Nearly third of phonics 'failures' go on to reading success

Statistics link phonics success at age 6 with better reading scores at age 11 – but there is no guarantee

Books and mental health

Almost a third of children who failed the phonics check at age 5 or 6 – and failed the resit a year later – still went on to reach the expected standard in reading by the end of primary, new statistics show.

But those pupils who performed well in the phonics check, were far more likely to read well at the end of primary.

Children take the phonics check at the end of Year 1. It is a list of 40 words – half of which are nonsense words such as “quass”. The words are read aloud by the child and then marked by their teacher. To reach the standard, children must read 32 words correctly.

Those who do not pass can resit at the end of Year 2.

The official statistics published by the Department for Education today show that 30 per cent of the pupils who did not meet the expected standard in phonics by the end of Year 2 in 2014 went on to reach the expected standard in reading at the end of Year 6 this year, with 4 per cent achieving a high score. 

But of the children who reached the phonics standard at the end of Year 1 in 2014, 88 per cent went on to reach the expected standard in reading by the end of Year 6 in 2018, with 37 per cent getting a high score, while 11 per cent failed to reach the Year 6 standard. (Percentages are rounded and do not always add up to 100.)

Of those children who failed the phonics test in Year 1, but went on to pass the resit in Year 2, 62 per cent reached the reading standard at the end of Year 6 and 36 per cent failed to do so; 1 per cent were also working below the standard of the test – meaning they did not have to take it.

And of those children who did not reach the phonics standard by the end of Year 2, 30 per cent did go on to pass the reading test at age 11, but half failed to do so; 19 per cent were deemed to be working below the standard of the test.

The government also published revised statistics for 2017 today, which show the equivalent data for the previous year.

The statistics reveal that in 2017, 88 per cent of pupils who reached the phonics standard at the end of Year 1 reached the expected standard in reading at the end of Year 6.

Slightly more of pupils who failed the phonics check at the end of Year 1 or 2 went on to reach the reading standard in 2017 than did so in 2018 – with 64 per cent of pupils who failed the phonics test in Year 1, but passed in Year 2, going on to get the reading test in 2017 and 31 per cent of pupils who failed the phonics standard at the end of Year 2 doing so.

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