What is phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching children to read by linking the sounds that make up words to the letters that represent the sounds. Learning phonics helps children to read and spell. You can read more about phonics and the methods used to teach it in our blog What is phonics? A comprehensive guide for teachers. The year 1 phonics test is a way of assessing whether a child has met the appropriate standard of phonics understanding.
Table of contents
- What is the year 1 phonics test?
- When was the phonics Screening Check introduced?
- What happens during the Phonics Screening Check?
- How is the phonics check reported on?
- How are the results used?
- What are phonics pseudo words?
- Is regional accent considered during the Phonics Screening test?
- What if a child does not meet the expected standard in the phonics test?
- Are any children exempt from the year 1 phonics test?
Officially named the Phonics Screening Check, the year 1 phonics test occurs in the month of June when all year 1 pupils, and some year 2 pupils, will take a test to assess their phonics abilities. The test is designed to see if pupils have learnt phonic decoding and blending skills to an appropriate standard.
In June 2011, 300 schools took part in the piloted Phonics Screening Test. In September of the same year, the Phonics Screening Test became statutory for all year 1 pupils. As the test usually takes place in June, all year 1 pupils in England took part in the Phonics Screening test for the first time in June 2012.
Each test contains 40 words. The test is carried out one-to-one between teacher and pupil. The child must read out each word to their teacher. The 40 words contain 20 real words and 20 pseudo words (alien or nonsense words). The test cannot be administered by a teaching assistant or higher-level teaching assistant.
The test usually takes around 10 minutes for each child and they will be given a score of between 0 and 40.
The Phonics Screening Check is not about passing or failing; its main function is to check that children are making adequate progress. If a child does not reach the expected standard, then the child may be required to re-take the test in year 2.
Results are shared with parents and used to measure the impact of schools. The results are likely to be used by Ofsted to use for inspections.
The government provides a yearly threshold mark (or pass standard). The pass standard is usually around 32 or 33.
Phonics pseudo words are words that do not exist but do follow the rules of phonics. They are included because they are new to all pupils, ensuring that the test does not favour those pupils who already have good levels of vocabulary or are able to visually memorise words.
To provide context, the pseudo word is accompanied by an image of an alien; as if the word were the name of the alien in the image.
Some graphemes used in the check can represent a few different phonemes. If the child comes across this with a pseudo word, all plausible pronunciations are acceptable.
Variations in accent and speech difficulties are taken into account during the check and pupil’s answers are accepted regardless of accent. The teacher should make themselves aware of these regional differences and ensure no child is marked down as a result.
Since 2013, any child that doesn’t meet the age expected standard in the year 1 phonics test, should then receive extra phonics support. They will then be expected to re-take the Phonics Screening Check year 2.
There are a few circumstances that would mean children should not take part in the Phonics Screening Check.
- If a child shows no understanding of grapheme-phoneme correspondences.
- If a pupil has recently moved to the country and doesn’t understand letters and sounds in English.
- Children who use sign-supported communication like British Sign Language.