Call for na­tional Year 1 test to help strug­gling stu­dents


MANY schools are fail­ing to pin­point chil­dren who are hav­ing trou­ble with read­ing and maths, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts who want a na­tional test­ing scheme for Year 1 stu­dents.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment is lob­by­ing the states to agree to stan­dard­ised tests for chil­dren in the se­cond year of school. The tests would check maths skills and the abil­ity of chil­dren to iden­tify the pho­netic sounds which form words.

Fed­eral Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Birm­ing­ham will to­day re­lease a re­port by an ex­pert panel, which warns that the sys­tems used to test chil­dren’s abil­ity to use phon­ics to sound out words were, “rel­a­tively weak and highly vari­able”.

Panel chair­woman Dr Jen­nifer Buck­ing­ham said chil­dren who were hav­ing prob­lems with read­ing and maths needed to be iden­ti­fied as early as pos­si­ble so that they could be given ex­tra help or the teach­ing prac­tices changed.

“It has enor­mous pay-offs in terms of re­duc­ing the need for in­ter­ven­tion later in school­ing which is hugely time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive for schools,’’ she said.

Dr Buck­ing­ham said some schools were do­ing a good job at us­ing phon­ics to teach read­ing – but many weren’t.

“We also know from lots of re­search – a few decades’ worth – that phon­ics is a great pre­dic­tor of later read­ing abil­ity,’’ she said.

“So if chil­dren can de­code words ac­cu­rately and flu­ently, then they’re go­ing to be able to much more eas­ily go on and be­come pro­fi­cient read­ers in the later years of school.’’

The tests rec­om­mended by the panel would be low-key, with a class­room teacher spend­ing five min­utes ask­ing a child ques­tions and load­ing the an­swers into a com­puter app. School-wide re­sults would not be pub­licly re­leased and the “light-touch” tests would be less stress­ful for chil­dren than NAPLAN ex­ams.

Dr Buck­ing­ham said South Australia was lead­ing the coun­try in phon­ics as­sess­ment by tri­alling tests for Re­cep­tion and Year 1 stu­dents in some schools.

The SA phon­ics tests are based on a Bri­tish scheme.

Sen­a­tor Birm­ing­ham said na­tional tests were im­por­tant be­cause Australia’s school ed­u­ca­tion re­sults were stag­nat­ing and in some ar­eas de­clin­ing.

“The idea be­hind th­ese checks is to en­sure stu­dents don’t slip through the cracks,’’ he said.

“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.’’

Sen­a­tor Birm­ing­ham said about one in 20 school stu­dents didn’t meet the na­tional min­i­mum stan­dards for read­ing and nu­mer­acy.

This prob­lem per­sisted into adult­hood, with be­tween 10 per cent and 20 per cent of Aus­tralian adults hav­ing nu­mer­acy prob­lems.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.