A school leaders’ union has revealed it is “assessing the legal status” of the autumn year 2 phonics check in a bid to spare teachers “additional and unnecessary burden”.

In an update to its members, NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman revealed the union’s fight against the controversial return of the tests was far from over.

In July, the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) announced schools will be asked to administer phonics screening checks for year 2 pupils during the autumn term after they missed the June test due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tests were opposed by the NAHT who said it would add pressure on its members who are already dealing with the fallout of the pandemic.

It offered an alternative solution by where teacher assessments would be provided but the Department for Education has ploughed ahead with its original plans, with schools required to submit phonics results in December.

Whiteman said: “NAHT is currently assessing the legal status of these tests and the possible options available to the union as a whole and individual members.”

James Bowen, the union’s director of policy, added: “We know members are extremely frustrated about having to spend time administering these checks when they provide no useful information, so we’re looking into the statutory requirements on schools with regard to the year 2 check.”

A DfE spokesperson said:  “Pupils who may need support should not be overlooked as a result of missing their phonics check, and we know the majority of schools also undertake assessments to inform teaching, which is why we’re proposing checks are held this term.”

They added that their proposals “give schools flexibility on when in the second half of the autumn term they administer phonics assessments, so that teachers do not have to manage two year groups taking the assessment in June 2021”.