Phonics Screening Check
Phonics Screening Check

If you’re a parent of a child in Year 1 at school, you may be aware that during this academic year your child will have their ‘Phonics Screening Check’. But what exactly is this assessment? When will it happen? And most importantly, how can you help prepare your child for it?

We’ve collated answers to some of the most common questions that parents have when they first hear about the Phonics Screening Check.

What is the Phonics Screening Check and when will your child be assessed?

The Phonics Screening Check is an assessment to check a child’s ability to read words using phonics rules. This is the school’s first formal way of checking your child’s phonics progress and helps the school show the overall progress of children in Year 1. It also helps highlight if any extra support needs to be given.

The test is for all children who are in Year 1 at school and takes place during the summer term, usually in June. For example, children who are currently in Year 1 will complete the assessment in 2020 during the week commencing Monday 8th June.

Do all Year 1 children have to do the Phonics Screening Check?

The Phonics Screening Check is part of the National Curriculum Assessment Programme and is a compulsory assessment for all children in England. Although compulsory, there may be some exceptions for some children. For example, some children with English as an additional language and/or children who have shown no understanding of grapheme phoneme correspondences, may not have to do the assessment. Ask your child’s teacher for guidance on this if unsure.

What happens in the Phonics Screening Check?

The screening check assesses children’s ability to decode real and made up words using their phonics skills. It’s a short assessment, with no specific time limit, but usually takes under ten minutes to complete. It takes place one-to-one with a teacher or teaching assistant from your child’s school and and not with an external examiner.

Children are asked to read out loud a list of 40 words to the teacher. Some of the words are real words of varying complexity (one or two-syllable words), the other words are nonsense or ‘made up’ words (also referred to as ‘pseudo words’). These made up words have a picture of a cartoon alien/monster next to them to help children to understand that they are not words they will have come across before.

The reasoning behind the inclusion of made up words is to test a child’s ability to apply phonics rules to sound out and blend the sounds within each word. Before the teacher starts the assessment, children will be given the opportunity to practise real and made up words.

The teacher will explain to the child that made up words are included. When the assessment begins the teacher will write down the 40 words the child says as the child reads out each word.

Can a child ‘fail’ the test? If so, what happens?

Some children do not achieve the pass mark in the year 1 screening test. In this situation the child would be provided with additional support in learning to read using phonics and re-tested again in Year 2.

How can you prepare children for the test?

Parents often ask how they can best prepare their child for this assessment. Our advice would be to:

- Reduce any unnecessary pressure

Parents want the best for their children and as a result may inadvertently put unnecessary pressure on their child to achieve in their Phonics Screening Check. It may be better if your child is unaware that it is a formal assessment. Parents could just explain to their child that their teacher will be listening to them reading some words at some point soon and that they should try their best to show their teacher how well they can read.

- Read with your child each night

Schools often provide children with ‘reading books’ to read each evening with their parents/carers. We firmly believe that listening to your child read every evening is the best way you can prepare them for their Phonics Screening Check. Reading at home allows your child to practise decoding words in a natural and relaxed environment.

- Past Papers

If your child is keen (without any pressure) you could let them practise some of the past papers that are listed below. Sit with your child and ask them to try and read the words on the list out loud to you, just as they will in the real assessment. To make it more fun, you could easily make it part of a game, taking turns to read the words out loud.

- Practise reading out and about

Reading practise doesn’t have to just be restricted to their school reading book. There are words all around us! Try gently pointing out words on signs, magazines, TV programmes, shops etc and help them practise decoding these words too.

- Read new books

Choosing new books together can be a great way of finding new words that they might not have read before. This provides a good opportunity for children to practise applying the phonics rules to decode the words correctly. This might be particularly helpful for when they are reading the made up words in the Phonics Screening Check.

- Phonics Games

Phonics can be enjoyable! Show them how they can have fun with phonics, try playing our online phonics games to practise their phonics skills regularly.

What happens after the Phonics Screening Check?

By the end of the summer term your child’s school will inform you if your child met the pass mark for the Phonics Screening Check. The exact pass mark threshold can change each year, however for the last few years it has been 32 out of 40 which means any child who read 32 or more of the words out loud correctly will have passed.

You may find out if your child has passed as part of their overall school progress report, or separately, depending on how your school chooses to share the results. If your child hasn’t met the pass mark in their Phonics Screening Check the school should outline to you the support that will be put in place to help your child, your child will then retake the assessment in Year 2.

Can you look at the Phonics Screening Checks from previous years online?

The Phonics Screening Checks from previous years are available online for parents and teachers to download. This can be a great way of seeing the sort of words that children are expected to be able to read out loud during their assessment.

Continue reading: Helping Your Child With Phonics