Phonics - letter sounds - are taught throughout nursery, reception and KS1. This is an important part of learning to read, along with looking at pictures, understanding story and sequence, learning about letter and word shapes. We teach phonics daily in reception and Year, in short, interactive sessions which the children find fun.
At the end of Year 1, children sit a statutory screening test, to demonstrate their understanding of sounding and blending both real and non words. For example, they might be asked to read the word "yet", "portrait" or "lumbid" - the ability to decode these indicates that children are sufficiently fluent in the use of phonics to progress their reading at a level appropriate for their age and year group.
Sometimes children find phonics difficult and we work with them to understand whether they need to over learn, by repeating lots of times, for example. Parents can help by reading aloud as well as listening to children read as often as possible, and helping them to recognise sounds and letters everywhere - in books, on cereal packets, signs - it doesn't matter!
We recently gave presentations to parents in reception and also KS1 about the teaching and learning of phonics - do have a look and please ask if you need any more information!