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Phonics Screening Check fails a generation of able readers

In July 2012 UKLA undertook a research survey of KS1 schools and classes about the year 1 Phonics Screening Check. The results were collated and analysed by an independent researcher from Sheffield Hallam University.  494 responses were received. The survey asked a range of questions about the year 1 Phonics Screening Check and  included schools’ perceptions about the time commitment involved, pupil preparation undertaken by Year 1 teachers, whether the Phonics Screening Check helped to identify issues not already identified, and whether it was a reflection of children’s reading ability- and in particular more successful readers. Responses to the survey significantly indicated that teachers and headteachers felt that:
  • The Phonics Screening Check is not fit for purpose
  • The Phonics Screening Check impedes successful readers and has failed a cohort of the most fluent readers
  • The Phonics Screening Check misidentifies pupils who are beyond this stage of development as readers and favours less developed/emergent readers
  • The nonsense words were very confusing for children
  • The Phonics Screening Check undermines pupils’ confidence as readers
  • There are negative implications for relationships with parents
  • There are implications for school organisation.
The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that in teachers’ and Headteachers’ professional judgement, the Phonics Screening Check for six-year-olds has been costly, time-consuming and unnecessary. They feel that checks like this should not be imposed on all children, but used judiciously where a teacher thinks it would help to identify specific needs in a particular child. In a very large number of schools in the survey, the results of this check have labelled some successful and fluent readers as failures. This check does not differentiate at the top end. It does not identify high experience readers but it is potentially holding them back and undermining their assurance as readers. Professional judgement indicates that the Phonics Screening Check is not an appropriate measure for all children. UKLA strongly recommends that the Phonics Screening Check is not used in subsequent years for all children in year 1, but is implemented at teachers’ discretion to identify specific developmental needs in particular children for whom it is appropriate.

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