Mixed views on phonics plan
The Federal Government is having a tough time convincing the states to adopt a Year 1 phonics test.
Education ministers have briefed on the evidence for the federal government’s proposed Year 1 phonics check.
The phonics teaching method involves learning how letters or groups of letters sound.
But assessing kids on their phonics is controversial among teachers, parents and education lobbies.
The phonics screening check used in the UK is given in the form of a five-minute exercise in which students read a series of simple words followed by a series of nonsense words to demonstrate their understanding of sounds and letters.
NSW supports a phonics check, South Australia is already running a trial, but Queensland is outright opposed.
Dr Jennifer Buckingham, who chaired a recent federal government advisory panel that called for phonics tests in all Australian schools, says that: “When the panel and I looked at the range of reading assessments that are in place in early years around Australia, we noticed that there was a deficit, particularly in the area of phonics assessment”.
“There's a huge amount of evidence that shows synthetic phonics to be the most effective way of teaching phonics.”
But British teacher and academic Dr Paul Gardner says the UK’s model is not one to follow.
Dr Gardner says the British phonics screening check came out of an ideological war by conservative governments.
“The Australian curriculum is far in advance of the English curriculum, which I would say has been taken back to about the 1940s,” Dr Gardner said.
“England is not the model that Australia wants to emulate.”
Australian Literacy Educators Association national president Beryl Exley — a Professor of English Curriculum and Literacy Education at Griffith University — is not a fan either.
“When there's an overemphasis on something like synthetic phonics, it dilutes the emphasis on reading for meaning, reading critically, engaging with a wider range of texts and words that don't necessarily meet those conformed patterns that synthetic phonics focuses on,” Professor Exley said.
More than 100 reading researchers, speech pathologists, and parent advocates have signed a letter to education ministers urging the adoption of the test, but unions and teachers say their expertise has been sidelined in the phonics debate.