International Assessment

The Year One Phonics Screening Check – England

In 2012 in England, the Department for Education (DfE) introduced a statutory phonics check for children at the end of Year One when they are 6 years old. By this time, the children are likely to have had two full years of formally planned Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching within a language and literacy-rich environment.

The Year One Phonics Screening Check has enabled teachers not only to assess their own children, but also to get a picture of how effectively they are teaching the alphabetic code (the letter/s-sound correspondences) and the blending (synthesising) skill compared to other teachers generally. This has led to stronger phonics teaching in England, and year-on-year the average results for children reaching or exceeding the benchmark of 32 out of 40 words read correctly have increased significantly (2011 pilot check – 32%; 2012 first year of full roll-out – 58%; 2013 – 69%; 2014 – 74%; 2015 – 77%; 2016 – 81%). There are 20 real words and 20 pseudo or nonsense words for children to read – the pseudo words being shown next to pictures of little creatures.

Shortly after the Year One Phonics Screening Check has been completed in England, the DfE makes the check available online for ‘free’ – alongside the guidance material. We encourage the widespread use of this check in other countries.

Dick Schutz describes how the UK and the US are implementing very different models for teaching reading, constituting a Natural Experiment’ (Dick Schutz, 2013-14).

If any schools use the Year One Phonics Screening Check, the IFERI committee would welcome your findings. In  2013, for example, 69 children in the British School of Costa Rica took the Year One Phonics Screening Check. English was their second language and 88% of the children reached or exceeded the benchmark (32 out of 40) compared to 69% of children in England in the same year. Mercedes Zuniga said, ‘Out of the 69 children, only 8 did not get the 32 points. We were extremely proud of both our teachers and our students. Teachers are very motivated and I am taking advantage of their motivation to review and reflect on effective phonics teaching’. 

The Year One Phonics Screening Check – materials and guidance