Phonics attainment gap widens - EEF comment

The attainment gap in phonics between children eligible for free school meals and all other pupils has widened slightly, according to the latest Department for Education data.

The phonics check is initially taken at the end of Year 1 and can be retaken at the end of Year 2. The proportion of poorer pupils reaching the expected standard dropped by 1% to 68% between 2016 and 2017. The percentage of children not on free school meals reaching the standard rose from 83% to 84%.

James Turner, the EEF's Deputy Chief Executive, comments:

There has been some progress on closing the attainment gap in primary school so it is worrying that the latest data shows the gap for the phonics check widened slightly. We know that a good grasp of phonics is crucial for supporting younger pupils to master the basics of reading. Educational prospects for children who don’t achieve good literacy skills by the end of primary school are bleak. The best way to close the gap and improve literacy levels for all is through the better use of evidence: looking at what has – and has not – worked in the past to give the best chance of success in the future.