Phonics and National Tests
At Southfields we believe that the teaching of high quality systematic phonic work is the prime approach to decoding print. We teach phonics using the guidance from 'Letters and sounds.' We support this teaching through the use of 'Jolly Phonics' and other high quality resources such as Bug Club Phonics books and PhonicsPlay. Research shows that teaching phonics in a structured way is an effective method of teaching young children to read. The DFE in The Reading Framework July 2021 states that, 'High quality class or group teaching is an effective way of ensuring good progress for the majority of children.' When children need extra help to keep up we have small group support for these children.
The Department for Education introduced the phonics screening check in June 2012. They define it as a “short, light-touch assessment” to check each child's phonics knowledge. It helps schools to confirm whether each child has made the expected progress and is on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.
Your questions answered
What is in the phonics screening check?
There will be two sections in this 40-word check and it will assess phonic skills and knowledge learned through Reception and Year 1. Your child will read up to four words per page for their teacher and they will probably do the check in one sitting of about 5-10 minutes.
What sort of check is it and is it compulsory?
It is a school-based check to make sure that your child receives any additional support promptly, should they need it. It is not a stressful situation as the teacher will be well-equipped to listen and understand your child’s level of skills. There will be a few practice words first to make sure your child understands the activity.
What will it check?
It will check that your child can:
What are nonsense or pseudo words and why are they included?
These are words that are phonically decodable but are not actual words with an associated meaning e.g. brip, snorb. Pseudo words are included in the check specifically to assess whether your child can decode a word using phonics skills and not their memory.
The pseudo words will be shown to your child with a picture of a monster and they will be asked to tell their teacher what sort of monster it is by reading the word. This not only makes the check a bit more fun, but provides the children with a context for the nonsense word which is independent from any existing vocabulary they may have. Crucially, it does not provide any clues, so your child just has to be able to decode it. Children generally find nonsense amusing so they will probably enjoy reading these words.
Is there a pass mark?
In previous years the pass mark has been 32 out of 40. If children do not reach the required standard, then the teacher will be in touch to discuss plans and offer additional, tailored support to ensure that your child can catch up. Children progress at different speeds so not reaching the threshold score does not necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Your child will re-sit the check the following summer term.
What happens to the results?
The school will report your child’s results to you by the end of the summer term as well as to the local authority, but the results won’t be published in a league table as with SATs. If you have any concerns, do talk to your teacher about this in a parents’ meeting or after school.
Do all schools and children have to participate?
All schools and academies in England must take part in the phonics screening check unless they are an independent school. There is a process in place for reviewing children with special educational needs, so if your child’s teacher thinks there are very special reasons related to your child and their needs that make them think the phonics screening check may not be appropriate, they will decide on appropriate action and discuss this with you.