Phonics trial gets green light in Queensland Catholic schools

The phonics check has been credited with boosting literacy in Britain (Bigstock)

Catholic schools across Queensland will begin trialling a year 1 phonics check next term, following a pilot in South Australian government schools. Source: The Australian.

The Queensland Catholic Education Commission has decided to undertake the trial at 40 schools.

The check is based on a similar one developed in Britain that has been credited with boosting literacy levels there. It was advocated by former education minister Simon Birmingham, but has been resisted by teaching unions and most state education authorities.

However Queensland Catholic Education Commission chief executive Lee-Ann Perry said the school system was keen to ensure its practices were based on evidence.

“We looked at the South Australian trial, which has some positive outcomes, and thought it would be a good idea to explore it ourselves as another potential tool we could use in regards to minimising the chances of students failing through the gaps,” Dr Perry said.

The checks involve a teacher sitting with a student and testing their ability to read 40 words. Half are real words, such as chin, deck, horn, while the other half are pseudo words, such as lig, mep, gax, which have been chosen because they could not be read from memory and are considered a purer test of phonics ability.

The check typically takes five to 10 minutes and its advocates argue it is essential given explicit phonics instruction is considered by researchers to be the most effective method of teaching children to read. The system teaches children to break down words into simple sounds, and blend sounds to make words.

Dr Perry said Catholic schools across Queensland employed a variety of approaches to teaching reading and schools had been enthusiastic about the trial. She said that, depending on the results, checks could be expanded to more schools the following year.

St Martin’s Catholic Primary School in Carina, Brisbane, is one of the schools participating in the trial. Principal Geoff Sullivan said he was keen to have a look at the check and how it might work.

“We know that evidence-based practices are the way to go,” Mr Sullivan said. “So we’re really interested to see if the check gives us information on how the kids are all going in regards to accessing their phonics skills.”

FULL STORY

Queensland Catholic schools follow a sound pathway to literacy (The Australian)

RELATED COVERAGE

South Australia’s trial of England’s year one phonics check shows why we need it (The Conversation)

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