Year 1 Phonics Screening Check begins


14,000 Year 1 students across South Australian government schools will complete the 2020 Phonics Screening Check from this week.

South Australia led the nation in 2018 as the first state to implement the check across all government schools, as part of a key election commitment of the Marshall Government.

The phonics check is a simple five to seven minute assessment that tells teachers how their students are progressing in phonics – a foundational component of learning to read. It consists of 40 words which are delivered through a mixture of 20 real words and 20 pseudo-words.

An expected achievement score of 28 out of 40 is used as a marker to assist teachers in identifying how a student is tracking against the Australian Curriculum at this point in their education.

Last year’s results showed significant overall improvement, with 52 per cent of students scoring at or above the expected achievement level – up from 43 per cent the year prior.

To accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, 1600 teachers and leaders completed online training earlier this year to support them in administering the check, analysing the results and designing interventions for individual students in response to their findings.

Education Minister John Gardner said the phonics check is a critical tool to assist educators to deliver better literacy outcomes for students.

“Understanding phonics is a critical skill and the Phonics Check helps our educators to gain insight into where our students are at with their literacy development from an early age,” said Minister Gardner.

“The Phonics Check provides teachers with a clear understanding of how students are progressing in their learning of phonics, and the results enable educators to identify any issues that students might be having so they can respond to these quickly.

“We are proud that South Australia has led the nation as the first state in the country to introduce the Phonics Check across all government schools.

“The introduction of the Phonics Check has enabled a fresh emphasis on the quality of reading instruction, and parents and families should have every confidence in the quality of the teaching of literacy in our schools.

“Importantly, these results provide teachers with a useful picture of where individual students are at in the fundamental aspect of reading, so they can implement the right support for those who are struggling with decoding blended letters into sounds.

“Last year’s results are very encouraging, with improvement seen across all student groups, but we know there is still much more work to be done to keep improving literacy outcomes for students.

“We want to ensure there is ongoing improvement for students, and we are continuing to support schools to deliver best practice teaching of literacy in the classroom.

“Extra resources are readily available to help teachers get the most out of the Phonics Check results to target learning for their students. Literacy Guarantee Coaches are also working directly with teachers to ensure high quality teaching of reading across government schools.”

The Commonwealth Government recently launched a free online Phonics Check tool, as part of a $10.8 million election commitment, following South Australia’s success is running the check. It can be found here.

Useful online resources are also available for parents to effectively engage with their child’s reading at home via the Department for Education website.