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The Phonics Screening Check

The phonics screening check is a short, simple test taken by Year 1 children in England each June to assess their reading ability. Parents can watch our short video to find out what happens during the check and why it's useful.


What is phonics?


When children are first learning to read, they need to know the letter sounds rather than the Alphabet names. This is because if you try to read a word using Alphabet names, it doesn’t work.

E.g. ‘cat’ If you say the alphabet names, C A T, it sounds like “see ay tee” and not sound like the word ‘cat’. We teach children to say the sounds “c- a –t” quickly and then blend them together to make ‘cat’. The children are taught a variety of sounds and then taught to blend to read them. The process which is used to teach them is called phonics.


How we teach it- Read Write Inc


We are a Read Write Inc. school. Our pupils learn to read and write effectively and quickly using the Read Write Inc. Phonics programme. We use this programme from Year R to Year 2 to support our children to read and write.


In Read Write Inc. Phonics pupils:

  • Decode letter-sound correspondences quickly and effortlessly, using their phonic knowledge and skills
  • Read common exception words on sight
  • Understand what they read
  • Read aloud with fluency and expression
  • Write confidently, with a strong focus on vocabulary and grammar
  • Spell quickly and easily by segmenting the sounds in words
  • Acquire good handwriting.



 In addition, we teach pupils to work effectively with a partner to explain and consolidate what they are learning. We group pupils homogeneously, according to their progress in reading in Year R and Year 1 rather than their writing. This is because it is known that pupils’ progress in writing will lag behind progress in reading, especially for those whose motor skills are less well developed.


In Year R the children start their learning by focusing on the alphabetic code. The pupils rapidly learn sounds and the letter or groups of letters they need to represent them. Simple mnemonics help them to grasp this quickly. This learning is consolidated daily. Pupils have frequent practice in reading high frequency words with irregular spellings – common exception words.


While our pupils are on the Read Write Inc. programme pupils read books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and the common exception words. This is so that, early on, they experience success and gain confidence that they are readers. Re-reading and discussing these books with the teacher supports their increasingly fluent decoding.


Alongside this, the teachers read a wide range of stories, poetry and non-fiction to pupils; they are soon able to read these texts for themselves. Embedding the alphabetic code early on means that pupils quickly learn to write simple words and sentences. We encourage them to compose each sentence aloud until they are confident to write independently. We make sure they write every day.


Pupils write at the level of their spelling knowledge. The quality of the vocabulary they use in their writing reflects the language they have heard in the books the teacher has read to them; they have also discussed what the words mean. Our aim is for pupils to complete the phonics programme as quickly as possible. The sooner they complete it, the sooner they will be able to choose books to read at their own interest and comprehension level.


When using the Read Write Inc to read the children will:

  •  learn 44 sounds and the corresponding letter/letter groups using simple picture prompts
  •  learn to read words using Fred Talk
  •  read lively stories featuring words they have learned to sound out
  •  show that they comprehend the stories by answering questions.


When using RWI to write the children will:

  •  learn to write the letters/letter groups which represent 44 sounds.
  •  learn to write words by saying the sounds in Fred Talk
  •  write simple sentences


Assessing and tracking progress

We assess all pupils following Read Write Inc. We use this data to assign them to either Read Write Inc. Phonics or Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language. This gives us a very good indication of how well they are making progress relative to their starting points. We do this for all pupils, whenever they join us, so we can track all of them effectively.


At the end of year one all children will take a Phonic Screening Test. This will assess the children’s understanding of the sounds they are taught and how they use them to read words. If they do not reach the expected level, they will retake it again in Year Two.


Once children have successfully completed the Read Write Inc. programme they then commence the Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language programme.


In Read Write Inc. Literacy and Language pupils will:

  • Develop a deep understanding of what they read: complete texts by leading authors are introduced using a three-step approach
  • Learn grammar in context allowing pupils to use it with understanding: grammar banks are provided to support teacher knowledge
  • Learn to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly to one another: they learn how to present and debate; to reason and justify their answers
  • Learn to write confidently by following our highly supportive three step approach, building upon the story or non-fiction text they have studied
  • Write every day.


As part of the children’s Read Write Inc. lessons we have introduced some new classroom management techniques.  These are silent signals when demonstrated by the teacher or teaching assistant the children respond to them in the correct way.  These silent signals used in lessons ensure quick, effective management within the classroom.  


Below are some links to help you help your child at home.

You can find lots of useful information on Read Write Inc. via the Ruth Miskin training website. On this site you will find a series of information and tutorial videos explaining the basics of Read Write Inc. Phonics. As your child is learning to read with this programme, these videos will help you support them at home. There are tutorials on how to pronounce ‘pure sounds’ which show the correct pronunciation of each sound and many more to support your child’s learning.


Oxford Owl

Oxford Owl is a website with lots of information and resources to help your child read. It also has over 200 free eBooks for your child to enjoy.





The Terminology



A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word It is generally accepted that most varieties of spoken English use about 44 phonemes.



A grapheme is a symbol of a phoneme. It is a letter or group of letters representing a sound.


Segmenting and blending

Segmenting consists of breaking words down into phonemes to spell. Blending consists of building words from phonemes to read. Both skills are important.



This is when two letters come together to make a phoneme. For example, /oa/ makes the sound in ‘boat’ and is also known as a vowel digraph. There are also consonant digraphs, for example, /sh/ and /ch/.



This is when three letters come together to make one phoneme, for example /igh/.


Split digraph

A digraph in which the two letters are not adjacent – e.g. make



VC, CVC, and CCVC are the respective abbreviations for vowel-consonant, consonantvowel-consonant, consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant, and are used to describe the order of graphemes in words (e.g. am (VC), Sam (CVC), slam (CCVC), or each (VC), beach (CVC), bleach (CCVC).