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The Phonics Bear Story

Annette Firth Phonics Bear Founder

I’m Annette, the founder of Phonics Bear – and I’d like to share our story with you!

After a career spent working in Family Law, I fell in love with working with children when I took part in a voluntary programme in Malawi, Africa to work in a children’s Anti-Trafficking Centre teaching English and Sports education.

When I returned home, I changed direction completely, retrained and started working in schools – specifically with children who had barriers to learning, whether SEN, personal stressors or practical barriers. My role was to work with children who found English and phonics difficult and devise new ways to help them catch up with their peers.

I experienced first-hand the impact a poor start to education has on children in terms of anxiety, loss of confidence and a general attitude of “I can’t do it” – and I made it my mission to show these children that they held the key to unlock their own ability and become confident readers & learners at their own pace.

Phonics has lots of benefits, and watching toddlers & pre-school children start to make sense of the letters & sounds around them, and piece them together, is incredible to witness.

When I left work to start my own family, it struck me just how young our children are when they start formal education.  I worried about my children all the time, as I’m sure all parents do – especially as my daughter was a July baby and so was almost a year younger than most of her peers.

I felt the best way to prepare my own children for ‘big school’ was to give them a gentle, play-based introduction to phonics.  One built around the science of how children learn.  But above all, one that was fun, multi-sensory, and worked on building their self-esteem, listening skills, team working and confidence. 

And so, in 2017, Phonics Bear was born.

My aim was to create a class that was affordable to everyone, in order to reach as many children as possible and make a real difference to entry level attainment. Which is why at Phonics Bear, we try to remove any barriers to lower income families who may benefit greatly from our classes.

We started with one group in a local community library and grew incredibly quickly from there – and in 2018 we took the decision to franchise so we could keep up with demand. 

We’re delighted to say that our original franchise team are all mums who brought their children to Phonics Bear classes right at the start of our journey (and loved what we do so much that they wanted to be a part of it!).

Today, most of our work takes place within nurseries, and we also run a variety of parent/carer & child sessions in private groups within the community, as well as classes online.

Enjoy exploring our website, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to find out more!