Year 1 phonics screening test explained

Everything you need to know about the phonics screening test in 2024.

After the half-term break, your child in Year 1 will participate in a screener, but rest assured, it won't feel much different for them. State schools in England will be carrying out assessments in phonics for Year 1 children. If you’re worried about your child sitting the Phonics Screening Test that’s completely normal but we’re here to put some of those fears to rest. 

Phonics Screening Test 2024

Teachers have been supporting your children throughout the year to make the most progress they can and these assessments are an opportunity to see what they can do independently.  

Tara Yarahmadi, Qualified teacher and Explore Learning Curriculum Developer has the following advice for families:  

“It is normal to have some worries around your child taking the Phonics Screening Test. Remember that teachers are assessing pupils daily and this test is simply a formalised extension of this. Often, children do not even realise they are taking a ‘test’ and will happily skip out of the door as it is a normal part of their classroom practice. The test will be conducted by their classroom teacher who they will have a strong relationship with: this will ensure every child feels supported and confident."

Phonics Screening Test pass mark

Following the tests you will be told how your child did but the school’s results will not be published. Scoring is based on a national standard. In previous years, to meet the standard, children needed to read 32 out of the 40 words correctly. 

However, this could be different this year and teachers are not told the ‘pass mark’ until the end of June. So you will likely find out how your child did in their end of term reports. 

Tara recommends to “Arrange a time to speak to your child’s teacher to discuss anything further- they will have a better overall picture of your child’s phonics progress. The phonics screener is not about ‘reaching the standard’ but checking that progress is being made- this will assist teachers to identify the next steps to support your child. Through my years of teaching, I have known many children who did not reach the National Standard in Year 1 but have gone on to be the most excellent readers with a love and passion for books!” 

If your child scores below the pass mark then they will be given extra phonics support and can re-take the Phonics Screening Check in Year 2.

Top tips for supporting children in the days before an assessment

Explore Learning’s Head of Education, Charlotte Gater, recommends building up your child’s confidence through positive messages. 

“Use phrases like ‘it’s a chance for you to show off what you know,’ ‘it’s to see where everyone can help you with any tricky areas in the future,’ or ‘answer the parts you can and the questions you can’t do yet your teachers help you with in the future.’ 

You can also try some simple relaxation techniques, especially if your child is experiencing anxiety about school. Breathing techniques can help to calm nerves. Encourage your child to slowly draw a figure of eight with their finger on the palm of their hand. Concentrate on breathing in on the top section and out on the bottom section.  

How can I help with phonics screening practice?

Phonics is a building block of reading and introduces rules to help children to decode words. As with many things in life, some children will grasp these concepts easily and others will find them tricky. 

The importance of reading stories

It can be tempting when thinking about supporting your child with phonics to do lots of decoding and reading of individual words similar to those they will be tested on. However, reading stories is much more powerful. Stories bring words to life and give them meaning, they give your child a purpose for wanting to read and find out more for themselves. A good activity is to read a story together and pick out some words as you go through for your child to try sounding out and blending themselves.  

Phonics screening games

There are lots of fun phonics games you can access from home. Board games are great for children at this age. Try Orchard Toys Match and Spell game perfect for letter recognition, phonetic word building and spelling. If your child enjoys games online then try the BBC phonics games. They help you focus on specific sounds and tricky words. 

For alien or pseudo words, write down some of the phonics sounds they are learning at the moment and mix them up. You could write letters or diagraphs (letters that blend together e.g. ch) on pieces of paper and muddle them up to make new alien words which you can all try reading aloud together.

Phonics tuition

At Explore Learning, we pride ourselves on delivering phonics tuition in a differentiated way. Meeting each child’s individual needs with engaging tools and activities, we support decoding, combining and blending letters so children can use letter sounds to identify and create different words with confidence. 

However, phonics mastery is just one small piece of a puzzle – one technique amongst many other strategies for developing English language skills. To find out more visit our dedicated learning centres or chat with our tutors online. 

To find out how Explore Learning can help your child prepare for the Phonics Screening Test and their school journey when not book a free trial?

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Questions about the Phonics Screening Test

When does the Phonics Screening Test take place in 2024?

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Test takes place in the week beginning 10th of June 2024. 

What is the Y1 Phonics Screening Test?

The Phonics Screening Test has been created by the Department of Education to gauge, on a national level, how well students are able to use phonics skills and to identify children who need extra phonics help.

What happens in a Phonics Screening Test?

Your child will have a list of 40 words to read one-on-one with their teacher. The words are a combination of real words and nonsense words often referred to as ‘alien’ words (we’ll explain more about these later).

The words are divided into two sections; one with 3 or 4 letter words and another with more complex phonic patterns of 5 or 6 letter words. The teacher will give your child a few words to practise first so they understand what they need to do and the assessment should last around five minutes. 

What are alien words?

Nonsense words are often referred to as alien words in the classroom. These are not words that we use in English. They are a collection of letters that will check your child’s understanding of letter sounds and phonic rules. In the Phonics Screening Test these words have a picture of an alien next to them so children can spot that it’s not a ‘real’ word.

Can I get Phonics Screening Check past papers?

Download the Phonics Screening Test paper from 2019, when the test was last administered, to give you a good idea of what your child will be doing.  

Does my child have to complete the Phonics Screening Test?

Yes this is an assessment required by the government so all children in Year 1 in England must take the test.

What if my child doesn’t pass the Phonics Screening Test?

If your child doesn’t pass the Phonics Screening Test they will be given additional support at school during year 2. This test is all about ensuring that children get the support when they need it. Most children progress from learning letter sounds in reception through to reading fluently in year 2. However, every child is unique and they might need to come at phonics in a different way.

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