What is the Year 1 Phonics Check?

In Year 1 your child’s teacher is able to use the quick and easy Phonics Check to better understand the phonics knowledge of their students. The Check looks at how well your child can 'decode' written words. The teacher will listen to how the child sounds out the letter and letter groups and how they blend these sounds together from left to right to make words.

The Phonics Check helps your child's teacher and the school to confirm whether your child is making their expected progress in reading. Teachers and schools can then use this information to inform their teaching program.

How does the Phonics Check work?

  • Your child will sit with a teacher they know and be asked to read up to 40 words aloud.
  • These words are a mix of real words and made-up words (sometimes called 'pseudo words', 'non-words' or 'nonsense words').
  • Your child may have read some of the words before, while others, like the made-up words will be completely new.
  • The Phonics Check normally takes just a few minutes to complete and is carefully designed not to be stressful. There is no set time limit for it and if your child is struggling, the teacher will stop.

What words are in the Phonics Check?

The Phonics Check includes a mix of real words and non-words. The teacher will tell your child before the Phonics Check that there will be made-up words that they will not have seen before. Children might be familiar with this because many schools already use non-words when they teach phonics.

Non-words are important to include because words such as ‘vap' or ‘jound' are new to all children. Children cannot read the pseudo words by using their memory or vocabulary; they have to use their decoding skills. This is a fair way to assess their ability to decode.

After the Phonics Check

Your child's teacher can tell you about your child's progress in phonics and their results from the Phonics Check. If your child has found the check difficult, the teacher should also tell you what support has been put in place to help them improve. The check ensures that teachers understand which children need extra help with phonic decoding.

Remember that all children are individuals and develop at different rates.

You can find some great ideas for supporting your child to read through phonics in our resources to support reading at home.

Supporting the Phonics Check at home

Here is a list of words similar to the ones used in the school Phonics Check. You can practice these words at home with your child. To help you, here is a guide to how your child should pronounce the words. Make any comments or any questions you have on the pronunciation guide as your child reads the words. You can then discuss your observations with your child’s teacher.

Let your child know that some of the words are real and some are made-up words. The made-up words are the names of the friendly monsters pictured next to the made-up words.

Try to choose a time when your child is feeling happy and relaxed. It is important that your child feels good about their efforts in reading the words to you.

Your child’s teacher will explain the different letter sounds and letter–sound combinations your child has been learning in class. They will be able to tell you what you can expect your child to know and how you can help them improve their knowledge of letter sound relationships and reading at home. You might like to ask how you can support your child to take the next step in reading.