Sydney Mum continues talking education

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the new reforms hitting the HSC and NAPLAN from 2017 and my thoughts how it will impact our family and my role as a mum. Since I have come across some interesting articles that talk about the importance of early intervention, in particular the possibility of NSW schools implementing a phonics test at the end of year 1.

It would seem that Australian government schools could be taking a page out of the UK’s new system of testing literacy standards at the end of year 1. The new test, supported by Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, is promoting a back-to-basics approach to phonics with testing to check for literacy levels among children and teacher effectiveness of teaching phonics. The test administered by a teacher would take 5-7 minutes per child and ask them to sound out 40 words, including made-up words (like ‘beff’ or ‘supp’) to make sure they are not simply remembering sight words.

Dr Jennifer Buckingham, the UK report’s author says ‘This check is a very simple and quick assessment of what children know at a pretty crucial point in their learning, before the gaps start to open up and becomes hard to re-mediate’

Sounds good right? An easy test that would put mums and dads minds at ease? Maybe give the kids some extra confidence before moving up to year 2? Create a positive and clear dialogue between teachers and parents?

So why are representatives of the Teachers Federation not cheering? Apparently such measures imposed by the Federal Government must be complied with to guarantee funding and viewed as ‘anti teacher’. Measures that potentially undermine a teacher’s competency to teach phonics and reading, or at the very least place it under scrutiny. But isn’t part of the frustration between teachers and parents the lack of accountability and transparency? Wouldn’t such a test help improve the relationship between all stakeholders? Everyone would know where they stand and be armed with tools to help children that need it instead of trying to rescue a child in year 9 when it’s too late.

The results in the UK, since 2012 when the test was introduced, have lifted children meeting the standard from just over half in 2012 to eight in 10 this year. Sounds like it works to me!

The NSW government has scraped the reading recovery program (which costs $55m year and deemed ineffective) and so it makes sense to have another process in place to lift literacy standards and Australia’s declining education performance (ranked 4th out of 41 for reading in 2000 down to 13th out of 65 for reading in 2012).

What I still struggle with ( I am sure will be the topic of more posts to come) and find very frustrating in Sydney, is why Australia’s education system has to be divided; the phonics test and funding applies to government schools only but what about Catholic Schools? Where do kids attending them fit in the big picture? Shouldn’t reforms and tests be standardised and nationalised? After all with the curriculum rolling out being nationalised why can’t other reforms? And does that mean my daughters (one who has a phonological delay), my son and anyone of my friend’s kids who need help miss out?

Author: Emma McEnery

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