Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Year 1 Phonics Screening & "My Phonics Kit"

If like me, you have got a child in Year 1, you may well be aware that this year our little six year olds will be preparing to take the first ever phonics check after it being trialled in some schools last year.

The Year 1 phonics screening check is a short assessment to confirm whether individuals have learnt phonic decoding to an appropriate standard and will help to identify the children who need extra help so that they are given support by their school.

There is some controversy with regard to this screening check with many people believing it's not necessary and schools should already know how the children are developing. I tend to agree but also think that there's no real harm in an informal test with the class teacher, especially if may help pick up a few children that might be slipping through the net. I recently debated this at length with Tasha from WAHM BAM! on both Twitter and her blog, and you can read her views on it here

One of my biggest concerns regarding the phonics screen was that during the trial only 32% of children reached the expected level. The government, in their own words, "make no apology for being ambitious". I fear this level of expectation could be damaging, not just to the children but also to the teaching staff and the schools. The test in itself shouldn't be too stressful for the children, as it should be conducted in the familiar learning environment they are used to with their their own teacher. At ages 5 and 6, I would hazard a guess that they won't even notice they are being tested.

Our school does a lot of work on learning phonics with the children and expect parents to back this learning up at home. I'm therefore pretty confident that my 6 year old won't struggle with the test, however whether my reception-age child will fare so well next year, would be anyones guess! 

With this is mind I was happy to receive a copy of "My Phonics Kit" from The Oxford University Press featuring those much-loved characters that I'm sure you're familiar with if you've got a school-age child, Biff, Chip and Kipper!
The kit has been created by educational experts and aims to support parents in helping their children with reading activities at home. The pack includes a CD-ROM with eBooks and phonics support; reward chart, sticker sheet; tips for parents and 3 phonics workbooks.

The workbooks in the kit are designed in a fun way that will appeal to young children. They are easy to follow and the tasks vary in difficulty. One of the things I especially like about the kit was that it introduced the idea of reading nonsensical words. (or "alien" as the kit calls them).  I know that this is a big part of the check but I'm not actually sure how much emphasis is put on these at school so it's a good way for me to see how well she can cope with using her phonics skills and reading words that don't actually say or mean anything!

I really liked the kit and I shall use it with both of my children in the run-up to the screening checks.

"My Phonics Kit" is widely available with an RRP of £9.99.


  1. The phonics kit looks great. My son is in year R and had an assessment at the end of last half term, possibly just an internal thing though. It seems worrying that only 32% of children pass the Year 1 test!

  2. Thanks for the mention. I think the kit is brilliant, and Rosemary really enjoys using it. I think it's useful even without the looming of the phonics check. Rosemary did struggle more with the alien words, but with a bit of practice she's getting used to them (how useful that is, except for the test, I'm not entirely sure).

    Yesterday, I was telling some of the children in my Spanish Club how, once you learn how to pronounce each letter you'll always be able to spell and read Spanish (with a bit of extra effort for correct accent placement). They were quite astonished (most of them are Year 1 and Year 2, so very close to having to learn all those different graphemes). English is a funny and complicated language to learn!

  3. Thanks for this post, really useful. My son is in reception and a very competent reader, but I am aware that whilst he is perfectly capable with phonics, he prefers to read by recognising keywords. Consequently I am not sure how he will get on with the 'alien' words. Certainly food for thought, I think I may be investing!

  4. If you are using this kit are you then not teaching to the test as opposed to testing the childs phonic knowledge


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