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Preparing your child for the phonics check


What is the phonics check?

Children in England will take a phonics-based assessment check at the end of Year 1 from June 2012. A pilot scheme involving about 200 schools began in June 2011.

Update on the screening check
Find out more about what the screening check will consist of, and why some parents and teachers are concerned about the inclusion of 'pseudo' words

What will the phonics check be like?

The process will be a simple 5-10 minute progress check to help identify children needing extra support. Teachers will run the check. It will include real and nonsense words to help ensure children have not merely memorised words. The words will be presented to children on a one-to-one basis.

Non-words could be presented with a picture prompt so that children are given a context for reading the non-words. For example, the teacher could explain that the non-word was the name of a type of imaginary creature, and then ask the child to name the creature drawn next to the letter sequence.

The check will include no more than 40 'words'. It will be divided into two sections:

  • The first section will include the easier letter sounds - single letter sounds such as 's' or 'a'
  • The second section will contain more difficult sounds - letter sounds made up of more than one letter such as 'ch' or 'air'

Will parents know the results?

Phonics The results will be given to parents but won't be published. However, the results will be used to generate national standards, which can be monitored over time.

Children who do not do well in the check will receive additional support so they can catch up with their peers. After receiving additional support from their school, children will have the opportunity to be reassessed at a later date.

Helping your child with phonics at home

Phonics flashcards

Evaluate what your child already knows. Using phonics flashcards, ask your child to identify each letter sound. Then you can practise the letter sounds that your child finds difficult or doesn’t yet know.

Alphabet puzzles

One way to do this is by using an alphabet floor puzzle. Each puzzle piece contains a letter and sometimes a picture of an item that begins with that letter. Point to each puzzle piece and ask your child to tell you the sound that the letter makes.

The hardest letters for children to learn are vowels, letters that have two sounds (eg C, G) and letters that don't sound like their names (eg Y, W, X).

Word games

Once your child is fairly confident with the letter sounds, you can try playing word games. Use alphabet fridge magnets to create simple words like 'cat'. Ask your child to make the word 'cat' into the word 'mat'.

After practising with word families, you can move on to more complicated changes like changing 'cat' to 'cap'. 

Decodable books

You could read decodable books with your child. These are books are designed to help child learn to read using phonics.

They contain words that are easily broken down into their component sounds.


For books to practise phonics at home, search 'Phonics Bug' in the Amazon Book Store.

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Last updated: over 3 years ago