Background: Jackie Smith BSc (Hons)

JackieDegree qualified (Birmingham University), Jackie Smith worked as a Research Metallurgist before moving back to Surrey from the Midlands in 1983.

She joined a course on Adult Literacy, which not only gave her an insight into the problems experienced by illiterate adults, but also sparked an interest in phonics. She subsequently spent some time teaching English, on a voluntary basis, at a Day Centre for adults, rehabilitating after mental illness.

She stopped working to look after her two elder sons, born in 1985 and 1986. She subsequently had a third son, born in 1995.

Her career resumed in early 1992, when she moved into the sphere of pre-school education. Initially this was within a playgroup setting, teaching phonics to rising four year-olds. Building on her original ideas, she subsequently designed a syllabus suitable for home-based tuition in small groups, and thus Phonics for Four Year-Olds was started in January 1993. Although the syllabus has developed enormously over the years, keeping pace with educational changes, the initial aim has remained the same; i.e. to give pre-school children the knowledge and confidence to 'take-off' with their literacy skills on starting school.

The year 2000 saw a diversification of Phonics for Four Year-Olds into two new areas. Jackie developed an advanced phonics course for Year 1/Year 2 children, as well as tailor-made tuition programmes covering the area of high frequency word recognition for Reception-age children upwards. The emphasis was very much on providing activities which were unique and hugely attractive to children in this age-group.

A new venture for 2002 was the design, manufacture and sale of Games Packs, which support the learning of high frequency sight words. The primary purpose of these games was to provide an attractive, user-friendly way of teaching / consolidating the first 45 Reception year words. The system has also been used, with great success, for older children who have persistent difficulties with word-recognition. The Games Packs were subsequently developed for multiple use, and marketed in Primary schools.

2006 saw a further stage in the development of Phonics for Four Year-Olds. A choice of eight different postal courses, suitable for children from ages 4 to 8, is now offered. These enable parents to support and extend their child's school literacy education, in a way which is attractive and extremely enjoyable. Many of these courses are 'interactive', in that the parent feeds back any specific difficulties which the child may be having, allowing progressive customisation of the course to cater for individual needs.

The next step in the business plan is to franchise Phonics for Four Year-Olds - watch this space!

drawing of Jackie


Drawing of Jackie, by Adam Ahmed, aged 4

(Jackie says: "I think this is pretty complimentary, in comparison with the photo above - thanks, Adam!")