HfL Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Project

    Published: 09 September 2018
    Aliens cartoon


    The HfL Year 1 Phonics Screening Check project is now entering its third year with 89 schools having taken part and 534 children benefiting from the project strategies. Each round of the project runs over 9 weeks with schools benefiting from three central training sessions and a half day in-school support.

    Over the last two years, patterns have emerged in the overwhelmingly positive response of the teachers to the project and their appreciation of their upskilled level of understanding of early reading. Patterns can also be seen in the raised attainment of vulnerable children, year on year.

    As HfL Teaching Learning Advisers, we have learnt a huge amount through delivering the project and working with such dedicated and reflective teachers. We have pinpointed the needs of pupils entering Year 1 just below ARE in reading and why they are in danger of not attaining the screening check score at the end of the year. We have also learnt what works well through targeted small group teaching and what hinders progress.

    If we unpick the teachers’ responses first, we noticed that a majority of them stated that on entry into Year 1 these vulnerable children were working below where they needed to be to access the Year 1 English curriculum. Sometimes these children had just enough phonic knowledge to go under the radar but this lack of understanding impacted on their acquisition of phase 5 alternative phonemes and graphemes which, if unchecked, would hinder their performance in the screening check. In order to target support for these children it was essential that running records were carried out to match each child to the correct scaled book band for both guided reading (approx. 90 - 94% accuracy) and home reading (95 - 100% accuracy and fluent). For many teachers this was a new experience that took time and practice but reaped great rewards. In turn, however it highlighted that some schools did not have enough book stock to meet the needs of their pupils so this led to an audit and rethink of provision. The NC states that children must be reading closely matched books that support their growing phonic knowledge and do not force the child into an over-reliance on pictures. Once the target children were matched to the correct books, the guided reading sequence was carefully structured to meet their needs (as identified during the running records).

    This rigorous reading assessment was a revelation for some teachers in that the children displayed behaviours during the running records that had not previously been noticed; e.g. one child started at the bottom of the page and read upwards. The teacher realised that when she heard the child read she always pointed to the first word so the child had acquired a learnt helplessness and floundered when this support was not given. It also highlighted that many children were lacking reading strategies and were not reading fluently enough to spot when meaning was lost. This running record training along with high quality tailored CPD enhanced the teachers’ understanding of early reading and how to best support their vulnerable children. This shared knowledge was then disseminated by the nominated school project lead so that it had a wider impact on all the adults who supported reading across KS1. One school said that ‘It inspired us to review our whole key stage reading practice. This has had a positive impact on every aspect of reading within KS1’.

    The patterns in attainment are highlighted below. I think that the data speaks for itself in that the project had a significant impact in these schools.


    Infographic for the project showing doubled progress, a reduction in the achievement gap between boys and girls, and a testimonial that states "I can read" from a Y1 child.


    The next two rounds of the project are scheduled to start in Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019 so if you would like to take part please express an interest by email:


    HfL Project Teaching and Learning Advisers: Ruth Goodman and Kirsten Snook.

    Contact details

    Latest blogs

    Receive our latest posts direct to your inbox...