State School Teachers’ Union of WA president says no need for additional literacy and numeracy tests for Year 1 students

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE State School Teachers’ Union of WA president Pat Byrne believes there is no need for additional literacy and numeracy tests for Year 1 students, despite the Federal Government announcing a call for action.

Federal Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham released a report formed by a panel of principals, teachers, academics and researchers into the need for literacy and numeracy checks for Australian Year 1 students on September 18.

The panel found the literacy checks should focus on phonics while the numeracy assessment should focus on number sense and location.

It recommended screening assessments be administered by a teacher who would use an online platform to record results for teachers and parents, during the second half of the school year.

Mr Birmingham said he would review the findings with state and territory ministers later this year.

In WA, there is a mandated on-entry assessment for pre-primary students for literacy and numeracy and a Year 3 NAPLAN test.

Ms Byrne said the report was “too narrow” in terms of reference and was limited to advising WA Education Minister Sue Ellery on the implementation of a national test.

“Children in this state begin pre-primary in a school setting, which means that the information gained about each child’s learning stays with the school,” she said.

“Pre-school and Year 1 teachers can plan and work together in implementing particular programs and teaching strategies based on the needs of each child.

“To suggest that a teacher, by term 3 of Year 1, would not know which children were experiencing problems is to demean the value of teacher professional judgement.”

Ms Byrne said the report noted children’s test results in phonics improved in the United Kingdom after it was introduced six years ago, but there was no corresponding lift in broader literacy achievement.

“In Australia, we are already at that point… this begs the question of why such a test is necessary here,” she said.

“It is worth noting that children are not normally expected to begin pre-primary education with a knowledge of phonics; a good vocabulary yes, but not formal phonic recognition.”

WA Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said the State Government recognised the need for phonics instruction methods and committed $3.5 million to establish a Centre of Excellence in Literacy and Explicit Instruction to develop an increased knowledge in phonics.

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