Press release

Phonics check and key stage 1 results

National, regional and local authority results for the phonics reading check and key stage 1 results have been published.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The statistics show that in this year’s phonics check:

  • almost 177,000 6-year-olds were identified as being below the expected level - they will now receive extra help from their teachers so that they catch up with their peers and become strong readers
  • 69% of 6-year-olds (almost 423,000 pupils) reached the expected level (32 out of 40) - last year 58% of children achieved the expected level
  • the government introduced the phonics check for 6-year-olds after figures showed 1 in 11 children left primary school in 2010 with a reading age no better than that of a 7-year-old

Children who do not reach the threshold in the light-touch check are given extra reading help by their teachers so they catch up early in their school career, before it is too late.

Phonics is internationally proven as the most effective method to teach children how to read, with a range of studies, including from the USA and Australia, supporting its use (see notes to editors).

The check has increased schools’ focus on phonics. Over the last 2 years 13,400 schools have taken advantage of government funding to buy high-quality synthetic phonics products or training so they can improve their teaching.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

We are committed to improving children’s reading.

The phonics check helps teachers identify those pupils who need extra help in learning to read.

Many thousands of children will now receive the extra support they need to catch up with their peers and develop a love of reading.

Teacher assessment figures for reading, writing, speaking and listening, maths, and science at the end of key stage 1 are also published today.

They show that from last year the proportion of 7-year-olds reaching the expected level (level 2) rose 1 percentage point in reading to 89%, 2 points in writing to 85%, 1 point in speaking and listening to 89%, and 1 point in science to 90%. The result for maths was the same as last year, 91%.

Notes for editors

  • Download the results published today.
  • The phonics check is a short, light-touch assessment of the phonic skills of pupils at the end of year 1. It assesses their ability to break down and blend words using systematic synthetic phonics, the internationally proven method of driving up reading standards, especially in children aged 5 to 7.
  • A 7 year study in Clackmannanshire, Scotland, of the teaching of synthetic phonics to 300 children found they made more progress in reading and spelling than other children their age.
  • a 2005 Australian report, Teaching Reading, said:

The incontrovertible finding from the extensive body of local and international evidence-based literacy research is that for children during the early years of schooling (and subsequently if needed) to be able to link their knowledge of spoken language to their knowledge of written language, they must first master the alphabetic code - the system of grapheme-phoneme correspondences that link written words to their pronunciations. Because these are both foundational and essential skills for the development of competence in reading, writing and spelling, they must be taught explicitly, systematically, early and well.

  • The US National Reading Panel report of 2006, said:

Systematic synthetic phonics instruction had a positive and significant effect on disabled readers’ reading skills. These children improved substantially in their ability to read words and showed significant, albeit small, gains in their ability to process text as a result of systematic synthetic phonics instruction. This type of phonics instruction benefits both students with learning disabilities and low-achieving students who are not disabled. Moreover, systematic synthetic phonics instruction was significantly more effective in improving low socio-economic status (SES) children’s alphabetic knowledge and word reading skills than instructional approaches that were less focused on these initial reading skills… Across all grade levels, systematic phonics instruction improved the ability of good readers to spell.

  • Download the evidence report.
  • In the phonics check:
    • children sit one-on-one with a teacher they know, and are asked to read 40 words aloud - the 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words
    • the check normally takes a few minutes to complete. There is no time limit. If a child is struggling, the teacher can stop the check early. The check is designed not to be stressful for children
    • pupils who do not meet the expected standard on the check should receive extra help from their schools, so they can catch up with their peers
  • 612,660 pupils in state schools were eligible to take the phonics reading check in June this year. Of those 12,725 pupils were either absent on the day the check was carried out (2,089 pupils) or disapplied (10,636 pupils) - ie they did not take the phonics screening check due to being considered as working below the level
  • 595,487 pupils took the key stage 1 assessments this year

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Published 3 October 2013