The Phonics Screening Check Autumn 2020

Pupils in Year 2 will shortly be taking the Phonics Screening Check. This blog reminds schools of the process for administering the check and provides suggestions for teaching to ensure pupils are well prepared for it.


Owing to the closure of schools last term, all pupils currently in Year 2, who would have completed the phonics screening check in June 2020, must now take it during the second half of the current term. The check can be taken at any time during this period. Schools won’t receive a new test but must use the paper from one of the previous three years. Leaders will need to consider the best time, within the given window, for their pupils to sit the check. Taking it early in the term will mean that teaching and learning can then focus on the Year 2 curriculum but it is possible that some pupils won’t have covered all of the likely content. Leaving it until the end of term may result in more pupils reaching the benchmark but could delay the introduction of the Year 2 curriculum resulting in a rush to complete this by the end of the school year – and some very weary pupils completing the check!

Preparing pupils for the check

Here are some suggestions for helping pupils prepare to take the check:

  • Ensure that during every phonics lesson time is devoted to blending words for reading.
  • Consider introducing an additional five minute session at a different time of day with a focus purely on reading words. Set a daily challenge – how many words can we read today? Can we beat our total from yesterday?
  • Expose all Y2 pupils to the graphemes they may meet in the check.
  • Encourage pupils to look carefully across the word from left to right sounding it out if they need to before they read it – this is particularly important for able pupils who may be inclined to rush through the check and not look carefully at the pseudo-words.
  • Use games and activities which include pseudo-words but don’t spend time considering whether they are real words or not – they are told this in the test. The aim is purely to give them practice in decoding unfamiliar words.
  • When pupils sound out a word ensure they always blend it.

Administering the check

School leaders and practitioners administering the check need to ensure they are familiar with the Standards and Testing Agency statutory guidance published last month. This details who should and shouldn’t take the check, when it must be administered and instructions for administering the check.

The administration instructions are the same as in previous years and it is important for schools to ensure that, despite the flexibility over which paper to use and when to administer the check, the integrity of the assessment process is maintained throughout with careful adherence to the given procedure. Head teachers must ensure that those administering the check have received training.

Next steps

Once the papers have been marked it is important to consider the next steps, particularly for those pupils who failed to reach the benchmark. These pupils will need to take the check again in June 2021.

With reading such an important key to accessing the curriculum and the current focus on early reading and phonics in the Ofsted inspection framework, it is essential that every effort is made to enable these pupils to get back on track as soon as possible.

Visit Juniper’s CPD Site and search for ‘Phonics’ to see our range of online phonics training including Preparing for and Administering the Phonics Screening Check to Y2 pupils Autumn 2020. Alternatively contact to find out how we can support you in the teaching of phonics.