Learning to read opens up a whole new world. It’s about discovering the meaning and joy of words and language. The Year 1 phonics check is the opposite of this. It reduces this exciting time to a test, including confusing nonsense words, and brands five and six-year-olds who don’t pass as failures.

Most teachers now use ‘synthetic phonics’ to teach children to read. This means children learn letters or groups of letters as sounds and then blend these sounds together to make a word. During the phonics check they are then tested on real and nonsense words to demonstrate their understanding. If they don’t achieve the pass mark imposed by the government, they must re-take the test in Year 2.

Teachers and heads don’t want to spend their time preparing for the phonics check. They strongly disapprove of the inclusion of nonsense words and don’t believe the tests tell them anything new about the progress of their pupils. As schools are expected to increase the pass mark every year, many are now streaming and setting pupils for phonics as early as nursery.

The majority of parents also disagree with the test. They would rather enjoy reading books with their children, not practising recognising alien, nonsense words in preparation for a test.  The test isn’t fair for children with additional needs and those who do not have English as their first language. Researchers have noted that even confident young readers are confused by the nature of the test.  What the government describes as a ‘light-touch’ assessment actually causes discomfort and anxiety.

We believe learning to read is too important to put this pressure on five and six-year-olds and their teachers. If you agree, make your voice heard by joining our campaign.


27th September 2018

Heads, teachers and parents agree: the phonics check is nonsense

As the Department for Education announces the results of this year’s phonics screening check, new research reveals that heads, teachers and parents overwhelmingly oppose the controversial reading test for six-year-olds.


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28th September 2018

How does the phonics check work?

You might have heard of the phonics check but do you know what the phonics check actually looks like?


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