Chil­dren put to test


CHIL­DREN in early pri­mary school face manda­tory lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy tests and screen­ing to en­sure they are taught phon­ics un­der a na­tional plan to stop the de­cline in per­for­mance.

The lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy checks will be car­ried out on every Year 1 stu­dent in Aus­tralia fol­low­ing na­tional test re­sults that re­vealed one in 20 stu­dents fail to reach min­i­mum stan­dards for read­ing and maths.

While the check hasn’t yet been de­vel­oped, it would be­come part of the Na­tional As­sess­ment Pro­gram as early as 2019.

Re­searchers said the fail­ure to achieve in the early school years flowed through to adult­hood, with up to 20 per cent hav­ing prob­lems with nu­mer­acy later in life.

A panel of teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts found the most ef­fec­tive phon­ics in­struc­tion meth­ods were not be­ing used by teach­ers rou­tinely in Aus­tralian class­rooms.

The panel, headed by Dr Jen­nifer Buck­ing­ham, has rec­om­mended Aus­tralia adopt a phon­ics check used in the United King­dom that has been found to boost stu­dents’ re­sults.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham, who will present the panel’s land­mark re­port to a meet­ing of the Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil today, said an “over­whelm­ing case” had been made for lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy checks for all Aus­tralian school chil­dren.

“We have seen na­tional and in­ter­na­tional tests that highlight while Aus­tralia has an ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, our re­sults have stag­nated or even de­clined in some cases,” Sen­a­tor Birm­ing­ham said.

“This re­port plainly high­lights the need for ac­tion.

“The ev­i­dence is clear that phon­ics and nu­mer­acy checks will boost out­comes for Aus­tralian stu­dents.

“By iden­ti­fy­ing ex­actly where stu­dents are at in their de­vel­op­ment early at school, ed­u­ca­tors can in­ter­vene to give ex­tra sup­port to those who need it to stop them slip­ping be­hind the pack.

“These skills checks are not ex­pected to be a con­fronting test but rather a light touch as­sess­ment that en­sures teach­ers, par­ents and schools know at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble stage if chil­dren aren’t pick­ing up read­ing or count­ing skills as quickly as they should.”

Sen­a­tor Birm­ing­ham said talks with state and ter­ri­tory min­is­ters and ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties would flesh out how the screen­ing pro­gram would be rolled out.

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