The first results in the controversial phonics reading test have shown that around three-fifths of six-year-olds reached the expected standard but thousands need extra support, the Government has said.
The reading test taken by pupils at the end of their first year of formal schooling (Year 1) is based on a system which focuses on sounds rather than recognising whole words, and has been promoted by ministers as the best way to boost reading standards.
National, regional and local authority results released by the Department for Education (DfE) show that 58% of six-year-olds reached the expected standard, and teachers have identified around 235,000 pupils who will now receive additional reading support from schools.
The department said 592,010 pupils in state-funded schools, including academies, took the phonics reading check in June this year; 2% of the pupils were disapplied.
Pupils are asked to sound out or decode a series of words, some of which are made up, to check their reading skill. The test has been criticised by teaching unions because of possible flaws and said it could do more damage than good. They suggested that including made-up words such as "voo", "terg" and "bim" will frustrate those who can already read and confuse pupils who have special educational needs, or those for whom English is a second language.
Plans for a reading test were announced by ministers last year, amid fears that youngsters with poor reading skills were slipping through the net.
The DfE said the check is a short, light-touch assessment of the phonic skills of pupils at the end of Year 1 that assesses their ability to break down and blend words using systematic, synthetic phonics, the internationally proven method of driving up reading standards, especially in children aged five to seven. It was piloted in June last year with around 9,000 children.
Independent evaluation of the pilot by the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research showed a positive response to the test from pupils and teachers, the department said. A total of 43% of pilot schools identified pupils with reading problems of which they were not already aware; 83% of teachers said the number of words is suitable; 80% said the type of vocabulary is suitable; and 74% thought the non-words used are suitable.
The results also show a slight rise in the percentage of pupils reaching the expected Level 2 across all areas of the teacher-assessed Key Stage 1 subjects: reading, writing, speaking and listening, maths and science.
Commenting on the Key Stage 1 results, Education and Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss said: "I congratulate pupils, families and teachers on their hard work and achievements. The Government is committed to improving performance by raising expectations, giving new freedoms to schools and increasing teachers' professional responsibility."