All you need to know about the Year 1 phonics screening check


What is the phonics screening check? 

With some exceptions, all pupils in Year 1 must take the phonics check in the week beginning the 13th June 2016. The check is designed to confirm whether pupils have learnt phonic decoding to the required standard. It will identify which pupils need additional help to support their decoding skills. The check consists of 40 words divided into two sections. Both sections have a mixture of real and pseudo (nonsense) words that a pupil reads aloud to a teacher.

Phonic decoding

In Year 1 children are taught to recognise sounds in words. They use this knowledge to break down words so that they can read them.  For example, the word ‘moon’ has three sounds and can be broken down into m-oo-n. This breaking down of words is called ‘decoding’.

Which sounds will be featured? 

The words in section 1 will have a variety of simple word structures. They will feature the following:

single letters (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q(u), r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z)
some consonant digraphs (where two consonants are together and make one sound)  (ch, ck, ff, ll, ng, sh, ss, th, zz)
frequent and consistent vowel digraphs (where two letters make one vowel sound)  (ar, ee, oi, oo,or)

The words in section 2 will have a variety of more complex word structures, including two syllable words, with some:

additional consonant digraphs (where two consonants are together and make one sound)  (ph, wh)
less frequent and consistent vowel digraphs, including split digraphs (a-e, ai, au, aw, ay, ea, e-e, er, ew, i-e, ie, ir, oa, o-e, ou, ow, oy, ue, u-e, ur)
trigraphs  (3 letters make one sound) (air, igh).

Why are pseudo (nonsense) words included? 

Pseudo words are useful in the assessment because they show whether a child is able to break down an unknown word in order to read it. When they are reading independently in a real life context they will come across words that they don’t immediately recognise. Therefore, is important that they have the skills to break down words in order to read them and the phonics screening score will show whether they currently have those skills.

What is the pass mark?

In 2015 the pass mark was 32/40. It has not yet been published what the pass mark for the 2016 test paper is. If your child does not reach the required mark they will be given extra support at school to improve their decoding skills and will retake the test in Year two. Parents will be informed of their child’s result.

How can I support my child? 

Sample materials are available on

Free phonic games are available on  Click on ‘Phase 5’

An Oxford Reading Tree phonics kit is available currently on amazon  which is good for preparation – search ‘My phonics kit’.

Book a 1:1 lesson with Rebecca at Surrey Dyslexia Support (see below)

Phonic booster sessions

During May half term and weekends in May/beginning June,  Rebecca (owner of Surrey Dyslexia Support and an experienced infant teacher) is offering 1:1 phonic booster sessions for Year 1 students. The sessions are 45 minutes long and involve

  1. A thorough phonics assessment where you be informed of exactly which sounds your child does and does not know.
  2. Phonic games played in the session to help your child to learn the key skills in a fun way.
  3. A pack of resources for you to keep and to enable you to reinforce learning at home.

Just one session can be booked or multiple sessions. Each session is £30. Please email Rebecca on for more details or to book.