QUESTION - PHONICS CHECK


I thank the Labor Party for also joining the Liberal Party about a week before the election in committing to a rollout, had they been elected, of the year 1 phonics check around South Australian schools. I am very pleased to advise the house that, as per the election commitment made by the Liberal Party about a year before the election, the year 1 phonics check was undertaken in all South Australian government schools in the month of August. It went well. The reports from schools, from principals and from year 1 teachers were varied, but generally, the reports were positive. They were either positive in the manner that they thought they were going to be a good check, a useful check, a useful screen, and they did indeed find them to be so.

For those people who were sceptical of the value of the check beforehand, the reports have generally been that they were more useful than they thought they would be, or that they were at least not a concern, not difficult to deliver and not an imposition on the class. They gave teachers the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with their students to help them with their reading. They gave teachers and schools the opportunity to identify students who were perhaps slipping through the cracks, who were not as strong in phonics—the building blocks of learning to read—as they thought they might have been. The reports and the feedback have been great.

This government has negotiated with the provider of the check from the UK. I think that was again a wise decision to start with the one that was working. We have negotiated to license that check out from the one we have been using to the independent sector and the Catholic schools sector. I understand that in term 4 there are a number of independent schools that will be using the check in their school year, and indeed the Catholic sector is considering also using the check.

This is something that South Australia is leading the nation on. It is an outstanding reform. It is supported by the new Literacy Guarantee Unit within the Department for Education. At the moment, eight literacy coaches have been undertaken in addition to their leader, Ingrid Alderton, a very well-respected educator, and another five are being recruited at the moment. I had great pleasure in visiting them at Hindmarsh last week and having a chat with all of them about their experiences. There is a range of very experienced educators who are doing some excellent work.

They are organising the first conference—another one of this government's election commitments. The first Literacy Guarantee conference is taking place in October. It is sold out. We don't actually charge people to attend, as I understand it, but nevertheless the registrations are full. It is going to be an excellent opportunity for teachers across all three sectors to gain best practice knowledge about the teaching of literacy to young South Australians. Indeed, they will be working with teachers in schools as well.

The reception I have had in talking to schools about the phonics check has been positive. A number of schools have reported to me that not only have they enjoyed using it in year 1 but, indeed, some of them are talking about using the check to screen their year 2s as well. This very morning I had the opportunity to visit the Reynella Primary School to help them celebrate their 160th anniversary. It was a wonderful day. Hundreds of parents and grandparents were there, and it was wonderful to talk to them. It is another school that is thinking about rolling out their phonics check for year 2s. To attend and celebrate with the Reynella Primary School, to enable the Minister for Education to say a few words, I thank the crossbenchers in this parliament who indicated that they would provide a pair if need be.

It was disappointing that the Labor Party were unwilling to provide a pair so that the Minister for Education could share in the celebrations of the 160th birthday of, as I understand it, the second oldest primary school in South Australia. That was of course noted by those there. I thank the crossbenchers for their mature approach to this situation, and I can report to the house that the phonics check is going well.