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Phonics screening check for student understanding of letters and sounds

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The phonics screening check is a short assessment that tells teachers how year 1 students are progressing in phonics. Phonics is the relationship between letters and sounds. It is vital in learning to read.

What the phonics screening check involves

Classroom teachers ask year 1 students to read up to 40 real and made-up words aloud. This happens individually in a quiet room and takes 5 to 7 minutes.

The phonics screening check is done in term 3 and updated each year. This means that students are checked with a different set of words to those used in the previous year.

Teachers analyse the results and, if necessary, plan for any additional support students might need.

Supporting phonics and reading at home

Reading to your children frequently has a positive effect on how well they do at school. Reading a wide range of books adds to your child’s knowledge of the world and helps them develop a deeper understanding of words and language, particularly if you talk together about what you are reading.

Most children start school with some understanding of reading. Some can already read. Some children struggle with learning to read. It is important these children are quickly identified so teachers can plan for any specific support they may need. When this is done early, children have the best possible chance in life and learning.

Families can access a modified phonics check similar to the South Australian year 1 phonics screening check. The check includes real and made-up words. Reading the made-up words shows that children can use phonics skills rather than just their memory or guessing strategies.

If you undertake the phonics check for families at home, you should discuss the check and results with your classroom teacher.

Support from the department

Our department supports all government schools by providing:

The materials are also made available to South Australian Catholic and Independent schools.

2022 phonics screening check

The 2022 phonics screening check results are consistent with 2021. Gains made since 2018 have been maintained for all student cohorts.

For more information see the 2022 phonics screening check fact sheet (PDF 516 KB) .

Key data and findings from previous years

Trial evaluation

The UK phonics screening check was trialled in 56 public schools across South Australia in 2017. A total of 4,406 reception and year 1 students and 268 teachers were involved.

The purpose of the trial was to understand the usefulness of the check for school leaders and teachers with regards to their students' phonics development.

An independent evaluation of the trial (PDF 2MB) was conducted by the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders University. The feedback from principals and teachers was positive and students enjoyed the 1:1 time with their teacher. Based on the trial's success, the phonics screening check is now used across South Australia.

Phonics Help Desk

Phone: 8463 5866
Email: phonicshelpdesk [at] sa.gov.au