Voice Community Official Response: Consultation on legislative amendments relating to the 2021 autumn phonics screening check (updated)

Voice Community response to Standards and Testing Agency consultation (June 2021) and STA's reply (August 2021) 

Voice Community Official Response: Consultation on legislative amendments relating to the 2021 autumn phonics screening check 

Background: On 6 January the Secretary of State for Education announced that, as a consequence of the move to restricted attendance in schools, all statutory National Curriculum assessments due to take place in primary schools in England in summer 2021 would be cancelled. This included the summer phonics screening check (PSC) for year 1 and eligible year 2 pupils. On 16 June, the Department for Education Standards and Testing Agency Sanctuary Buildings Great Smith Street London SW1P 3BTSecretary of State announced that a second statutory autumn PSC exercise will take place in autumn 2021, to ensure that pupils who require further support in phonics are identified, and to manage the workload burdens on schools who would otherwise have to administer the check to two cohorts in summer 2022. This change will require schools to:

  • administer an existing past PSC test paper (available on gov.uk) to all year 2 pupils in the second half of the autumn term 2021, in order to assess which pupils are at the expected standard in phonics;
  • report to the department by the end of the 2021 autumn term, via a data return to their local authority, the results of that autumn term assessment of year 2 pupils; and
  • administer the PSC in the summer of 2022, to year 2 pupils yet to meet the expected standard in phonics (based on the results of the autumn term 2021 check), or to those year 2 who did not take the check in autumn 2021, alongside the year 1 cohort.

Summary: We are deeply disappointed in the government’s decision to revert to “business as usual” in regard to statutory assessment and public examination, this despite the current indications that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over and is likely to continue to have a significant impact upon schools for the foreseeable future. 

Voice Community have been consistent in our view on both the phonics screening test and the multiplication tables check. We have stated on several occasions that pupils do not benefit from either of them, that teachers do not learn anything from them that they do not already know, and that they are simply another data set against which schools can be measured putting pressure onto pupils and teachers, increasing workload and risking narrowing of the primary curriculum.

We urge you to reconsider these proposals for the sake of the whole sector.

Read the consultation letter (pdf) 

Read Voice Community's Official Response (pdf)   

Read STA's reply to Voice Community's Official Response (pdf) (August 2021)