Phonics


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National Year 1 Literacy and Numeracy Check

On 29 January 2017 Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, announced the establishment of an Expert Advisory Panel to advise the Government on how to best develop and implement a national Year 1 check.

On 19 September 2017, the Australian Government stated that they were committed to implementing a nationally consistent literacy and numeracy check for all Year 1 students across Australia.


What is the Year 1 check?

The Year 1 check is a simple, non-intrusive way of assessing whether young students are picking up the reading, phonics and number skills they need to be successful in their schooling, therefore identifying the students who are falling behind and aiding early intervention.

What did the Expert Advisory Panel find?

The panel delivered a highly detailed report, including 25 recommendations around how national Year 1 checks in literacy and numeracy could be developed and implemented. This included advice on:

  • > recent national and international research of best practice in early years assessments covering reading, phonics and numeracy
  • > literacy (including phonics) and numeracy assessments that are currently used in Australia and internationally in the early years and on-entry to school
  • > recommendations on the implementation of a Year 1 check, including frequency, timing, prioritising of core skills assessed, and reporting
  • > options for staggered implementation of a national Year 1 check, including an initial pilot study that could be scaled up to a national assessment
  • > recommendations about further reforms that may follow the implementation of a national Year 1 check, such as specific teacher development programs to support the teaching of early years reading, phonics or numeracy.

What will the check look like?

The literacy check will likely involve identifying letters and sounds that make up words, which will show whether a child understands how language works. The numeracy check will see children undertake simple tasks, such as counting and recognising shapes and numbers,in order to demonstrate basic measurement knowledge. The Year 1 check will help to identify those students that might need extra support.

What are the next steps?

The Government will now assess the findings of the panel, including advice and recommendations on frequency, timing and core skills to be assessed by the Year 1 check. Simon Birmingham will discuss the Panel’s findings and advice with his state and territory colleagues at the Education Council.



Phonics is Knowledge:

A practical guide for Australian schools to consider the evidence and prepare for the Phonics Screening Check


When children enter school, they typically have little knowledge about how to read and write. Literacy teaching and learning are core responsibilities of teachers and schools. However, teaching reading and writing is complex and educators must be equipped with specialised knowledge and skills. Effective literacy teaching, and specifically the teaching of reading, should be grounded in findings from rigorous, evidence-based research.

Click on the links to navigate to different resources on this page:

What is phonics and why is it important?
The five essential skills for reading competency
What is the Phonics Screening Check and what does it mean for my school?
Choosing the right program for my school
Professional Development events: Leading a Phonics-first Approach to Literacy


Our phonics specialist Hayley Goldsworthy has prepared a white paper titled Phonics is Knowledge: A practical guide for schools to consider the evidence and prepare for the Phonics Screening Check. This paper is a guide for schools to consider the research, reflect on current practices, and perform a simple self-audit in preparation for the Phonics Screening Check.


What is phonics and why is it important?

The English written language is an alphabetic code. Letters (graphemes) are symbols that represent the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language. Phonics is understanding the relationship between the sounds and the letter/s that represent them.

Watch the video below to learn more about the teaching of phonics.

There are a number of different approaches to teaching phonics, all with varying levels of effectiveness. The evidence is clear, however, that systematic, synthetic phonics is the most effective approach.

A synthetic phonics approach teaches beginner readers:

> grapheme/phoneme (letter/sound) correspondences (the alphabetic principle) in a clearly defined, incremental sequence

> to apply the highly important skill of blending (synthesising) phonemes in order, to read a word

> to apply the skills of segmenting words into their constituent phonemes to spell

> that blending and segmenting are reversible processes.

— Independent review of the teaching of early reading, Jim Rose, 2006, pg 20 (51).

Such explicit instruction is particularly important for children who come from disadvantaged homes and communities, where oral language exposure in the pre-school years is significantly diminished when compared to children from more advantaged backgrounds (Buckingham, 2016).

Phonics alone is not sufficient, however. No serious reading scientist has ever claimed that it was.


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The five essential skills for reading competency

There is an abundance of extensive and rigorous evidence-based research from all over the world about how children learn to read and the most effective ways to teach them.  Since 2000, there have been major national inquiries into the teaching of reading in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These reviews, along with copious amounts of other research, all agree and identify five essential skills for reading competency:

Phonemic awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound, in spoken words.
Phonics: The ability to decode words using knowledge of the relationship between sounds (phonemes) of spoken language and the letters (graphemes) that represent those sounds in written language.
Fluency: The ability to read effortlessly with speed and accuracy.
Vocabulary: Knowing the meaning of a wide variety of words and the structure of written language.
Comprehension: Understanding the meaning and purpose of the text.


For more information on the five key areas of reading, visit Dr Jennifer Buckingham's website Five From Five.


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What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The Phonics Screening Check is a simple, brief (5—7 minute) reading check for Year 1 students. Its purpose is to check which and how many children have mastered phonic decoding – an essential early reading skill. In order to decode, one must:

  • recognise individual letters and groups of letters
  • know which letters represent which sounds
  • blend individual sounds together to read words.

The screen will provide early identification of students who are struggling with this essential foundational reading skill and thus require appropriate intervention. The check will also provide feedback for teachers and schools about their instructional approaches and supply the impetus to make improvements.

What does the Phonics Screening Check mean for my school?

Simply using the Phonics Screening Check to measure phonic knowledge alone won’t improve reading in your school. It’s what you do with the information that matters. The impending Phonics Screening Check should implore you to consider your current instructional approaches to reading. The following questions should start to be considered in your school:

  • Are you teaching phonics effectively?
  • Do you teach phonics systematically?
  • How often do you teach phonics?
  • Are you using decodable texts that match the students’ phonic knowledge?
  • How do you assess phonics?
  • Do teachers have the required level of knowledge and understanding to teach phonics effectively?
  • Do you adopt a whole school approach?

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Oxford phonics resources

Choosing the right program for my school


Questions Floppy’s Phonics Sounds
and Letters
Floppy’s Phonics Project X Phonics Read Write Inc. Phonics
Do you have a systematic approach to teaching phonics? A rigorously structured synthetic phonics program developed by phonics expert Debbie Hepplewhite. Decodable fiction and non-fiction stories that are ideal for providing extra practice and reinforcement alongside any phonics teaching program. A systematic synthetic phonics resource developed using a unique approach to ensure rigorous consolidation and practice of phonics skills. Proven approach that ensures children learn to read and write as quickly and effectively as possible.
Are you catching every student the moment they fall behind? Rigorous and systematic phonics teaching and practice materials, with flexible and differentiated assessment sheets, means that no student is left behind. Can be used in group work and one-to-one reading practice. Regular assessment of all students’ progress through assessment records, designed to help track each student to see how they are developing, and show at a glance any areas that need extra practice and reinforcement. Ongoing assessment means that groups are constantly adjusted to ensure the best progress for every child until they have successfully completed the program.
Do you have fully matched resources to ensure all your students read books at the right level every step of the way? Provides everything you need to teach and practice phonics with your whole class. Matched to Floppy’s Phonics Sounds and Letters, with step-by-step progression. For group work and one-to-one reading practice. Easy to pick up and go, with clear teaching instructions on every page means that no preparation is needed. A key element of the approach is that practice across the school is completely consistent.This means that everyone has a shared understanding of the ‘Simple View of Reading’, how letters and sounds in English are related (the alphabetic code), and how to teach all children to read and write.
Is your staff as effective as they can be when teaching phonics? Oxford University Press can provide phonics training for your school, drawing on a range of resources from all our phonics programs. For more information email professionalsupport.au@oup.com Accredited training is available and is an imperative part of the program to ensure successful implementation of Read Write Inc. Phonics into your school. The training delivers comprehensive professional development on how to use the program, which is based on a deep understanding of how children learn to read.
Would you like more information? Download a brochure Download a brochure Download a brochure Download a brochure

Book an appointment with your Educational Consultant today to discuss your resourcing needs.

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