The phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard.
It will identify the children who need extra help so they are given support by their school to improve their reading skills. They will then be able to retake the check so that schools can track children until they are able to decode.
The screening check is for all Year 1 pupils in maintained schools, academies and Free Schools - and children in Year 2 who previously did not meet the standard of the check in Year 1.
Yes. It is a statutory requirement for all schools to carry out the screening check.
Yes – this is a statutory screening check which academies have to carry out according to the terms of their funding agreement.
It should be taken by as many children as possible, and we have worked closely with SEN specialists to make this happen. Where necessary, adjustments will be made and appropriate guidance provided.
For children who are working well below the level of the screening check (for example, if they have shown no understanding of letter-sound correspondences), there will be a disapplication process so they do not have to take part. Parents should be informed if a child is disapplied.
Further information is available in the Assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) document:
and the Check administrators’ guide.
Schools will be able to administer the check at any time that suits them during the week of the 17 to the 21 June 2013. If a child is absent during that week, the school can administer the check up until Friday 28 June 2013.
Yes and we recommend that the teacher should be known to the child. Administering the phonics check requires a teacher’s professional judgement and a significant majority of respondents to our public consultation agreed that a teacher should conduct the check.
Every child is different, but in the pilot most children took between four and nine minutes to complete the assessment.
The time commitment required to administer the check should be straightforward for schools to manage because they can administer the check anytime during a week-long window.
No. All relevant Key Stage 1 schools are required to take part. We will send materials to schools based on school census data.
Further information is available in the ARA.
A leaflet that explains the phonics screening check to parents is available to download from the associated resources section of this page.
Schools and local authorities can access support and guidance including an assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA) document, which sets out the statutory requirements. This can be downloaded from the ARA page of our website:
Other guidance, including a Check administrators’ guide (CAG), training video and sample materials can also be found on the phonics page in support materials.
Information on the phonics page of our website explains how the check was designed for the pilot.
A summary of the independent evaluation of the pilot, which took place in June 2011, is also available.
It will be a short, simple screening check to make sure that all children have grasped fundamental phonic skills. It comprises a list of 40 words and non-words, which a child will read one-to-one with a teacher.
Find out more about the type of words and non-words that may be used.
Half of the words cover phonic skills which tend to be covered in Reception, and half of the words are based on Year 1 phonic skills.
Sample materials are available to help familiarise teachers with the check. These are available in the Testing and assessment section of our website.
The phonics screening check was developed by phonics experts and in consultation with headteachers, teachers and other experts. It was piloted in around 300 schools during 2011 and was independently evaluated.
The standard used in the check was agreed through two separate standard setting exercises involving around 50 teachers whose Year 1 classes participated in the pilot check. The panels agreed the standard descriptor as the basis for their discussions. This descriptor is in line with the expectations in good quality phonics programmes for the end of Year 1.
The standard descriptor offers further information.
Each panel looked at the words in the check and agreed a cut score with the standard descriptor in mind. The results from the two panels were very similar, validating the outcome.
The assessment is age-appropriate, with children sitting with a teacher who they know. Reading one-to-one with a teacher should be a familiar activity for Key Stage 1 children. It should be an enjoyable activity for children and takes no more than a few minutes.
The standard on the phonics check was set by a group of 50 teachers involved in the pilot. It was based on the expectations in good quality phonics programmes already used widely in schools, such as Letters and Sounds.
Setting a more rigorous standard in the phonics check, in line with what the evidence shows us pupils can achieve, will help schools to ensure their pupils are secure at level 2 in reading and writing by the end of Key Stage 1.
Non-words are an established assessment method in many schools, and are included in many phonics programmes. They are included because they will be new to all children, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word.
The evidence from the pilot showed that a significant majority of teachers agreed that including non-words in the assessment was suitable. Of course, it is important that children understand the difference between real words and non-words, so that they do not try to decode a non-word as a similar real word.
The non-words are presented alongside a picture of an imaginary creature, and children can be told the non-word is the name of that type of creature. This helps children to understand the non-word should not be matched to their existing vocabulary.
The threshold in 2012 was 32 words out of 40. This standard was set by Year 1 teachers following a recognised standard setting procedure.
All children need to be able to identify sounds associated with different letters, and letter combinations, and then blend these sounds together to correctly say the word on the page. The same skill is needed whether the word is a real word or a non-word.
The words gradually get harder through the check as the combinations of letters become more complicated. As long as the child has said 32 out of the 40 words correctly, they will be considered to have met the standard.
The threshold for 2013 will be included in the screening check materials which will remain secure until the start of the check week (17 June 2013). The threshold will ensure standards are maintained over time.
The pilot of the check showed that 43 per cent of teachers identified children with difficulties in phonics of which they were not previously aware.
Many schools with good ongoing reading assessment still benefited from the focus on decoding in this assessment, which highlights children whose difficulties with phonics had been masked by a good sight-reading vocabulary.
The phonics screening check is not designed to underestimate the importance of teaching wider reading skills. All children should be taught to read for meaning and pleasure throughout primary school. However, evidence from around the world shows that systematic teaching of synthetic phonics is the best way to teach children the mechanics of reading.
Teaching phonics in schools has the potential to help all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, become confident readers.
The Government recognises that ambitions for the phonics check are more challenging than the current trajectory towards reading at the end of Year 2. But we make no apology for being ambitious about aiming for high standards in the teaching of reading. We believe that if children get the fundamental skill of reading using phonics right early on it will give them a flying start and allow them to move quickly to reading books for themselves and achieving even more in the future.
Evidence from around the world shows that a systematic approach to the teaching of phonics gives children the best start in their reading. We recommend that some schools might like to consider their approach to teaching phonics, and make sure they are setting suitable high expectations for children’s progress in Year 1.
The Key Stage 1 reading assessment takes into account a much broader range of skills than the phonics screening check. The check looks at word identification skills in isolation. It is possible for a child to be a relatively fluent reader, with good comprehension skills – which leads to good Key Stage 1 outcomes – without having strong, accurate word identification skills. Sometimes, this does not hold children back at Key Stage 1 because words are largely familiar and predictable, but towards the end of primary school, words become less familiar and less predictable. Children who are less accurate at identifying new words often fall behind their peers and progress at a relatively slower rate.
Ensuring that all children have mastered phonics decoding early in their schooling stands them in good stead in the long term – far beyond Key Stage 1. Year 1 is the right age for the phonics screening check because it helps to identify children who need more support in order to master essential phonics skills early in their education.
The screening check will identify children who have phonic decoding skills below the level expected for the end of Year 1 and who therefore need extra help. Schools will be expected to provide extra help and children will then be able to retake the assessment in Year 2.
Children should not realise that they are being formally assessed. The check should be seen as part of their everyday phonics activities and not as a test. The result will provide teachers with information required for developing a child’s skills.
We have no evidence that different groups of children cannot show their phonics ability on this assessment. If an able reader has not met the standard, they have not been able to identity accurately at least nine relatively simple words. If they make mistakes on non-words, it is likely to be because they rely on their sight memory of words rather than phonics when decoding a new word. They are just as likely to make mistakes when tacking real words they have never seen or heard of before, such as 'hoax' or 'squib'.
This assessment isolates decoding skills and demonstrates children’s accuracy in identifying words. It is unlike broader reading assessments and this explains why children who can pick up a book and read in Year 1 may still not meet the standard if they have under-developed phonics skills and so need further to go before they are accurate readers. They may still struggle in future years as they encounter more complex texts containing less predictable and less familiar words. It is worthwhile for these children to consolidate their phonics knowledge in Years 1 and 2.
Teachers are best placed to decide on the best type of support, based on their professional judgement and knowledge of individual children. Teachers will look carefully at the results of the phonics check and the results of their own assessments. This will tell them more about the skills the child will need to improve.
A programme of phonics support including some one-to-one tuition or small group work may be the first course of action. Extra support should be carefully monitored by the class teacher for progress. Specialist advice can be sought to provide a more personalised approach to teaching phonics and reading if required.
Schools will not receive funding for the phonics screening check, as national assessments are a part of their core work. Schools wanting to buy phonics products or training to support their teaching can receive match-funding of up to £3,000 when they buy through an approved catalogue.
Every school should have a hard copy of the revised catalogue, but it is also available online. For further details, please see the phonics matching-funding page on our website.
Schools’ results will not be published, although schools will have to tell parents their child’s results. Schools will be given the flexibility to inform parents in the way they think most suitable. Data will be available on RAISEOnline, for use by schools, local authorities and Ofsted as part of their inspections process.
The phonics check materials will be made available to independent and international schools. They can be downloaded from the STA Orderline after the check window.
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Updated 14 February 2012.
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This statutory guidance covers assessment and reporting arrangements for Key Stage 1. It includes guidance about the Key Stage 1 tasks and tests, and the phonics screening check; and information about reporting results.
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Latest information about match-funding, and our approved supplier catalogue of systematic synthetic phonics products and training.