Press release

Phonics reading check and key stage 1 results published

National, regional and local authority results for the year 1 phonics reading check and key stage 1 results are published today.

National, regional and local authority results for the year 1 phonics reading check and key stage 1 results are published today.

The results for the phonics reading check show that 58% of six-year-olds reached the expected standard (32 out of 40). Thanks to the check, teachers have identified over 235,000 pupils who will now receive additional reading support from the school.

The check is a short, light-touch assessment of the phonic skills of pupils at the end of year 1. It assesses their ability break down and blend words using systematic synthetic phonics, the internationally proven method of driving up reading standards, especially in children aged five to seven.

It was piloted in June 2011, involving around 9,000 children. Independent evaluation of the pilot, conducted by the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research (CEIR), found that:

  • 43% of pilot schools were able to identify pupils with reading problems of which they were not already aware.
  • 83% of teachers said the number of words was suitable; 80% said the type of vocabulary was suitable; and 74% thought the non-words used were suitable.
  • The experience of the check was positive for most pupils.
  • The check took on average between four and nine minutes to complete per pupil.

Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

The reading 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 develop a love of reading.

Today’s publication also shows that there has been a slight rise in the percentage of pupils reaching the expected level - level 2 - across all areas of the teacher-assessed key stage 1 subjects - reading, writing, speaking and listening, maths and science.

Percentage of pupils reaching level 2 or above
Subject 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Reading 84 84 84 84 85 85 87
Writing 81 80 80 81 81 81 83
Speaking and listening 87 87 87 87 87 87 88
Mathematics 90 90 90 89 89 90 91
Science 89 89 89 89 89 89 89

Commenting on the key stage 1 results, Elizabeth Truss added:

I congratulate pupils, families and teachers on their hard work and achievements. The government is committed to improving performance by raising expectations, giving new freedoms to schools and increasing teachers’ professional responsibility.

Notes to editors

  1. The phonic reading check and key stage 1 test results published today are available on the Department for Education’s website.

  2. 592,010 pupils in state-funded schools (including academies) took the reading check in June this year - 2% of the pupils were dis-applied.

  3. The reading check is a short informal assessment of a pupil’s ability to decode phonics:
    • They sit one-on-one with a teacher they know, and is asked to read 40 words aloud - 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words. The pseudo-words are important to include because they cannot be read by memory or vocabulary - children have to use their decoding skills so it is a fair and accurate way to assess ability to decode.
    • 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.
  4. Systematic synthetic phonics is the internationally proven method of driving up reading standards, especially in children aged five to seven. The Department for Education published an evidence note detailing some of the research supporting the use of phonics as the most effective method to teach children how to read. It includes the findings of a number of studies, including:
  • A seven-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, which 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, which 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.

  1. The reading check was piloted in about 300 schools in June 2011 - 229 of these came from a nationally representative sample. In total, 8,963 children participated in the pilot from schools in the representative sample.

  2. 582,500 pupils took the key stage 1 assessments this year.

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