The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check was introduced in all English primary schools in 2012. Since then, there have been substantial improvements in Year 1 and 2 students’ decoding skills as measured by the Check, and promising signs of improvement in standardised reading assessments in later years.

After several years of sometimes vigorous debate and consistent evidence-based advocacy from researchers, educators, and parent groups, the Year 1 Phonics Check is beginning to be adopted around Australia.

  • It has been implemented in South Australian primary schools each year since 2018
  • More than 500 primary schools have joined a voluntary trial in NSW in August 2020
  • An online version has been provided to all schools by the federal government in August 2020

It should go without saying (but apparently still needs to be said) that phonics instruction is one element of an effective reading instruction program, albeit an essential one. Students also need comprehensive instruction in the language and meaning aspects of literacy. It should also be self-evident that, just like any other assessment, the stated benefits of the check derive from the judicious use of the data to inform improvements in teaching practices.

The message about the educational value of the Year 1 Phonics Check is reaching policy makers, schools, and the wider community. Below is a selection of articles and reports that provide accurate information about the Year 1 Phonics Check — what it is and isn’t, why it was developed, and what evidence exists of its benefits for students and teachers.

Research and evidence-based reports and articles on the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

Year 1 phonics screening check: Pilot 2011 technical report (UK Standards and Testing Agency, 2012)

Good and bad news on the phonics screen (Bishop, 2013)

Validity and sensitivity of the phonics screening check: Implications for practice (Duff, Mengoni, Bailey, & Snowling, 2015)

Phonics screening check evaluation: Final report for the UK Department for Education. (Walker, Sainsbury, Worth, Bamforth, & Betts, 2015)

Why we use the Phonics Screening Check in Australia (Smith, 2015)

Focus on phonics: Why Australia should adopt the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check (Buckingham, 2016)

Why Australia should trial the new phonics screening check (Snow, Castles, Wheldall & Coltheart, 2016)

Facts about the phonics screening check (Buckingham, 2017)

The story of an ugly ducking: AKA phonics check furphies (Snow, 2017)

Fact-checking Misty Adoniou on the phonics check (Ashman, 2017)

Why do we need a phonics test for six year olds? (Hammond, 2017)

National Year 1 literacy and numeracy assessment: Expert advisory panel advice to the Minister ((Buckingham, Nayton, Snow, Capp, Prince, & McNamara, 2017)

Evaluation of the trial of the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check in South Australian schools (Hordacre, Moretti, & Spoehr, 2017)

Phonics developments in England from 1998 to 2018 (Chew, 2018)

Phonics myth-buster 1: “The phonics tests will be too stressful!” (Dekker, 2018)

Crying foul in the phonics debate. The influence of vested interests (Dekker, 2019)

Performance of Australian children on the English Phonics Screening Check following systematic synthetic phonics instruction in the first two years of schooling (Wheldall, Bell, Wheldall, Madelaine, & Reynolds, 2019)

The importance of early phonics improvements for predicting later reading comprehension (Double, McGrane, Stiff & Hopfenbeck, 2019)

Misinformation about the Year 1 phonics check (Buckingham, 2019)

Phonics screening check and key stage 1 assessments: England 2019 (UK Standards and Testing Agency, 2019)

Why states and territories should follow South Australia’s lead and introduce the Year 1 Phonics Check: An update (Buckingham & Wheldall, 2020)

The grass is not greener on Jeffrey Bowers’ side of the fence: Systematic phonics belongs in evidence-based reading programs (Buckingham, 2020)

‘Myths and deception’, the Australian PSC: a response to Dr Paul Gardner (Nowers, 2020)

A national intervention in teaching phonics: A case study from England (Stainthorp, 2020)