St Mary's Catholic Primary School

Live, Love, Believe

KS1 - Phonics

The Phonics Screen check


What is the phonics screening check?
The national phonics screening check was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils. It is a short, statutory assessment to ensure that children are making sufficient progress in the phonics skills to read words and are on track to become fluent readers who can enjoy reading for pleasure and for learning.

The check is not about passing or failing but checking appropriate progress is being made. If children do not reach the required standard, then we will be in touch to discuss plans and offer additional, tailored support to ensure that your child improves their reading skills. 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.


How is the check structured?
The check consists of a list of 40 words, half real words and half nonsense words; the nonsense words will be shown to your child with a picture of an alien. 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.


Is it stressful to test such young children?
The assessment will be age-appropriate, with children sitting with a teacher and reading one-to-one. It should be an enjoyable activity for children which will take no more than 10 minutes.


Does a teacher have to carry out the screening check?
Yes, it is important that a teacher carries out the check with the pupils in our school.


Why are nonsense words included in the screening check?
Nonsense words are an established assessment method and are included in many phonics programmes. They are included because they will be new to all pupils, so there won’t be a bias to those with a good vocabulary knowledge or visual memory of words. This is a test of a child’s ability to decode using phonics. Children who can read non-words should have the skills to decode almost any unfamiliar word.


How long does the check take?
Every child is different but in most cases the check should take approximately 10 minutes per child but there is no time limit.


How will the results from the phonics screening check be used?
We have to inform parents towards the end of the summer term in Year 1 of their child’s results. We will let you know in our end of year summary report how your child did and if there is anything that you need to do to help your child improve. If your child does not reach the required level, we will tell you what provision we are going to be making at the end of Year 1 and beginning of Year 2 to help this be addressed and also how you can support us in developing this key skill.


What happens if a child struggles with the screening check?
The screening check will identify children who have phonic decoding skills below the level expected for the end of Year 1 and who therefore need extra help. We will then provide extra help at the end of Year 1 and in Year 2 and children will then be able to re-take the assessment in Year 2.

If your child requires extra help then we will inform you of this. As parents you will continue to be kept well informed of your child’s progress in all aspects of reading including phonic development in Year 2. This will be specifically commented on during Parental Consultation meetings


The table below shows the Phonics screen results for 2018. The national average for 2018 (Y1) was 81%.





Year 1

Achieved (%)

Year 2

Achieved (%)

All pupils


25 (86)


5 (71)



13 (93)


3 (100)



12 (80)


2 (50)



2 (67)





23 (88)


5 (83)








25 (89)


5 (83)


Previous Phonic Screening results for St Mary's are: 

2015 - 60%

2016 – 70%

2017 - 70%