All year one children across the country could soon have to do a new reading and maths test, under recommendations laid out by a Government-appointed panel.
The reading test would be based on the phonics screening check used in the UK since 2012.
Phonics is the method used to teach kids to read by learning how letters or groups of letters sound.
This is what the latest version of the test used in the UK looks like. It includes real words and pseudo words, to test students understanding of phonics.
It takes each child about five to 10 minutes.
The nonsense words are included to test whether students understand the basics of phonics rather than relying on their memory.
The recommendation for the new test has been made by an expert panel appointed by federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham earlier this year.
It would be in addition to the formal NAPLAN test students start doing from year three onwards.
Panel chair Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies says testing must be age-appropriate.
“Children of that age aren’t necessarily familiar at that point with doing formal types of assessment,” Dr Buckingham said.
“So a one-on-one assessment between the teacher and the child allows you to have an oral assessment. So you’re not relying on handwriting for example.
“You can determine what they know by them reading aloud or if it’s a numeracy assessment by telling you what the answer to the question is.”
Teachers’ union says test unnecessary
The Australian Education Union is critical of the proposal.
“We don’t believe it’s necessary to have a standardised test for six-year-olds when they enter school. Our schools already assess their students and they are able to identify what those students need,” she said.
“What they need are the resources to back that up so we can cater for children who need that extra help.”
Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones also rejected the idea, saying children are too young at that age.
“Every single state and territory right now does phonics assessments and diagnostic assessments of students in their classrooms,” she said.
“This is more about Simon Birmingham playing politics with young children and trying to score headlines than really listening to the work that is happening in our schools.
“As it is, we already have parents saying they have concerns about NAPLAN in year three. We do want to see national testing of five-year-olds and six-year-olds.”
Senator Birmingham says the test would be used to identify kids that need extra help, early in their schooling.
He says extra Government funding coming into schools could be used to help these students.
“There will be extra support there coming into the systems in the next few years for more targeted and tailored interventions, for greater assistance, for more speech pathologists,” Senator Birmingham said.
“All of those types of things, schools and systems are free to use the extra dollars they’re getting to deploy in helping their children.”