Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

year 1 phonics screening checkWhat is the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check?

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is designed to confirm whether children have learnt the phonic decoding skills to the expected standard. The test was piloted in summer 2011, then introduced into all state schools in June 2012.  The first results were published in September 2012. The next phonics screening check for Year 1 pupils will take place during the week starting 15 June 2015.  The government hope that making sure that children have good phonic skills by the end of Year 1 will mean that they will be able to read well by the end of Key Stage 1 (end of Year 2).

What will the test cover?

The test will check that your child can do the following:

  • Give the sound when shown a grapheme. A grapheme is a letter or group of letters that spell a sound in a word (examples include single letters like ‘c’ and groups of letters like ‘ea’).
  • Blend sounds in order to read words.
  • Read phonetically to decode one-syllable and two-syllable words that follow phonetic rules.
  • Read a selection of nonsense words.  These have been included to assess decoding skills as they won’t be able to guess the word.  The child will know they are reading a nonsense word because they will have imaginary creature, like the one pictured on the left, alongside the word.

How long will the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Last?

Only 5 to 10 minutes, but there is no time limit for the test.  Most children will complete the test in one sitting, but it is possible for them to have rest breaks if necessary.

Is it a group test or an individual test?


Who will test my child?

This will vary from school to school.  It may be the class teacher or the literacy coordinator.  In my son’s school it will be the deputy head.

What is the pass mark?

The pass marks (thresholds) in the years 2012-2014 were 32 words out of 40.The threshold for 2014 was not be provided in the screening pack, so teachers were not be aware of what the pass mark was when they marked the test.  2014 did not see the spike of results around the pass mark that previous years had shown.  The 2015 phonics screening check threshold mark is 32.

Will I find out the result of my child’s Phonics test?

Yes.  Your child’s school should tell you.  The school can choose how they do this.

Will my child feel they have failed if they don’t pass?

The school should make the test as informal as possible and the children shouldn’t be aware that it is a test.

Will I be able to see the results for my child’s school?  Will there be a league table for local schools?

No.  You will only know your own child’s results, but the results will be used for school inspections and by local authorities.

How many children passed the Year 1 Phonics Test in previous years?

The official results show that 62% of girls passed the test compared with 54% of boys in 2012.  The overall pass rate was 58%.  Only 44% of those on free school meals passed the phonics test.

Results for 2013 improved.  In 2013, 69%  achieved the expected level in phonics which is 11% higher than in 2012. Girls performed better than boys in the test again with 73% meeting the required standard, compared to 65% of boys. 2014 saw results improve again with 74% meeting the accepted standard.

2014 saw an increase in the percentage passing to 74% (up from 69%).  78% of girls met the expected standard compared to 70% of boys.  The attainment gap, between girls and boys, remains at 8 percentage points.

What happens if a child fails the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check?

Any pupils who have not reached the required standard at the end of Year 1 should receive extra support from their school to help them improve their phonic decoding skills. They will then have the opportunity to retake the screening check in Year 2.  Year 2 children who are retaking the phonics test will have the same questions as the Year 1 children and they will take it in the same week as those in Year 1.

What is my child is absent from school and misses the Phonics Screening Test?

If a child is absent during that week, the school can administer the check up until Friday 28 June 2013.  If the child does not return to school in time for this to happen, they will usually sit the test in Year 2.

What happens if a child takes the Year 1 phonics test in year 2 and fails it?

They do not need to take it in Year 3, but the school will be expected to maintain a programme of support for these children.

My child has a regional accent.  Will this be taken into account?

Yes.  The teacher testing the child will accept regional variations.

My child often self corrects when sounding out words.  Will they take the first answer given in the test?

No, they take the last answer, so self correcting is fine.  However, the last answer will be taken even if it is wrong, but an earlier answer was correct.

Can I see a sample test paper?

Yes one is available here.


I’ve also written a similar guide to the Key Stage 1 SATs if you are looking ahead to Year 2.


  1. Anne Wallwin says

    i asked L’s school if he was on target for this test in case we needed to do a little extra work with him. They said not to worry as he would not have any problems as they work on practicing each day. I don’t mind L being tested but it does nark me a bit if they spend most the year coaching the kids to pass the test so the school looks good. It is just another example of being given a target and killing themselves to hit it.

    • Erica Price says

      Yes H says they are practise this regularly. I get the impression that he finds it easy enough, but I do wonder if time is spent preparing for this rather than doing more interesting things. Same problem with the SATs really.
      Erica Price recently posted..School Reading SchemesMy Profile

  2. says

    Think the test is really silly. Not based on how children best learn to read. You need children to read for meaning and look at context to make sense of text. This kills reading. I have an B.Ed., and Dip Ed and Advanced Dip Ed and an M.A. in Education , particularly interested in language and reading so have a bit of knowledge in this field. Feel frustrated for children having to go through this farce.
    Glenda Gee recently posted..Mac n Veg Slices Hotted up a Bit.My Profile

    • Erica Price says

      It’s counter intuitive to deal with made up words. I wonder how many good readers fail the test. I’ll be interested to see how H gets on with it in June.
      Erica Price recently posted..Losing A Milk ToothMy Profile

  3. says

    The only reason for this is that phonics are easier to test than any other aspect of reading. Phonics are fine if children have specific difficulties e.g. poor visual memory but for ordinary children best just to read, help them enjoy books and a little bit of phonic work and they are fine. Terrible waste of time, effort, money and opportunity.
    Do you know my little grandaughter had her eyes tested and struggled on the bottom line because she thought it was another phonics test and she was trying to make it into a word. That says it all.

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