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Home > News > Professional Issues > Professional Issues Volume 9 > New mandatory testing of Year 1 students being considered

New mandatory testing of Year 1 students being considered

Year 1 students will be put to the test as the Federal Government considers new mandatory phonics, maths and literacy testing. Kindergarten_students.jpg

Issues snapshot:

  • A new mandatory phonics, maths and literacy test for Year 1 students is being considered.
  • A federal panel has been established by Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham to progress its implementation.
  • The panel is due to report to the Minister for Education and Training by the end of April 2017.
  • Our union believes the Federal Government and employers must ensure our members are equipped with the appropriate resources to carry out implementation of new testing fairly. 

The Federal Government is considering introducing mandatory phonics, maths and literacy testing for Year 1 students. The decision was made after three reports last year indicated Australia’s education performance was plateauing. 

The plan has been criticised by the Federal Opposition and the Australian Education Union as being a distraction from school funding issues. The Opposition has said fulfilling Gonski funding commitments would be the best way to improve educational outcomes. 

So far a panel has been established to progress the implementation of the phonics assessment and the development of a numeracy check. The stated purpose of the panel is to provide advice to the Minister for Education and Training to inform the development and implementation of a national Year 1 check.

The panel is due to report to the Minister of Education and Training by the end of April 2017.

The panel’s advice will include:

  • A summary of recent national and international research of best practice in early years assessments covering reading, phonics and numeracy.
  • A summary of literacy (including phonics) and numeracy assessments that are currently used in Australia and internationally in the early years and on-entry to school.
  • Recommendations on the implementation of a Year 1 check, including frequency, timing, prioritising of core skills assessed and reporting.
  • Options for staggered implementation of a national Year 1 check, including an initial pilot study that could be scaled up to a national assessment.
  • Recommendations on further reforms that may follow the implementation of a national early years check such as specific teacher development programs to support the teaching of early years reading, phonics or numeracy.

The Year 1 tests are likely to be based on assessments used in England that involve children verbally identifying letters and sounds in real and made up words, simple counting, recognising numbers, naming shapes and demonstrating basic measurement knowledge. 

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the compulsory tests were not going to be “confronting”, but were an assessment that lets parents and teachers know if early intervention is needed. 

Our members will have to introduce another testing system for their students, similar to NAPLAN. Our union welcomes reforms that appropriately address problematic issues, however, the Federal Government and employers must ensure that members feel properly equipped to implement such changes, that the reform reflects desired learning outcomes, and that feasible benchmarks for student achievement are established. 

To ensure that the potential implementation of new testing does not erode the professionalism of teachers, it is important that teachers remain well informed of the progression of this reform. The terms of references for the advisory panel can be found at the Department of Education and Training website.