In Year 1, pupils must read 40 'decodable' words to pass the Phonics Screening Check. Some of these words are 'nonsense words', made up words that children will be taught in preparation for the test. If they do not pass, they must resit the test in Year 2.
The Year 1 Phonics Check does not sufficiently support teachers to help children learn to read, nor does it inspire joy for reading in pupils. It is a test designed solely for Government accountability purposes.
The check has contributed to the narrowing of the curriculum, in which opportunities for reading comprehension and reading for pleasure have been limited. Our members said,
Over focus on phonics takes away from other important elements of children becoming confident, engaged readers, such as having space to explore and develop their own responses and connections with stories, poems and information. There is less time to read to children, hear them tell their own stories and listen to them recite rhymes and poems – all strategies which greatly benefit reading.
Research from UCL reveals a narrow focus on synthetic phonics is less effective than a more balanced approach. It also has contributed to ability grouping in early years and Key Stage 1.