National Year 1 Literacy and Numeracy Check

The media has recently been running a number of stories and opinions about a proposed literacy and numeracy test for Australian Year 1 students. The following ISCA explainer puts opinion aside to provide an overview of the report, its background, the panel, and its recommendations:

On 29 January 2017, The Minister established an Expert Advisory Panel (the Panel) to provide advice on the development and implementation of a national Year 1 literacy and numeracy check.

The Panel consisted of:

  • Dr Jennifer Buckingham (Chair), Senior Research Fellow , The Centre for Independent Studies, and Director of FIVE from FIVE Project
  • Ms Mandy Nayton OAM, Chief Executive Officer, Dyslexia SPELD Foundation, Western Australian President AUSPELD
  • Professor Pamela Snow, Head of the La Trobe Rural Health School
  • Mr Steven Capp, Principal, Bentleigh West Primary School in Victoria
  • Professor Geoff Prince, Director, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute
  • Ms Allason McNamara, Mathematics Teacher at Trinity Grammar in Victoria and President, Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers

The Panel focused on the need for a nationally consistent strategy for early identification of students who are likely to make slower progress than their peers in key literacy and numeracy aspects of the school curriculum. By Year 3 (the first year in which students undertake NAPLAN assessments), it is difficult, expensive, and inefficient to remediate gaps in literacy and numeracy skills that prevent full engagement with the curriculum in middle primary years and beyond.

The Panel drew on evidence on how children learn to read and become numerate, and identified the key early concepts and skills that underpin and predict later literacy and numeracy achievement.

The Panel examined a range of international and Australian early years literacy and numeracy assessments in use across the three education sectors in the states and territories, and mapped them against criteria developed from a review of the literature and from consultation with content experts. The Panel found that there is no systematic early assessment of the essential core early reading and numeracy skills identified.

The Panel undertook consultations with key stakeholders to inform its advice. This included an online public submissions process, direct consultations with key stakeholders, and contact with state and territory education departments and the Independent and Catholic school sectors.

The recommendations contained in the report draw on the range of views conveyed to the Panel by those who made submissions and/or participated in interviews, as well as the Panel’s review of recent relevant literature on evidence-based early instruction, and the findings of three large-scale inquiries into the teaching of literacy since 2000.

The Panel concluded that there is a role for ’light touch’ Year 1 screening assessments of literacy and numeracy, and these should occur around the middle of the second year of schooling. The Year 1 literacy check should focus on phonics and the Year 1 numeracy assessment should focus on number sense and position/location. The development and implementation of the checks will be easier in the short-term in relation to literacy, because of the work that has been carried out in England since 2012. No similar brief systemic tools for screening assessment of numeracy skills in Year 1 were identified, however, so the task ahead is slightly more complex in this domain.

The Panel further recommended that these screening assessments be administered by a teacher familiar with the child, using an online platform for scoring and rapid reporting of results to teachers and parents/carers. Individual results should be shared with parents/carers by the child’s school, and school-level data should not be published or disseminated in any way that makes schools, teachers, or children identifiable. Results should, however, be made available to appropriately credentialed researchers for purposes of deeper analysis and ongoing recommendations. Schools in which significant proportions of children do not reach criterion on these measures should be offered appropriately tailored supports, at teacher and student levels.

The Education Council will now consider the Panel’s Report and recommendations.

Further information about the review and the full report is available at

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