What is the Year 1 phonics screening check?

The Year 1 phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual pupils 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 pupils until they are able to decode.

Who is it for?

Year 1 pupils in maintained schools, academies and Free Schools will take the phonics screening check in June 2014.

When does it happen?

Schools will be able to administer the check at any time that suits them during the week of the 16 of June 2014. If a child is absent during that week, the school can administer the check up until Friday end of June 2014.

Is it compulsory?

Yes. It will be a statutory requirement for all schools to carry out the screening check.

Where can I find more information?

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: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/assessment/a00197251/assessment-and-reporting-arrangements.

Other guidance, including a Check administrators’ guide (CAG), training video and sample materials can also be found on the phonics page in support materials. Here is a link to the page: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/assessment/keystage1/a00200415/year-1-phonics-screening-check-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.

What will the check look like?

Sample materials are available to help familiarise teachers with the check. These are available in the Testing and Assessment section of our website.

How is the check structured?

It will be a short, simple screening check to make sure that all pupils have grasped fundamental phonics skills and to see that nobody slips through the net. 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 the words cover phonics skills which tend to be covered in Reception, and half the words are based on Year 1 phonics skills.

What was the threshold for the standard in the pilot?

In the pilot we trialled 18 different versions of the screening check. Each one had a slightly different threshold for the expected level ranging from 31 to 34 out of 40.

Isn’t it stressful to test such young children?

The assessment will be age-appropriate, with children sitting with a teacher who they know and reading one-to-one. It should be an enjoyable activity for children which takes no more than a few minutes.

Do pupils with SEN have to take the screening check?

It should be taken by as many pupils 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 pupils 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 ARA: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/assessment/a00197251/assessment-and-reporting-arrangements)

and CAG: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/teachingandlearning/assessment/keystage1/a00200415/year-1-phonics-screening-check-materials

Why have you included non-words in the screening check?

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 pupils, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Pupils 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.

How will the results from the phonics screening check be used?

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.

Extra support for Phonics


Simply register an account for FREE and get lots of useful information for phonics and maths. We can provide your child with a class log-in if you require. Please see your child’s teacher for the username and password.

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