What parents need to know about the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check
What is the Y1 Phonics Screening Check?
The Phonics Screening Check is meant to show how well your child can use the phonics skills they’ve learned up to the end of Year 1, and to identify students who need extra phonics help. The Department for Education defines the checks as “short, light-touch assessments” that take about four to nine minutes to complete.
How do children complete the Phonics Screening Check?
The checks consist of 40 words and non-words that your child will be asked to read one-on-one with a teacher. Non-words (or nonsense words, or pseudo words) are a collection of letters that will follow phonics rules your child has been taught, but don’t mean anything – your child will need to read these with the correct sounds to show that they understand the phonics rules behind them.
The 40 words and non-words are divided into two sections – one with simple word structures of three or four letters, and one with more complex word structures of five or six letters. The teacher administering the check with your child will give them a few practice words to read first – including some non-words – so they understand more about what they have to do. Each of the non-words is presented with a picture of a monster / alien, as if the word were their name (and so your child doesn't think the word is a mistake because it doesn't make sense!).
You can download the Department for Education's official Year 1 Phonics screening check past paper from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 to get an idea of what your child will be asked to do.
When does the Y1 Phonics screening check take place in 2021?
Schools will administer the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check the week beginning Monday 7 June 2021.
Does my child have to take it?
Yes – all students in Year 1 in England must take the Screening Check.
My child missed their Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 because of COVID-19. Will they have to take it in Year 2?
Yes. The Department for Education have proposed that for 2020/21 only, subject to necessary legislation, schools will administer a past version of the Phonics Screening Check to Year 2 pupils during the second half of the autumn 2020 term.
Children who reach the expected standard (the "pass threshold") will not be required to complete any more assessments; children who don't reach the expected standard will take the Screening Check in June 2021.
What will my child’s score mean?
Your child will be scored against a national standard, and the main result will be whether or not they fall below, within or above this standard.
In 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 the "pass threshold" was 32, which means children had to read at least 32 words out of 40 correctly. The threshold mark is communicated to schools at the end of June, after the test has been taken, so that teachers can mark the Check.
You will be told how your child did, but schools’ results will not be published. If your child’s score falls below the standard, they will be given extra phonics help and can re-take the Phonics Screening Check in Year 2.
How can I help my child prepare?
You can help your child prepare for their Phonics Screening Check by going over the phonics they’ve learned in Reception and Year 1. Read new books and stories with them where they will be introduced to new words that they’ll have to sound out, and review the phonics sounds and rules. You can download an interactive phonics sounds worksheet on TheSchoolRun to help with this.
We also offer free phonics worksheets to download, as well as subscriber packs (Fabulous phonics offers an overview and 50 worksheets; Phonics games is a collection of ten downloadable phonics board games) and practice tests to help your child get used to the check format.
Ask your teacher for advice on how your child is doing in phonics, and whether there are certain areas you should focus on at home. Keep in mind that if your child really struggles with phonics, the checks ought to enable them to get the extra help they need at school.
For more advice and information look through our phonics advice for parents: we suggest 10 ways to boost your child's phonics confidence, plus the best phonics learning tools and phonics apps for kids.
More information about the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check
The Department for Education has published a detailed Q&A about the Screening Checks with more information about why non-words are included, and what allowances have been put in place for SEN students.
Download your free parents' guide to the Phonics Check
Our two-page guide to the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 gives you all the information you need to support your child. Click on the image below to download it.