Evaluation of the Phonics Screening Check: First Interim Report

Matthew Walker, Marian Sainsbury, Palak Mehta, Shelley Bartlett, Helen Betts

05 June 2013

Technical Appendices

NFER is currently undertaking an evaluation to identify and track the impacts of the phonics screening check. Commissioned by the Department for Education, this first interim report provides an overview of participating schools’ phonics teaching practices and the implementation and emerging impacts associated with the check. The report draws on data collected from case-study interviews with staff in 14 primary schools and baseline surveys of 844 literacy coordinators and 940 Year 1 teachers in schools. Further interim reports will be produced as the evaluation continues, culminating in a final report in Spring 2015.

Key Findings

  • Teachers were overwhelmingly positive about phonics as an approach to teaching reading, and its contribution towards early reading development. In the majority of schools, however, other strategies alongside phonics were also supported.
  • More than half (53 per cent) of teachers reported that they taught systematic synthetic phonics ‘first and fast’ (i.e. they used a systematic synthetic phonics programme as the prime approach to decoding print), although teachers’ responses regarding the use of other methods to teach children to decode words were not wholly consistent with this data.
  • A third of schools reported making changes to phonics teaching in anticipation of the check. These changes included: increased assessment of progress in phonics; increasing the time devoted to phonics teaching; and starting to use a phonics programme more systematically.
  • The majority of literacy coordinators (80 per cent) reported that the results would inform the identification of children experiencing difficulties with phonics while 61 per cent reported that the results would inform the design of specific teaching plans for children experiencing difficulties with phonics.
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