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What is a Phonics Screening Check?

Written by: Kokotree

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what is a phonics screening check

As a parent, it’s only natural to want the best for your child when it comes to their education. One important aspect of a strong foundation in reading is developing phonics skills, which include decoding, blending, and segmenting sounds in words. In this blog post, we will discuss the Phonics Screening Check – an assessment used to evaluate your child’s phonics abilities and identify if they may need additional support. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll gain valuable insight into your child’s progress and be better equipped to help them succeed.

What is a Phonics Screening Check?

A Phonics Screening Check is an assessment tool designed to measure a child’s ability to recognize and use phonics skills, such as decoding, blending, and segmenting sounds in words. This check assists educators and parents in identifying learners who may need additional support in developing their phonics skills, thus ensuring they build a strong foundation in reading.

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Understanding the Importance of Phonics

Phonics is a crucial element in teaching children to read and write, as it focuses on the relationship between letters and their corresponding sounds. Developing strong phonics skills allows children to decode words, a skill necessary to becoming a fluent reader.

Components of a Phonics Screening Check

The Phonics Screening Check aims to assess a child’s phonics abilities in the following key areas:


Decoding involves sounding out individual letters or letter combinations in a word and understanding the meaning behind the word as a whole. This helps children develop their reading comprehension skills.


Blending is the ability to combine individual sounds together to form words. For example, when given the sounds “c”, “a”, and “t”, a child should be able to blend them together to read the word “cat”.


Segmenting involves breaking words down into individual sounds. For instance, the word “dog” can be segmented into the sounds “d”, “o”, and “g”. Learning to segment words assists children in spelling and writing.

How to Help Your Child Prepare for a Phonics Screening Check

There are many ways you can support your child in developing their phonics skills in preparation for a Phonics Screening Check:

  • Practice reading and writing simple words with your child.
  • Play rhyming games to help your child become more familiar with the sounds of words.
  • Work on letter sounds, both individually and in combination.
  • Discuss and apply phonics skills in everyday situations.
  • Consider using a learning app for kids to make practicing phonics skills more fun and engaging.

What Happens If Your Child Needs Additional Phonics Support

If your child’s Phonics Screening Check reveals that they need extra help with their phonics skills, don’t worry! With the right support from both educators and parents, most children can quickly improve their abilities. This may include:

  • Working with your child’s educator to determine specific areas where your child needs help.
  • Using targeted learning apps or resources to focus on the phonics skills your child needs to develop.
  • Reinforcing phonics skills during daily reading and writing activities.
  • Regularly monitoring your child’s progress to ensure they are on track toward achieving their phonics goals.

Understanding the Structure of a Phonics Screening Check

When your child takes a Phonics Screening Check, they’ll typically encounter a variety of tasks designed to evaluate their mastery of phonics skills. These tasks usually involve reading a mix of real words and pseudo words, also known as “alien words,” which helps to eliminate any dependence on memorization.

Pseudo words are created by blending common phonemes so that they resemble real words while not being identified as any existing words. This approach ensures that children are truly using their phonics skills to decode, blend, and segment, rather than simply relying on their memory of familiar words.

Understanding and Using the Results of a Phonics Screening Check

Once your child has completed a Phonics Screening Check, their results will help inform you and their educator about their proficiency in phonics. It’s important to remember that this assessment is simply a snapshot of your child’s current performance in phonics; it should not be viewed as an end-all, be-all judgment of their overall reading abilities.

If the check indicates that your child is meeting or exceeding the benchmark for phonics, you can continue to support their learning journey by providing them with appropriate reading materials and engaging in ongoing skill-building activities.

Should the results suggest that your child needs additional support, work together with their educator to develop a tailored plan to help them improve in the areas where they are facing challenges. This plan may involve using various strategies and resources, including learning apps for kids that focus on specific aspects of phonics.

Building a Strong Foundation in Reading

Ultimately, the goal of a Phonics Screening Check is to ensure that your child is on track to becoming a confident and fluent reader through the development of essential phonics skills. When you and your child’s educator collaborate to support their growth in these areas, you create an environment in which your child can thrive and enjoy the lifelong gift of reading.

Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that parents may have numerous questions about Phonics Screening Checks and how they relate to their child’s reading journey. In this FAQ section, we’ve compiled 13 common questions and answers to help you gain a better understanding of the topic.

1. When should a child undergo a Phonics Screening Check?

Typically, a Phonics Screening Check is administered at the end of a child’s first or second year of school, when they are around 5 or 6 years old. However, this may vary depending on the curriculum and school policy.

2. How often is a Phonics Screening Check carried out?

Phonics Screening Checks are generally carried out once per year, although follow-up assessments may be conducted to track a child’s progress, especially if they initially performed below the benchmark.

3. How long does a Phonics Screening Check take?

A Phonics Screening Check usually takes between 5 to 10 minutes per child, depending on their reading proficiency and familiarity with the assessment format.

4. Are Phonics Screening Checks mandatory?

Whether a Phonics Screening Check is mandatory depends on the education regulations in your region or country, as well as the specific policies followed by your child’s school. Ask your child’s teacher if you’re unsure if the checks are compulsory for your child.

5. How are Phonics Screening Checks scored?

The Phonics Screening Check is scored based on the number of correctly read words out of a predetermined total (e.g., 40 words). The benchmark score for proficiency varies by curriculum and may be adjusted based on the performance of all children taking the test in a given year.

6. Can my child fail a Phonics Screening Check?

It’s important to remember that a Phonics Screening Check is designed to assess your child’s current proficiency in phonics, not to label them as a “pass” or “fail”. If your child falls below the expected benchmark, it simply means they might need additional support to improve their phonics skills.

7. Will my child’s Phonics Screening Check results affect their school placement or future opportunities?

No, the results of a Phonics Screening Check are not used to determine your child’s school placement or impact their future opportunities. The main purpose of the assessment is to identify areas where your child may need additional support in order to strengthen their phonics skills.

8. Can I request a Phonics Screening Check for my child?

Yes, if you believe that a Phonics Screening Check could be beneficial for your child, you can discuss this option with their teacher or school administrator. They will be able to guide you on the appropriate steps and resources to help assess your child’s phonics skills.

9. What is a pseudo word, and why are they included in Phonics Screening Checks?

A pseudo word, or “alien word”, is a word which resembles a real word but has no meaning. These words are included in Phonics Screening Checks to ensure children are using their phonics skills to decode, blend, and segment, rather than relying on memory of familiar words.

10. What can I do to help my child improve their phonics skills?

You can support your child’s phonics journey by practicing reading and writing simple words, playing rhyming games, working on letter sounds, discussing phonics in everyday situations, and using learning apps for kids that focus on phonics skills.

11. How can I help my child prepare for a Phonics Screening Check?

To help your child prepare for a Phonics Screening Check, ensure they are familiar with the process and practice decoding, blending, and segmenting skills. Reading unfamiliar words and pseudo words can also help improve their phonics abilities and build confidence for the assessment.

12. Should I be worried if my child struggles with phonics?

Every child learns at their own pace, and it’s not uncommon for a child to struggle with phonics at some point. The key is to identify the areas where your child needs support and work together with their teacher to provide targeted, appropriate resources and practice opportunities.

13. How do I know if my child’s phonics skills are improving?

Regular communication with your child’s teacher is essential for monitoring their progress. Additionally, you can observe your child’s reading and writing abilities, as well as their confidence in decoding, blending, and segmenting sounds in words, to get a sense of their phonics skill development.

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