Williamson announces autumn 2021 phonics screening check

An autumn phonics screening check will take place again this year, the education secretary has announced.

Gavin Williamson told the Festival of Education this afternoon that as was the case in 2020, the check will be held in the autumn “so that any pupils who need support with phonics are spotted early”.

The check was cancelled this summer, along with all other primary tests, following the decision to close schools to most pupils again in January.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said asking schools to administer the phonics check in the autumn was a “completely unnecessary bureaucratic burden at a challenging time and for zero academic value”.

“This is the last thing schools need next term when they want to be able to focus on supporting those children who have missed out on schooling this year as a result of the pandemic.”

DfE planning for ‘full programme’ of primary tests in 2022

Williamson also confirmed today that the government continues to plan for the “a full programme of primary assessments in the 2021-22 academic year, including the introduction of the statutory reception baseline assessment and the multiplication tables check, and we will confirm full details in due course”.

phonics autumn
Gavin Williamson

He added that it was ministers’ intention “that exams and other formal assessments go ahead next year for GCSEs, A levels and vocational and technical qualifications”, Williamson said,

The government is “working with Ofqual and others to consider what we need to do to make sure grades are fair, even if there is further disruption ahead”, he added.

Williamson: ‘I back teachers on exam grades’

On exams, the education secretary also said he “completely reject[ed]” speculation that teacher assessment grades issued for GCSEs and A-levels this year would not be an “accurate reflection of students’ abilities”.

“I back teachers – they know their students’ capabilities and the quality of work they are able to produce. With thorough guidance and a robust quality assurance process, I know teachers have been doing their utmost to ensure that every student gets the grade they deserve.”

In a guide to the autumn phonics check, published today, the government confirmed the check was for pupils in year 2 in the 2021-22 academic year “who due to the cancellation of
the phonics screening check in June 2021 did not take the check in year 1”.

Year 2 pupils who do not meet the expected standard in the autumn check “will be expected to take the statutory check in June 2022, alongside year 1 pupils”.



Watch Gavin Williamson’s speech to the Festival


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