We have just been presented with some great news!
The Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, announced today that if re-elected, the Government will proceed with a nation-wide phonics and numeracy assessment for Year 1 students. This initiative has been trialled in the UK with significantly positive outcomes; it is backed by evidence and will provide early identification of students who present with learning difficulties, so they can be provided with appropriate types of intervention before they experience considerable failure.
This is something we have been advocating for such a long time, so you can appreciate how excited we are today!
Why the enthusiasm?
Given that we now know what type of language and learning behaviours underpin reading, writing and spelling, there is no way that we should still be using the, “Failure to learn” model to identify children with Specific Learning Disorders. Waiting for children to fail is wrong! Evaluating their prerequisite skills is right!
What do we know?
We know that children with speech difficulties often experience problems with phonological awareness and spelling.
We know that children who cannot identify and manipulate sounds often experience reading and spelling problems.
We know that children with poor working memory cannot “hold” information for enough time to act upon it.
We know that children who cannot tell a story cannot write one.
We know that children who cannot process verbal information find reading comprehension very difficult.
We know that children who cannot name colours, objects, numbers or letters rapidly and quickly are at risk for poor reading fluency and accuracy.
We can evaluate young children’s speech, memory, phonological awareness, naming, story telling & understanding to determine how “robust “ their systems are before they are expected to engage in formal literacy learning. Screening projects are designed to provide exactly this sort of information to parents and teachers. Screenings are conducted in many Perth metropolitan kindergartens and pre-primary classrooms, usually in Term II or early Term III. Speech Pathologists conduct 30 - 40 minute assessment sessions with each child.
The battery of tests for a pre-primary child would typically include:
A story retell
Questions related to the story
A test of Phonological Awareness (SPAT)
Rapid Automatic Naming
Speech, Voice and Stuttering screening
Once each child has been assessed, speech pathologists and teachers meet to discuss the results and coordinate individual action plans; these may range from extension through to referral for individual Tier 3 intervention, and everything in between.
Screening projects work so well to profile individual children with the one class; they provide teachers and parents with such valuable information regarding the children’s individual learning potential. They are a great “investment” in the early years!