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What is Phonics?

At St Stephen's we teach phonics daily using Letters and Sounds scheme throughout the EYFS and KS1. Phonics is a way of teaching children how to read quickly and skilfully. We teach children the letter name and sound and then begin to teach children how to blend sounds to read and segment to spell them.

Research shows that when phonics is taught in a structured way, starting with the easiest sounds and progressing through to more complex sounds, it is the most effective way of teaching children to read. It is particularly helpful for children aged 37.



Children are taught to read by breaking down words into separate sounds or ‘phonemes’. They are then taught how to blend these sounds together to read the whole word. Almost all children who receive good teaching of phonics will learn the skills they need to tackle new words. They can then go onto read any kind of text fluently, confidently and for enjoyment.


What is the phonics screening check?

The National phonics screening check is a statutory assessment that was introduced in 2012 to all Year 1 pupils and is a quick and easy check of your child’s phonics knowledge. All Year 1 pupils will take the phonics screening check in Summer Term 2019.


What is in the phonics screening check?

It contains of a list of 40 words and nonsense words. It will assess phonics skills and knowledge learnt throughout Reception and Year 1. Your child will read one-one with a teacher. It will be your child's current teacher or reception teacher so it is a familiar face. Your child will read up to four words per page and it will probably take around 10-15 minutes to complete. They will be asked to ‘sound out’ a word and blend the sounds together. The check is very similar to tasks the children will complete during phonics lessons in class.


What are Nonsense or Pseudo words and why are they included?

These are words that are phonetically decodable but not actual words with an associated meaning e.g. brip, snorb.

These words are included in the check specifically to assess whether your child can decode a word using phonic skills and not their memory. The pseudo words will be shown to your child with a picture of an alien. The children will be asked what the aliens name is by reading the word. This will make the check a bit more fun and provides the children with a context for the nonsense word. Crucially it does not provide any clues, so your child has to be able to decode it. Children generally find nonsense amusing so they will probably enjoy reading these words. Again, children will be taught how to decode nonsense words in their phonics lessons.


How will the results from the screening be used in school?

You will be informed of your childs progress in phonics and how he/she has done in the screening check, towards the end of the summer term. All children are individuals and develop at different stages. The screening check ensures that teachers understand which children need support with decoding.


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 support. Schools are expected to provide extra support and children will then be able to retake the assessment in Year 2.


Supporting your child at home

There are a number of things that parents can do to support phonics and early reading development:

  • Make time for your child to read their school book to you

  • With all books, encourage your child to ‘sound out’ unfamiliar words and then blend from left to right rather than looking at pictures to guess

  • Immerse your child in a love of reading by promoting

  • There are many phonic games for children to access on the computer (lead to an external side to which we have no control of content):