The Phonics Screening Check (PSC) was introduced in England in 2012 for children in Year 1. There have been criticisms in relation to its reliability and appropriateness as an assessment tool for early reading although supporters of the PSC see it as a valuable tool in securing progress in reading. The DfE funded evaluation (Walker et al, 2015 p.8) concluded however, that it “did not find any evidence of improvements in pupils’ literacy performance, or in progress, that could be clearly attributed to the introduction of the PSC”.
This article reports some of the findings from a doctoral study that sought to illuminate the voices of those most affected by the PSC: children in Year 1 and their teachers. The study used an illuminative evaluation methodology (Kushner, 2017) and focused on a range of schools in a large city, selected for their diversity in relation to attainment data (PSC and reading) and socio-economic status. The findings demonstrate the negative backwash from the assessment process which has influenced the way that phonics is taught and so raises some questions for teachers and policy makers about the approach to the teaching of early reading in the light of the PSC.