Phonics screening check results provide critical insights

Data from South Australia’s first comprehensive Year 1 Phonics Screening Check, undertaken by 14,000 students across all government sites last year, has been released.

Results indicate there is significant room for improvement across the state in this critical skill for reading success, with just 43% of students demonstrating that they met the expected achievement level of correctly decoding 28 words or more out of 40.

These results demonstrate the considerable value that the Phonics Check provides, giving teachers a much clearer picture of where Year 1 students are at with phonics – a foundational aspect of their reading development.

Implementation of the Phonics Check was a key election commitment of the Marshall Liberal Government and is part of the Government’s renewed emphasis on literacy improvement for every student, in every preschool and school across South Australia.

The introduction of the check enjoys bipartisan support in South Australia, with Labor also having committed to roll out the check had they been re-elected.

It involves a short, simple check that helps teachers measure how well their students are learning to decode and blend letters into sounds – one of the building blocks for reading.

Education Minister John Gardner said the rollout of the check has delivered critical insight and will be an important foundation for our students’ literacy development for years to come.

“South Australia has led the nation in delivering the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check in all government schools,” said Minister Gardner.

“We know that a number of students are capable of remembering or guessing a number of simple words in texts read by Year 1 students, even if they are struggling with their phonics. This can cause them great difficulty in their reading once texts get more complicated.

“Identifying these students early, before they really begin struggling with reading, is a particularly important aspect as to why the Marshall Liberal Government has implemented the check.

“Our teachers are now in a better position than ever to identify where support for students is needed and to respond with the appropriate interventions early.

“Those interventions and supports have already begun being implemented by identified students’ classroom teachers as a result of the check.

“Importantly, the introduction of the Phonics Check has enabled a fresh emphasis on the quality of phonics instruction and on reading instruction in general, so parents can be confident about the teaching of reading taking place in our schools.

“A strong foundation in literacy is an essential foundation upon which so much of a student’s later educational success is built.

“There is clearly work to be done to improve literacy outcomes for students across the state, and we remain committed to supporting our educators to achieve this.

“We remain confident that the suite of measures the Government is putting in place to improve literacy outcomes for South Australian children will see strong improvements in the years ahead.”

Some of the measures undertaken by the Marshall Liberal Government to improve literacy outcomes include:

  • Various types of support to teachers in delivering phonics instruction, including online resources to help teachers refine their phonics programs and ‘Best Advice Papers’ on how to teach the ‘Big Six’ components of reading (phonics, oral language, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary knowledge).
  • The new Literacy Guarantee Unit, including 13 new Literacy Coaches who are working directly with teachers to ensure the high-quality teaching of reading across schools, particularly ensuring the effective teaching of phonics and other evidence-based approaches to literacy development.
  • Regular Professional Development conferences, run by the Literacy Guarantee Unit, to enable access to high level experts for as many educators as possible on a regular basis. The last conference was at capacity with more than 1400 educators in attendance, and similar numbers have already been achieved for the upcoming summit.
  • Evidence-based information to deliver successful reading programs provided to all public schools, emphasising that decodable readers are an essential part of all primary school reading programs.
  • A range of online resources to help parents better engage in their child’s reading at home, which can be found at

Teachers will again be provided with professional development opportunities to help them administer the Phonics Screening Check during Term 2 this year, with the next state-wide Check to take place in August.

The full fact sheet on the 2018 Phonics Screening Check is available here.

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