Phonics Screening Check

What is the Phonics Screening Check?
The Year 1 phonics screening check is not a formal test, but a way for teachers to ensure that children are making sufficient progress with their phonics skills to read words and that they are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning. The phonics screening check is taken individually by all children in Year 1 in England during the month of June. It is designed to give teachers and parents information on how your child is progressing in phonics. It will help to identify whether your child needs additional support at this stage so that they do not fall behind in this vital early reading skill.
What is in the Phonics Screening Check?
The Phonics Screening check consists of 40 words that assess phonics skills and knowledge learned throughout Reception and Year 1. There is a combination of 20 real words and 20 'pseudo-words' (nonsense words/'alien' words). Children sit the check on a 1:1 basis with their class teacher. There is no time limit but children normally complete the check in one sitting (around 5-10 minutes). It is not a stressful situation: your child's class teacher will be well-equipped to listen and understand your child’s level of skills. There will be a few practice words first to make sure your child understands the activity and feels comfortable.
What are nonsense/pseudo words and why are they included?
These are words that are phonically decodable but are not actual words with an associated meaning e.g. brip, snorb. Pseudo words are included in the check specifically to assess whether your child can decode a word using phonics skills and not their memory.

The pseudo words will be shown to your child with a picture of an alien and they will be asked to tell their teacher what sort of alien it is by reading the word. This not only makes the check a bit more fun, but provides the children with a context for the nonsense word which is independent from any existing vocabulary they may have. Crucially, it does not provide any clues, so your child just has to be able to decode it. Children generally find 'alien words' amusing so they will probably enjoy reading these words!

Is there a pass mark?

Since first introducing the phonics screening check, the government has set the 'pass rate' at 32 marks (out of 40). However, the check is not about 'passing or failing' but assessing appropriate progress is being made. If children do not reach the required standard, then we will offer additional, tailored support to ensure that your child can catch up. Children progress at different speeds so not reaching the threshold score does not necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Your child will re-sit the check the following summer term in Year 2.

What happens to the results?

We will report your child’s results to you by the end of the summer term as well as to the local authority. If you have any concerns, do talk to your teacher about this in a parents’ meeting or after school. We run a number of parent workshops throughout the academic year to support the phonics screening check.

Do all schools and children have to participate?

All schools and academies in England must take part in the phonics screening check unless they are an independent school. There is a process in place for reviewing children with special educational needs, so if your child’s teacher thinks there are very special reasons related to your child and their needs that make them think the phonics screening check may not be appropriate, they will decide on appropriate action and discuss this with you.

Further information on how you can support your child's phonics at home can be found here.