In the past, phonics meant the one-letter-one-sound method (OLOSM). However, one letter does not represent only one phoneme in the most basic words. Even "the cat sat on the mat" has "the", which is not the sounds "t", "h", "e" but the phonemes "th" and "e".
Far better is the phonographic method, which is based on the 44 phonemes of the English language, rather than the letters of the alphabet. All 44 phonemes are learnt at the beginning and, although it takes time for students to become aware of all the spelling choices, they never have to unlearn information they have already been given.
As far as I know the only complete phonographic programme available to schools is THRASS (Teaching, Handwriting, Reading and Spelling Skills).
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