas (DfE, 2023) can also claim up to £6,000 in funding, though will need to match-fund 25% of the value being claimed.

Schools that are not part of an EIA may still be able to unlock funding as long as they meet two or more criteria identified by the government:

  • Lower than the national average percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in the Phonics Screening Check in their most recent results.
  • A higher-than-average proportion of children reading below age-related expectations.
  • A higher-than-average proportion of children eligible for the Pupil Premium.
  • An Ofsted judgement of requires improvement or inadequate.
  • A high proportion of groups considered hard to reach, such as English as an additional language, free school meals, Traveller children, etc.
  • Schools referred by local partners (e.g. National Leaders of Education, Regional Schools Commissioners, EIA teams/boards).

Some hubs also fund schools who:

  • Have Ofsted ratings “good” or “outstanding”, but whose English practice indicates a risk of declining standards.
  • Have a Pupil Premium percentage equal to or below the national average.
  • Have children at key stage 1 and 2 but who do not complete the Phonics Screening Check.

Each English Hub will have a slightly different way of operating, but they all require schools to self-refer by filling in a form with some basic data. These forms are available on the English Hub websites and can be submitted anytime (there is no specific deadline).

If a school meets the criteria, hubs may then offer them an audit of their phonics and early reading provision. Once the audit is completed, hubs can advise how much funding they can offer, and when it needs to be spent by. If the form is received late in the academic year, the subsequent audit and any funding may not be available until September.

Find what’s best for you

Eligible applicants can access a range of DfE-approved systematic synthetic phonics programmes (SSPs) to support high quality phonics teaching and improved literacy levels for every child. A full list is available on the DfE’s website (DfE, 2023).

In the seven-year Clackmannanshire Study (Johnston & Watson, 2005), SSP programmes were proven to be the most effective way to teach children to read, elevating pupils’ reading and spelling seven months ahead of their expected level.

The approach also helped close the gap between children of different genders and backgrounds, with the study finding that “underachievers can be detected earlier, and children are very motivated”. SSPs were especially effective for the lowest attaining 20% of children.

Following the findings in the Clackmannanshire Report, the government has rigorously assessed and validated a number of SSPs to help children make leaps in how they learn to read. Some of these also offer related discounts for resources as part of the current English Hubs funding package.

Making contact

If you want to apply for English Hub funding, you can find your nearest Hub through an interactive map on the main English Hubs website, and from there contact them directly to begin the funding process.

As mentioned, you will need to complete the hubs self-referral forms so make sure you have all the necessary information including phonics screening scores and reading assessment scores to complete the process.

Your hub will then conduct an audit to determine the next steps and the support package they can offer to your school.

Making a difference

English Hubs have been around since 2018, first as a selection of schools who showcased their best practice before evolving into a wider offer with literacy specialists, audits, and funding advice, with a purpose to support schools with early reading and phonics.

English Hubs, and the subsequent funding, are helping schools make a big difference and yet, in some parts of the country at least, there is a disparity between schools that use them and those that are unaware of their existence.

Together with the support that hubs offer schools and MATs themselves, many providers of early reading products also have their own dedicated English Hub teams working with teachers to help them get the best out of their primary literacy resources.

Providers may also offer an additional layer of pedagogical support – from access to their own in-house literacy advisors and assistance with auditing provision, to addressing specific issues with implementation and ensuring packages are aligned to each school’s needs and budgets.

Headteacher Update Summer Term Edition 2023

This article first appeared in Headteacher Update's Summer Term Edition 2023. This edition was sent free of charge to every primary school in the country. A digital edition is also available via

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