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Year 1 Phonics Screening Information

The phonics screening check is a short, light-touch assessment to confirm whether individual children have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify the children who need extra help so we can support them to improve their reading skills. They will then be able to retake the check so that schools can track children until they are able to decode.


This is undertaken in all schools in Year 1 and for children in Year 2 who did not meet the Year 1 standard. They are administered internally by teachers who the children will be familiar with.


The phonics screening check is a short and simple assessment of phonic decoding. It consists of a list of 40 words, half real words and half non-words, which Year 1 children read to a teacher. Administering the assessment usually takes between four and nine minutes per child.


Non-words (made up words - or alien words as we know them in school!) are included because they will be new to all children, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word. The non-words are presented alongside a picture of an imaginary creature, and children can be told the non-word is the name of that type of creature. This helps children to understand the non-word should not be matched to their existing vocabulary.

Examples of words include star, shelf.
Examples of non-words include dov, vead.


All children need to be able to identify sounds associated with different letters, and letter combinations, and then blend these sounds together to correctly say the word on the page. The same skill is needed whether the word is a real word or a non-word. The words gradually get harder through the check as the combinations of letters become more complicated. 


Children will not realise that they are being formally assessed. The check will be seen as part of their everyday phonics activities and not as a test.


Below you will find some further information and resources that can help with preparing your child for the phonics screening check. Please be aware that we also work towards this in school, not to prepare for the test, but to simply enable your child to read.