2016 Key stage 1: assessment and reporting arrangements (ARA)

Section 7: Phonics screening check

A summary of key dates, participation details and administration guidance, including monitoring and reporting

7 Phonics screening check

The phonics screening check is designed to confirm whether pupils have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard. It will identify pupils who need extra help to improve their decoding skills.

The check consists of 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words that a pupil reads aloud to the teacher. Teachers can use the sample materials to familiarise themselves with the check.

Teachers can also look at materials from previous years.

7.1 Key dates

The check must be taken during the week commencing 13 June. A pupil may only take the check the following week if they were absent during check week.

If a pupil doesn’t take the check during this period and returns to school after Friday 24 June they must be recorded as absent.

March Phonics screening check administration guidance published for the 2016 administration period.
Friday 6 May Deadline for ordering braille versions of the materials.
Monday 6 June to Friday 10 June Schools receive phonics screening check materials.
w/c 13 June Schools administer the phonics screening check.
w/c 20 June Timetable variation week for pupils who were absent during check week.
Monday 27 June Phonics screening check threshold published on GOV.UK.
Friday 1 July Deadline for schools to submit the headteacher’s declaration forms for the KS1 tests and phonics screening check on NCA tools.
By the end of the summer term (or sixth term) Schools and academies submit their phonics screening check results to their LA.Schools report pupils’ phonics screening check results to parents.
End of July LAs submit phonics screening check results to the DfE.

7.2 Participation in the check

Participation in the check depends on the type of school. Which types of schools are required to participate in the check are detailed in section 11.

Pupils that should take the check

With some exceptions (see below), all pupils who have reached the end of year 1 must take the check. This includes pupils registered at maintained nursery schools who will reach the age of 6 before the end of the school year, the equivalent age to those pupils in year 1 at primary and infant schools.

Unless they fit the exceptions (below), pupils in year 2 must also take the check if they:

  • didn’t meet the required standard in year 1
  • haven’t taken it before

Schools don’t need to register pupils for the check.

Pupils that shouldn’t take the check

Pupils shouldn’t take the check if they:

  • haven’t shown any understanding of grapheme-phoneme correspondences
  • have recently moved to the country and are unable to understand letters and sounds in English
  • use British sign language or other sign-supported communication, eg communication boards, to spell out individual letters
  • are mute or selectively mute

If a pupil didn’t take the check in year 1 or year 2, or if they still did not meet the standard of the check in year 2, they don’t need to be considered for the check in future years. However, these pupils must continue to receive support in phonics.

Decisions on participation in the check

Headteachers should decide whether it is appropriate for each of their pupils to take the check or not. The headteacher’s decision regarding participation is final.

Schools should explain their decision to the pupil’s parents so that they understand why their child is or is not being assessed. If appropriate, they should provide the parents with documentary evidence to support their decision. Where the decision has been made not to administer the check to a child, schools should also explain how they are helping the child learn to decode using phonics.

7.3 Check materials

Schools don’t need to order standard materials for the check. Materials are sent to schools based on the year 1 autumn school census data.

Braille materials must be ordered by Friday 6 May via our modified test helpline on 0300 303 3019. To comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, schools mustn’t request materials by email.

Schools will receive their check materials, including any braille orders, in the week commencing Monday 6 June.

Materials are delivered to school addresses taken from the EduBase website. Schools must make sure their details are up to date by logging in to EduBase via Secure Access. Further information on updating establishment’s records is provided on the Edubase website.

Additional materials

Schools will be able to download materials from the ‘Phonics screening check’ section of the NCA tools website from Monday 13 June. This includes the mark sheet and modified versions of the check, excluding braille .

7.4 Security of check materials

Headteachers are responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the check is maintained so that no pupil has an unfair advantage over another.

Headteachers must keep their check materials secure and treat them as confidential from the point the school receives them until Friday 24 June. Advice on keeping your check materials secure will be published during the assessment cycle.

Check packs mustn’t be opened before Monday 13 June. They must only be opened when the check is going to be administered.

Teachers mustn’t discuss the content of the check with anyone or use question-specific information to prepare pupils for the check. This helps to maintain the integrity of the check. In particular, teachers mustn’t discuss specific content which could compromise the check on social media or publish it in blogs.

After the check has been administered, schools must make sure the materials are stored securely until Friday 24 June.

A breach of the security of the check materials could lead to a maladministration investigation at the school.

7.5 Administration

Pupils must only attempt the check once during the check window.

The check must be administered in accordance with the STA’s check administration guidance.

Headteachers must make sure the guidance is read, followed and understood by everyone involved in administering and scoring the check in order to avoid allegations of maladministration.

The online check administration guidance will be published for the 2016 check period in March.

Phonics check administrators

The check must be administered on a one-to-one basis and should be administered by a teacher who’s known to the pupil. The role of check administrator requires a teacher’s professional judgement about which responses are correct.

Check administrators must administer the check according to the published guidance in order to avoid allegations of maladministration.

The check should not be administered by a:

  • teaching assistant
  • higher level teaching assistant

The check must not be administered by a relative or parent of the pupil taking the check.

7.6 Monitoring

Monitoring visitors, from either the LAs or STA, will make unannounced visits to schools that are participating in the check. They will check if the school is following the published procedures on:

  • keeping the check materials secure
  • administering and scoring the check

If schools receive a monitoring visit they must allow visitors to:

  • see all materials and any relevant delivery notes
  • observe any checks being administered
  • see copies of correspondence and other documents sent to and received from their LA or STA about the administration of the check

STA will carry out a full investigation if a monitoring visitor reports:

  • administrative irregularities
  • potential maladministration

These investigations are used to make decisions on the accuracy or correctness of pupils’ results.

Schools should refer to the guidance on monitoring visits for further information. This will be revised in April 2016.

Maintained schools

LAs have a statutory duty to make monitoring visits to at least 10% of maintained schools in their authority, including any academy that has chosen to be monitored by the LA, before, during and after the check period.


Academies should have arrangements for monitoring of the KS1 national curriculum assessments, with their chosen LA, in place and have informed STA by the end of the autumn term.

Academies must choose which LA is responsible for monitoring the phonics screening check. This can be an academy’s geographical LA or another LA.

Academies must inform STA which LA they have chosen to monitor their KS1 national curriculum assessments by the end of the autumn term.

If a school became an academy after the 2015 autumn term they will be part of their geographical LA’s arrangements.

7.7 Maladministration

The term ‘maladministration’ refers to any act that:

  • affects the integrity, security or confidentiality of the phonics screening check
  • could lead to results that don’t reflect pupils’ unaided work

A school could be subject to investigations of maladministration if it doesn’t comply with:

Maladministration can lead to changes to, or annulment of, results for a whole cohort, groups of pupils or individual pupils.

Schools should report any issue with the administration of the check and/or any allegations of maladministration they receive by calling the national curriculum assessments helpline on 0300 303 3013.

STA has a statutory duty to investigate any matter brought to its attention relating to the accuracy or correctness of any pupil’s check results. STA’s maladministration team works closely with LAs to investigate any allegations of maladministration. The Maladministration investigation procedures explain how STA do this.

7.8 Reporting phonics screening check results

The threshold mark will be published on Monday 27 June on GOV.UK.

Schools and LAs do not need to wait until the threshold mark is published before submitting their data.

Reporting to local authorities

Schools must report phonics screening check scores for their pupils to their LA.

LAs must submit check data to the DfE between Monday 13 June and Friday 29 July. Data received by the DfE after 29 July will not be included in the provisional statistics or initial release of RAISEonline data.

Guidance on how to submit phonics check data will be provided:

Schools should contact their LA directly if they have any queries.

Reporting to parents

By the end of the summer term headteachers should report:

  • each pupil’s phonics screening check score
  • an outcome if a pupil has left the school, is absent, did not participate in the check or if the result is affected by maladministration

For more detail about what should be reported to parents see section 9 of this guidance document.

How results will be used by DfE and Ofsted

The DfE won’t publish school-level results for the phonics screening check in performance tables. It will use national results to track standards over time.

Ofsted will have access to school-level results for the check via the RAISEonline website for use in inspections. They will use the check results alongside other information about a school’s teaching when considering a school’s performance.

Schools will have access to:

National and LA check results will be published in autumn 2016.