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Phonics screening test pass mark to be kept secret from teachers and schools

Schools will no longer be told the pass mark for the phonics test taken by six-year-olds after results rose sharply at the cut-off for the second year running. 

The Department for Education has told primary schools that in future the pass mark will only be revealed after test results are has been administered. Teachers mark the test for their own pupils

The phonics test, taken at the end of Year 1, sees each child reading a list of 40 words, half of which are non-words such as kigh, to their teacher. Both this year and last the pass mark has been 32.

This year 69 per cent of pupils reached the expected standard, compared to 58 per cent last year. Children who don’t pass the test have to take it again the following year.

The test has proved controversial, with unions saying the money would be better spent on providing phonics resources and training, than a statutory national test.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The systematic use of phonics is an important part of helping children learn to read, which is why primary schools up and down the country have been using it as part of their approach for years. 

“The phonics screening check, however, is widely seen by teachers as a tick-box exercise, imposed by the government. The check comes far too late to provide a useful diagnosis of need and it can hold brighter children back as they attempt to disassemble nonsense words purely to perform for the test.” 

A Department for Education Spokesman said: “Thanks to the phonics check 177,000 six-year-olds will this year get the extra reading help they need to catch up with their peers.

"We have been clear the check will not be used to judge schools — it has been introduced to help every child become a strong reader.

"We expect teachers to take professional responsibility for the accurate marking of the test so the right children can be helped.”

Next year the phonics test will be taken during the week beginning June 16 and the pass mark will be revealed on June 30.

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