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Y1 Phonics Screening


What is the phonics screening check?

The national phonics screening test was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils.  It is a short, statutory assessment to confirm whether individual pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It aims to identify the children who need extra help so that they can be given support by school to improve their reading skills.  At St Matthew’s C of E Primary School, we already identify children and provide early intervention support; however we must comply with the statutory requirement.


Who is it for?

Year 1 pupils take the phonics screening check during a specified week in June each year. Sometimes, we will carry out pre-test Phonics activities in the room where the children are expected to take the test to ensure the children are in a familiar and unthreatening environment.


How is the check structured?

It comprises a list of 40 words and non-words, which a child will read one-to-one with a teacher. Half the words cover phonic skills which are usually covered in Reception, and half the words are based on Year 1 phonics skills.


Is it stressful to test such young children?

The assessment will be age-appropriate, with children sitting with their teacher and reading one-to-one. It should be an enjoyable activity for children which takes no more than a few minutes. The pre-test activities also support children here.

Does a teacher have to carry out the screening check?

Yes, the test will be carried out by a teacher known to the children in school.   It will also take place in a quiet room where the children will feel comfortable and not be disturbed. 


Why have you included non-words or ‘Alien’ words in the screening check?

Non-words or ‘Alien’ 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 or ‘Alien’ should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word.


How long does the check take?

Every child is different but in most cases the check should take around 10 minutes per child.

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

Schools have to inform parents towards the end of the summer term in Year 1 of their child’s results.

What happens if a child struggles with the screening check?

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 are expected to provide extra help and children will then be able to re-take the assessment in Year 2. At St Matthew’s C of E Primary School parents will continue to be kept well informed of their child’s progress in all aspects of reading including phonic development.


How can I help my child?

At St Matthew’s C of E Primary School, we often check phonic development within our approach to the assessment of reading. This screening forms part of our overall assessment procedure. However, there are a number of things that parents can do to support early reading skill development.

  • Let your child see you enjoying reading yourself – they are influenced by you and what you value!
  • Immerse your child in a love of reading: share books and magazines with your child, take them to the library to choose books, read to them regularly, point out texts around you e.g. in the street etc.
  • Make time for your child to read school books to you regularly – encourage them by pointing to the words and ask them about the
    story they are reading.
  • Help your child to practise reading key words and sounds when these are sent home.
  • Practise making up words – make your own Aliens!
  • Remember! We are here to help your child to do their very best.
  • Play ‘Robot Reading’


For more information about Phonics, click here to view the ‘Learning to Read through Phonics: Parent’s Information’ document (Please note this link may bring up a warning message: Be assured, the document is safe to open.)