Victoria, Aus: 'The way children are taught to read in Victoria is about to change' The Age, June 2024 + union backlash

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Debbie_Hepplewhite
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Victoria, Aus: 'The way children are taught to read in Victoria is about to change' The Age, June 2024 + union backlash

Post by Debbie_Hepplewhite »

Thank you to the IFERI committee member Yvonne Meyer for flagging up this article via the DDOLL international network:

https://www.theage.com.au/national/vict ... 5jk7u.html
The way children are taught to read in Victoria is about to change

Robyn Grace, The Age, June 13, 2024

Students from prep to grade 2 will be taught using structured phonics as part of a new explicit teaching approach to be rolled out across all Victorian public schools which could end the long-running reading wars.

Education Minister Ben Carroll will announce the system-wide move at The Age’s Schools Summit on Thursday.

The policy mandates that all Victorian government schools teach the same type of reading lessons based on systematic synthetic phonics, a move away from a system which allowed principals to choose their own approach.

It also requires the use of explicit instruction across all schools in Victoria, one of the final states and territories to adopt the change.

Under the new model, students from prep to grade 2 will be taught using a structured phonics approach, with a minimum of 25 minutes of daily, explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness.

Experts say Carroll’s announcement is significant but needs to come with the correct assessments, accountability, professional learning and compliance to ensure returns.

The move follows improvements for individual schools in all sectors that have already made the shift. Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools adopted direct instruction for its 300 schools in February.

Carroll, who is also deputy premier of the state, said this week he expected some pushback from teachers not yet willing to embrace the change but “the evidence is in”.

“The reading wars aren’t quite over … I’m stepping on potentially a hand grenade, but I just believe this is so important,” he said.

“Reading is the foundation of a child’s education. If you don’t learn to read, you can’t read to learn. I want to essentially make best practice common practice in every classroom.”

How does Victoria compare?

Victoria will implement a new teaching and learning model with explicit teaching at its core from 2025. All students from prep to grade 2 will be taught using systematic synthetic phonics approach, with a minimum 25 minutes’ daily explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness.

South Australia introduced its Literacy Guarantee in 2018. All government schools are required to use the year 1 phonics screening check. SA also employs about 30 literacy coaches to work with schools to build teachers’ expertise in reading instruction.
New South Wales mandated the year 1 phonics screening check for public schools in 2021. It also funds ‘decodable’ books for all foundation students. It discontinued funding for reading programs that were not effective and updated the NSW syllabus this year to align with the evidence.

Tasmania committed to a ‘minimum guarantee’ last year that every Tasmanian primary school will teach reading according to the evidence by 2026. Tasmania will also roll out the year 1 phonics screening check.

Western Australia has provided schools with a list of recommended phonics programs and assessments.

The ACT Literacy and Numeracy Education Expert Panel’s final report, released in April this year, recommended system-wide reforms to implement a structured literacy approach in ACT classrooms. The minister has accepted these recommendations in principle and is now designing a four-year implementation plan to begin in 2025.
Source: Grattan Institute

Explicit instruction promotes direct teaching over student-led or inquiry-based learning, breaking down new concepts into smaller steps and modelling each step before progression. The method is underpinned by an evidence-based, scientific understanding of how students learn.

Systematic synthetic phonics teaches children the sounds of the English language and the letter combinations that make them. It’s different to balanced literacy, which includes some phonics but also uses strategies to guess words based on pictures and context.

Balanced literacy has been used by most primary schools and university education faculties since the 1970s. Advocates argue phonics overemphasises one aspect of the reading process.

Under the plan, there is a “clear expectation” that all government schools will implement a new teaching and learning model with explicit instruction at its core from next year. Schools that have not yet moved towards the model are expected to show planning for the change over the next three years.

The government has allocated $36.9 million to support a revision of the curriculum and the new reading position. This includes funding for 750 new explicit teaching lesson plans and other professional learning.

Victoria will keep its controversial English Online Interview literacy assessment, which cost more than $10 million to update last year but has been dismissed by experts as having ineffective phonics and elements of balanced literacy. It is being reviewed to ensure it aligns with the revised English curriculum.

Cognitive psychology professor Pamela Snow, from La Trobe University’s education school, applauded Carroll’s move but said it was the “beginning of the journey”.

Snow said it would be important to monitor the strategy’s implementation to ensure high quality and low variance, given schools had been until now “choosing their own adventure on reading instruction”.

“That’s the big risk here, that we go in with a bang and then schools are allowed to default back to some sort of mishmash of approaches,” she said.

“If it’s followed through and implemented carefully, we are going to see a significant uplift in Victoria.”

More than a quarter of Victoria’s students failed to meet new NAPLAN proficiency standards for literacy and numeracy in 2023.

The Grattan Institute this year called for a “revolution” to increase the level of proficient readers nationwide, saying decades of disagreement about how to teach reading and lack of explicit guidance to schools from state and federal governments were key causes of the problem.

Grattan Institute education program director Dr Jordana Hunter said Carroll’s announcement was a “huge step forward” which, if implemented effectively, would help students grow academically, not just in literacy but also in other subject areas including mathematics.

But the reform needed to be backed by sustained investment in professional development including classroom coaching, comprehensive curriculum materials and assessment tools, Hunter said.

She called on the government to publicly commit to a long-term target of 90 per cent of Victorian students reaching the NAPLAN proficiency benchmark in reading, and the immediate adoption of a publicly reported grade 1 phonics test.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said Victorian announcement was an important reform, which would be backed by changes to teaching courses at university. “The reading wars are over,” he said. “We have the evidence of what works and I am so glad to see Victoria rolling this out.”

A new government initiative will invest in phonics-based reading programs for disadvantaged schools. Chelsea Primary has already had success with the program.


Churchill Primary principal Jacquie Burrows was one of the first in the state to switch her school to an explicit teaching, structured literacy approach in 2019. She saw an improvement within the first 12 months, not only in academic results but also student engagement and wellbeing.

Burrows said she was excited that other schools would have the chance to replicate Churchill’s results. “If it leads to more kids having better outcomes at school, then it’s really positive,” she said.

Port Melbourne Primary School principal Tom Cain switched to evidence-based teaching at the start of this year.

Cain said the announcement would “grease the wheels” of his own transition, making guidance and lesson plans more available, but would allow schools with less resources to also reap the benefits.

The government has allocated $36.9 million to support a revision of the curriculum and the new reading position.

“I think that’s where more clear direction from the system is going to be really important to compel schools to go down this path because I don’t think it has a downside for kids,” he said.

The Victorian opposition proposed the mandated use of phonics in Victorian schools before the 2022 election.

Carroll said studies had proved 20 years ago that systematic and explicit phonics was the most effective initial method to teach children to read. More recent reviews showed explicit teaching worked best for the largest number of students, particularly those who were struggling.

He said he was allowing three years to embed the new strategy statewide.

“Changing a classroom is one thing, changing an entire system is something else altogether.”

Carroll will speak on the move to explicit teaching and systematic synthetic phonics at The Age’s Schools Summit on Thursday. Follow our live blog at theage.com.au
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Re: Victoria, Aus: 'The way children are taught to read in Victoria is about to change' The Age, June 2024 + union back

Post by Debbie_Hepplewhite »

And here we go with a teachers' union backlash - again flagged up by Yvonne Meyer via the DDOLL network:
Teachers told to ignore Victoria’s phonics push as union lashes deputy premier

Bridie Smith, The Age, June 14, 2024

The powerful education union has ordered teachers to disobey the Victorian government’s mandate that public schools introduce structured phonics as part of an explicit teaching approach, setting up a new political flashpoint in the long-running reading wars.

The Australian Education Union’s primary and secondary councils united on Friday in a fiery statement that criticised the government’s decision to roll out a systematic synthetic phonics approach for all prep to grade 2 students.

The policy change – which demands all Victorian government schools teach the same type of reading lessons – in effect removes principals’ ability to choose what teaching approach to take.

The joint union statement accused Deputy Premier and Education Minister Ben Carroll of showing a lack of respect for the profession and noted “with alarm” his apparent lack of understanding of the current curriculum.

“To fail to understand that explicit teaching is already occurring across classrooms every day … shows that the minister has an inadequate grasp on work already undertaken by teachers,” the statement said.

“The failure ... to properly consult on the changes announced yesterday is a wilful breach of the Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2022, and as such, members are advised not to take any action to implement the changes announced.”

A new government initiative will invest in phonics-based reading programs for disadvantaged schools. Chelsea Primary has already had success with the program.
At The Age’s Schools Summit on Thursday, Carroll announced that all government schools would employ the explicit teaching model from next year.

Schools that have not moved towards the model by then will be expected to show planning for the change over the next three years. Victoria is one of the last states and territories to adopt the change.

The union, which represents more than 50,000 teachers, principals and support staff in Victoria, criticised the government for failing to consult those on the ground.

The way children are taught to read in Victoria is about to change
“No other profession would be treated with the breathtaking disregard the minister has shown,” the council said in the statement.

The union’s primary and secondary councils also raised concerns that the decision would “add to the burdens currently experienced by schools” and had the potential to compound teacher shortages.

“More change, more workload, less autonomy, and less respect for the profession will simply drive more people to leave.”

The changes mean prep to grade 2 students will receive a minimum of 25 minutes of daily explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness.

Carroll told The Age this week that he expected some pushback from teachers not yet willing to embrace the change.

“The reading wars aren’t quite over … I’m stepping on potentially a hand grenade, but I just believe this is so important,” he said.

How does Victoria compare?

Victoria will implement a new teaching and learning model with explicit teaching at its core from 2025. All students from prep to grade 2 will be taught using systematic synthetic phonics approach, with a minimum 25 minutes of daily explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness.

South Australia introduced its Literacy Guarantee in 2018. All government schools are required to use the year 1 phonics screening check. SA also employs about 30 literacy coaches to work with schools to build teachers’ expertise in reading instruction.
New South Wales mandated the year 1 phonics screening check for public schools in 2021. It also funds ‘‘decodable’’ books for all foundation students. It discontinued funding for reading programs that were not effective and updated the NSW syllabus this year to align with the evidence.

Tasmania committed to a ‘‘minimum guarantee’’ last year that every Tasmanian primary school will teach reading according to the evidence by 2026. Tasmania will also roll out the year 1 phonics screening check.

Western Australia has provided schools with a list of recommended phonics programs and assessments.

The ACT Literacy and Numeracy Education Expert Panel’s final report, released in April this year, recommended system-wide reforms to implement a structured literacy approach in ACT classrooms. The minister has accepted these recommendations in principle and is now designing a four-year implementation plan to begin in 2025.
Source: Grattan Institute

Systematic synthetic phonics teaches children the sounds of the English language and the letter combinations that make them. It is different to balanced literacy, which includes some phonics, but also uses strategies to guess words based on pictures and context.

Explicit instruction promotes direct teaching over student-led or inquiry-based learning, breaking down new concepts into smaller steps and modelling each step before progression. The method is underpinned by an evidence-based, scientific understanding of how students learn.

Balanced literacy has been used by most primary schools and university education faculties since the 1970s. Advocates argue phonics overemphasises one aspect of the reading process.

A government spokesperson said in a statement that the reforms had been widely welcomed by the community, schools and school leaders, adding that the move was backed by strong research and evidence.

The spokesperson said explicit teaching already existed in many Victorian schools.

“The Department of Education will provide full support for schools that need to adjust their practices by providing ready-to-use lesson plans and professional learning.”

The government has allocated $36.9 million to support a revision of the curriculum and the new reading position. This includes funding for 750 new explicit teaching lesson plans and other professional learning.

Opposition education spokesperson Jess Wilson said Carroll now faced the challenge of resolving the issue.

“This is a test of the minister’s leadership and commitment to improving student outcomes,” Wilson said.

“The minister needs to explain how he intends to ensure the policy is implemented in full in Victorian classrooms despite the AEU calling on their members to disregard the instruction.”
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