How schools can prepare for the Phonics Screening Check – a practical guide

Oxford University Press White Paper: Phonics is Knowledge by Ruth Miskin Training consultant Hayley Goldsworthy

The Federal Government last week announced its commitment to introducing literacy and numeracy checks for Year 1 students. The literacy component would include a Phonics Screening Check.

Oxford University Press has developed a white paper titled ‘Phonics is Knowledge’ to help guide schools as they prepare for the checks. The white paper is available on the Oxford University Press Australia’s phonics information page, but below is a summary of the key points.

What is the Phonics Screening Check?

The Phonics Screening Check is a five to seven minute reading check for Year 1 students. The purpose of the check is to provide early identification of students who are struggling with the essential foundation reading skill and require appropriate intervention. The check will provide feedback for teachers and schools about their instructional approaches and supply impetus to make improvements.

In the UK, the check was introduced in 2012. A report published in 2015 found that since its introduction, schools have made improvements to the teaching of phonics, with the proportion of students achieving the expected standard on the Phonics Screening Check in Year 1 increasing each year.

How can your school prepare for the Phonics Screening Check?

Using the check alone won’t improve reading in your school – it’s what you do with the information that matters. The following questions provide a starting point that school leaders can use to review how they teach reading and monitor reading progress and whether you are teaching phonics effectively.

  • What is your understanding of ‘phonics instruction’?
  • If you asked your teaching staff: ‘How do you teach phonics?’ would there be consistency in responses?
  • Do you have a shared understanding of the different types of phonics instruction, such as synthetic, analytic, embedded and incidental? See the phonics white paper for details of each.
  • Which approach do you employ? Is it consistent, or is it a mixture of more than one approach?
  • How do you know if your current reading instruction is effective?

How you can improve your school’s phonic teaching

The white paper suggests a range of ways in which you can ensure your school is teaching phonics effectively, including:

Teach phonics regularly – It is not an uncommon practice for some schools to focus on teaching a ‘letter of the week’, but schools that have achieved the best reading results teach a sound a day. Every day a new sound is explicitly taught, and previously taught sounds are reviewed and consolidated.

Use decodable texts that match the students’ phonic knowledge – Lessons should provide frequent and regular opportunities for children to apply their phonic skills by reading carefully matched, phonically regular texts. Children should only be presented with texts that are entirely decodable for them, so they experience success and learn to rely on phonemic strategies. As their knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences increases, so do the texts to practise reading.

Teach children to decode high-frequency words – Send home lists of sight words that can easily be decoded once a child knows a few sounds and can blend. Almost every word in the English language can be decoded; some are just trickier than others. Take the word ‘said’, for example, Children should be taught to identify the ‘tricky’ bit in the word – ai. The grapheme ‘ai’ in ‘said’ represents the /e/ sound. This way of representing the sound is irregular and is therefore the ‘tricky’ bit of the word. Understanding this will not only help a child to read the word ‘said’, but also to spell it accurately.

Carry out regular assessments – Ensure your assessments are used to inform teaching and learning. Assess children’s knowledge of grapheme-phoneme correspondences, their enunciation of sounds, their blending ability, and their reading of words and non-words. Identify children with additional needs to address this and close the gap early.

Ensure teachers have the required level of knowledge and understanding to teach phonics effectively – The teaching of reading is complex and requires specialised knowledge and skills. Adequate preparation needs to be given to teachers, not only through their pre-service teacher education, but also through ongoing professional development.

Adopt a whole-school approach – A high-quality phonics program should be grounded in findings from rigorous, evidence-based research and a consistent, comprehensive whole-school approach should be adopted. All teaching staff should acknowledge that the teaching of reading is the shared responsibility of the whole school, under the direction of the principal and senior staff.

More detailed advice, including details of analytic, incidental/embedded and synthetic phonics, are available in the phonics white paper.



Meaningful Marketing Metrics

By Professor Byron Sharp, Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and author of Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice (second edition)

Technology and globalisation mean that many organisations are losing their location-based monopoly power and are having to become more customer-oriented. Consequently demand for marketing skills is rising.  Today we see banks, universities, even charities and hospitals with large marketing departments.

But technology also means that many basic marketing tasks will be automated. So the marketer of the future is going to need to have different skills. In particular they are going to be less of a ‘doer’ and more of a ‘thinker’. Analysis and evaluation will become a larger part of the job.

This isn’t to say that marketers will have to become statistical experts, but rather they will need to have a greater understanding of marketing metrics, and a greater ability to extract meaning from metrics. This means it’s especially important that marketing students learn these skills from the beginning of their studies in order to properly equip themselves as tomorrow’s marketing professionals.

Increasing amounts of money and management attention are being spent on marketing metrics. Marketers are demanding metrics for management purposes, and for reporting performance to company boards, shareholders and outside groups. (For example, companies now report metrics on their environmental record.) Research agencies, media companies and consultants are pumping out new metrics. Yet many of these metrics are misleading or unhelpful.

Marketing researcher John Bound once described his long career as a market research manager in large corporations as excelling in wasting his company’s money—with a note that he was sure that people do every bit as good a job today as he did then. Most market research is done technically very well, but it often fails to produce useful meaningful marketing metrics. The wrong things can be measured, in the wrong ways, and things may be misinterpreted.

There is no point in tracking and regularly reporting metrics that do not change, or do so very slowly. A good medical practice will measure the weight and blood pressure of patients each time they visit. But, sensibly, they will measure the height of adult patients only rarely. Conversely, many marketing metrics such as customer satisfaction and brand image are measured and reported far too regularly. Random sampling variation makes the figures wobble around a bit from survey to survey, providing the illusion of change. Much management time is then wasted coming up with erroneous explanations for movements that are simply random sampling variation. It keeps a lot of market researchers in business.

Table 1 shows evaluation of service performance scores across major US banks over a twenty-one-year period. Apart from a small dip around 1999 for all banks, performance seems to be around 70 to 80 out of 100. Much of that variability is likely to be accounted for by random sampling variation which creates the illusion of dramatic changes, changes that marketers would need to explain.

Table 1 Evaluation of service performance of major banks, 1995–2016


Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index (2016)

Table 2 shows brand satisfaction with personal computers has not changed much over the past twenty-one years. Even the differences between the brands’ scores are consistent over time.

Similarly, there is little point in tracking and regularly reporting metrics that are already perfectly predictable from other metrics. Medical practitioners will not test male patients who complain of sickness in the morning for pregnancy—the fact that they are male ensures it is perfectly predictable that they are not pregnant. Many marketing metrics are predictable from market share or from how many customers the brand has (otherwise known as market penetration). The scores on these metrics are always higher for larger market share brands. Much market research, in effect, consists of asking respondents in numerous different ways how often they buy the brand.

Finally, there is little point in tracking and reporting metrics when you do not know what they mean, how they relate to other metrics and marketing actions, or what level they should be. Many special proprietary metrics sold by market research agencies fall into this category. Just because a measure is called ‘brand equity’ or ‘brand health’, doesn’t mean it necessarily connotes brand equity (the financial value of a brand’s market-based assets—mental and physical availability). This term is also sometimes used to refer to a consumer’s subjective assessment of how much better or preferred the brand is. Under this latter (not very useful) definition, higher quality, higher priced brands have higher equity.

Table 2 Brand satisfaction with personal computers, 1995–2016


Source: American Consumer Satisfaction Index (2016)

Imagine if your doctor measured your blood pressure and when you asked why and what it meant, she replied: ‘No idea … we were taught how to measure blood pressure at medical school, so I do it for all my patients—always have!’

Let’s continue with this medical example for a moment. When a doctor measures a patient’s blood pressure as, say, 140 over 90, they have a piece of data that is meaningless in its own right—is this high, low or just right? And why does this matter? Say the doctor takes the patient’s blood pressure a second time on another day using a different sphygmomanometer. The reading is still 140 over 90. The consistent results reassure the doctor about the reliability of their equipment and the credibility of the result. This is important, but the doctor still has nothing more than a meaningless (but reliable) piece of data.

To turn this data into information, the doctor needs scientific knowledge, such as how blood pressure scores relate to one another, how they vary between healthy and unhealthy individuals, and how blood pressure varies with age, gender and medication.

Given such knowledge, the doctor may then declare that 140 over 90 is high (not low or just right) and they know what this means for health.

Marketing professionals too need scientific knowledge in order to make their marketing metrics meaningful and to improve the quality of their management. Marketing research managers need such knowledge to avoid wasting money on pointless market research.

Professor Byron Sharp, Director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, is the author of Marketing: Theory, Evidence Practice (second edition), How Brands Grow, and co-author of How Brands Grow: Part 2 with Jenni Romaniuk.




Helping teachers make sense of the Year 1 phonics screening check

The Australian Government today announced its commitment to implementing a nationally consistent literacy and numeracy check for all Year 1 students across Australia.

At Oxford University Press we believe effective literacy teaching, and specifically the teaching of reading, should be grounded in findings from rigorous, evidence-based research.

In order to provide teachers with the tools to effectively teach phonics, we have developed a phonics webpage introducing teachers to the phonics test and information on why phonics teaching is so important.

Here is a short video introduction to phonics, featured on the webpage.

According to Dr Jennifer Buckingham, phonics plays an important role in teaching reading.

“There is an abundance of extensive and rigorous evidence-based research from all over the world about how children learn to read and the most effective ways to teach them.  Since 2000, there have been major national inquiries into the teaching of reading in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These reviews, along with copious amounts of other research, all agree and identify five essential skills for reading competency:

Phonemic awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound, in spoken words.
Phonics: The ability to decode words using knowledge of the relationship between sounds (phonemes) of spoken language and the letters (graphemes) that represent those sounds in written language.
Fluency: The ability to read effortlessly with speed and accuracy.
Vocabulary: Knowing the meaning of a wide variety of words and the structure of written language.
Comprehension: Understanding the meaning and purpose of the text.”

The phonics webpage provides details about the phonics check and what it means for schools and teachers, and offers teachers assistance in choosing the right program for their school and details of phonics-based professional development events across Australia.

OUP’s phonics test information page aims to provide teachers with an understanding of the newly announced test, the role of phonics, and the implementation of phonics education to help them provide the best possible learning outcomes for their students.

For more on phonics and literacy, visit:

The Importance of Comprehension

Literacy tools to help parents ensure their children are school-ready

Phonics is Not a Dirty Word




‘Donoghue Day’ wins Connecting with Law Short Film Competition

The Connecting with Law Short Film Competition is an annual event run by Oxford University Press Australia & New Zealand. It is open to all students enrolled in an Australian law degree and has proven itself to be unique way of encouraging law students to connect with their field of study and contribute to legal education.

For the Tenth Anniversary of the competition, students were invited to make a two-to-five-minute film exploring the theme, ‘Groundbreakers: people, cases or judgements that have changed the shape of Australian law.’ The winning entry was judged to be the most imaginative, instructive and original, with the team demonstrating an ability to reflect creatively on the theme.

1st prize winner: Donoghue Day
Kit Mun Lee, Liam Hartley, Quang Nguyen, Julaicka Sala
(University of Melbourne)

Donoghue Day is an uplifting and humorous mock-documentary film that follows the endeavours of a law student who strives to put himself into the shoes of May Donoghue as she uncovered the foundational duty of care principle.

Featuring a University of Melbourne law professor, campus pub owner and a rather lucrative personal injury barrister, join this law student’s adventures as he finds out why Donoghue Day is worth celebrating.

Congratulations to the team involved and thank you to everyone who submitted entries.

We would also like to take this time to announce that this was the final Connecting with Law Short Film Competition. We believe it is very fitting to end on such a wonderful representation of that famous case of the snail in a bottle.

Thank you for your support over the last 10 years. To view the winning entry and previous winners, please visit our website.

Please note: due to the limited number of entries, we have decided to only award first place.

From cooking to a trip to the zoo – fun ways parents can build children’s early literacy skills

Many parents are looking for ways to help ensure their children are school-ready. One way of doing this is by helping children to develop early literacy skills that will set them on the path towards learning to read.

The Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA) has developed the Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules to provide parents and carers with guidance on introducing early literacy to their children.

The modules developed by authors Anita Ayre and Professor Trevor Cairney  started life as a book created for Anita’s first grandchild to assist his parents in engaging him in talk and text.

Anita and Trevor’s advice for parents covers reading to children, speaking, rhythm and gross motor development, including:

  • Help your child clap the syllables in words, beginning with your child’s name, then familiar words. The slash is used to separate syllables, for example, Ja/son; Ste/pha/nie; Mum/my; Nan/na; Grand/dad; ba/by; toy/box; shop/ping/cen/tre; pen/ cil; man/da/rine; pi/an/o; as well as any words your child uses. Clapping the syllables in words helps to decode unknown words by breaking up the words into sections.
  • Ask your child to close his or her eyes and listen to sounds in different environments. Discuss the sounds that your child hears, for example, at home, at the zoo, on the train, in the park or a walk through a natural environment. Can you hear a rhythm in the sounds, such as rhythm in a bird’s call? Allow your child to use an electronic device to record the different sounds in different environments. Store the recordings in a ‘sound library’ so your child can revisit the experience of different sorts of sounds.
  • Look at a picture and encourage your child to tell you what the picture or story may be about. For example, look at the front cover and ask: ‘What do you think this story/book might be about?’. Looking into the book you can ask questions such as ‘What’s this?’, ‘What type of animal is that?’, ‘Is it a windy day?’ or ‘How can you tell?’.
  • If you cook with your child, it can become a reading and learning activity. When following a written recipe, you and your child can try to read the instructions. Safety permitting and with your adult supervision, your child may be able to carry out some steps of the procedure. Some examples of conversation throughout the preparation process include: ‘Look at the picture of the eggs. How many eggs does it say to use?’, ‘Let’s read the first step.’, ‘What do we have to do next?’ and ‘What happened when we poured the flour into the egg mixture?’.

ALEA National President Beryl Exley said parents could play an important role in helping their children develop early literacy skills, with the ALEA Literacy Declaration stating:

“Parents and caregivers play a critical role in fostering children’s engagement in and enjoyment of a wide range of experiences that enhance literacy development. They need to understand that children benefit from rich oral language experiences and opportunities to interact with high quality literature representing diverse cultures, experiences and perspectives.”

Parents and carers can use games, song, reading and conversation to foster a love of words and language in their children, laying the groundwork for their future literacy education.


Oxford University Press is dedicated to improving childhood literacy, through projects including the Oxford Wordlist and the Children’s Word of the Year writing competition.


OUP staff select their top five books of all time

To mark the Australian Reading Hour on September 14, we asked some Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand staff to list their top five reads of all time.

Do you agree with their selections? What books are in your top five?


  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  – I think anyone who has read this book identifies with one of the March sisters (I’m a Jo).
  2. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides– love the dark humour woven throughout this book, and the last paragraph always gets me.
  3. The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge – a dreamy fairytale set in the 1800s, with lots of strong female characters!
  4. Mary Poppins by P.L Travers– Book Mary Poppins is so much sassier than Julie Andrews!
  5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – a fairly recent publication but a must-read! A fascinating look back at how we’ve evolved into the humans of today. (Also recommend the sequel, Homo Deus).


  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  • Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop by Bob Stanley
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Ann Tyler


  1. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – I love the setting and way the words make you feel like you are really there, living her life.
  2. Harry Potter by JK Rowling – I love that I can get lost in the world of Hogwarts. The words create such a vivid image in your mind and really make you feel magical! (Note for Fleur – I totally would have attended Hogwarts; I know it!)
  3. Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold – One of the most powerful books I have read. The character studies it created on the family members and how they all lived through their own trauma was so touching.
  4. The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve – AMAZING ENDING! I loved how it worked backwards in time.
  5. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – Really great twist that I did not see coming. Makes for a good, interesting read.


  1. Candy by Luke Davies
  2. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  3. The Good Cop by Justine Ford
  4. All the Goosebumps (literally all of them)
  5. Garfield by Jim Davis


  1. I love anything by Barbara Kingsolver, particularly Prodigal Summer, as I can re-read this over and over again.
  2. Anything by Ian McEwan, particularly Atonement.
  3. Currently working through The Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton with my daughter and really enjoying them
  4. I also loved Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar this year (a historical novel set in the Coorong in the 1800s, brilliant)
  5. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak is wonderful but heartbreaking so although I loved it, I’m not brave enough to read it again.


  1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – a strange, mystical read that is hard to put down or forget.
  3. All That I Am by Anna Funder – beautiful language and a fascinating, tragic story.
  4. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – a chilling story about motherhood and the nature of evil.
  5. The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – for the nostalgia.


  1. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  4. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  5. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


  1. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (razor-sharp and so relatable – I read it at least six times a year)
  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  4. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
  5. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden


  1. Tommo & Hawk by Bryce Courtenay
  2. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
  3. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  4. Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under any Conditions by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber
  5. Animal Farm by George Orwell


  1. Jemima J: A Novel About Ugly Ducklings and Swans and Straight Talking: A Novel by Jane Green
  2. Tully by Paullina Simons
  3. The Pact, Second Glance and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult
  4. The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
  5. Watermelon, Sushi for Beginners and Angels by Marian Keyes


  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald
  3. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  4. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  5. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa


  1. Old Pig by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks – The first book that made me cry.
  2. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – I used to climb trees looking for magical lands, but sadly never found any.
  3. The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes – This book sparked my interest in a book publishing career.
  4. What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry – I read this with my Dad all the time.
  5. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I just love a good re-versioned fairy tale and I read this one repeatedly.


  1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick
  2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  4. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
  5. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind


  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  • The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell – This one is a memoir – just released and I’ve only just read it but it is amazing. I’m already looking forward to re-reading it very soon!


  1. What do you think, Feezal? by Elizabeth Honey
  2. White Tiger by Kylie Chan
  3. Model Spy by Shannon Greenland
  4. Death by Water by Kerry Greenwood
  5. High Five by Janet Evanovich


  1. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse Tyson


  1. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
  2. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  3. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
  4. Ode to Billy Joe by Herman Raucher
  5. Wetlands by Charlotte Roche


  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  3. Life of Pi by Yann Martell
  4. Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett
  5. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho


Interested in classics? Check out the Oxford World’s Classics range

Ethics, legal professionalism and mental health

By Paula Baron and Lillian Corbin

The growing awareness of mental health issues in the legal profession has significant implications for those entering the legal profession and for their ethical conduct. Knowledge that lawyers, as a profession, have higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide than other trades and professions has been well documented for over 30 years in the US. In Australia, the phenomenon came to light with the report Courting the Blues in 2009. Since that time, there has been a significant body of work by law societies, legal academics, and organisations such as the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation and beyondblue to try to address the issues of lawyer distress. Initiatives range from confidential lawyer helplines to mindfulness programs and organisational and individual strategies to promote well-being.

For lawyers, it is important to understand the linkages between misconduct and lawyer mental health. A few years ago, the then Legal Services Commissioner for Queensland, John Briton, estimated that some 30 per cent of misconduct cases were related to lawyer mental health issues.

Currently, we are analysing in more depth the intersection of ethical transgressions – misconduct – and mental health issues of the lawyers concerned in the misconduct. We are also looking at cases where applicants for admission have disclosed mental health issues. Our preliminary findings are that Tribunals and Courts are sensitive to mental health issues, and seek to strike a balance between protecting the public, protecting the reputation of the legal profession and safeguarding the rights of the lawyers concerned.

Admission will, of course, be of significant interest to law students given the necessity to disclose mental health issues. The principles governing this area were well articulated in Application for Admission by B as a Legal Practitioner [2016] ACTSCFC 2 (14 November 2016), where an applicant for admission had a long history of mental health and substance abuse issues. Firstly, mental illness or impairment is not of itself a bar to admission: ‘The test is whether the applicant is able satisfactorily to carry out the inherent requirements of practice as a legal practitioner. This, of course, must be assessed in the light of the applicant’s mental health’. Secondly, it was acknowledged that there are cases where professional misconduct has been caused or contributed to by mental impairment, and this must be a consideration. Thirdly, the acknowledgement by the individual concerned that he or she has a mental impairment that needs to be addressed can be important in ensuring that the disorder does not cause problems in conducting legal practice.

In this case, despite relatively recent issues of mental ill health, the findings were that the applicant’s mental health was under control and relatively stable; he was complying with his treatment regime and he showed insight into his condition and the benefits of treatment. The opinion of appropriate medical experts was positive and optimistic, though there was still some cause for concern, and there was some risk of reversion to drug use because of the stress of legal practice. Thus, given there were some concerns that the immediate post-admission period provided some risk to the applicant and, therefore, to the public, and that some further period of stability and continuing improvement in the applicant’s condition was required, admission as a legal practitioner was made subject to conditions.

Legal ethics, including the growing awareness of mental health issues, is by no means a stagnant area of law and it is fundamental to daily legal practice. We encourage you to engage with us in discussions on this subject.

Paula Baron and Lillian Corbin are the authors of Ethics and Legal Professionalism in Australia Second Edition

Ethics and Legal Professionalism

Further Reading

Norm Kelk, Georgina Luscombe, Sharon Medlow and Ian Hickie, Courting the Blues: Attitudes Towards Depression in Australian Law Students and Legal Practitioners (Brain & Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, 2009).

Application for Admission by B as a Legal Practitioner [2016] ACTSCFC 2

Resources for Lawyers and Law Students

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to beyondblue or call 1300 22 4636. If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000.

The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation has information about mental health and wellbeing for lawyers and law students, including a Lived Experience Forum and directory of support services and resources.

For Australian tertiary students, beyondblue also has a free online program called thedesk which provides strategies and skills for success and wellbeing during university or TAFE.




Oxford Literacy Assess – What is the impact?

Oxford_Impact_Evaluated_Badge_White_Shadow_RGBResearchers are increasingly focusing on the role of assessment in teaching practice, not only to measure learner progress, but also to enable it, allowing teachers to accurately identify the needs of their students and tailor their plans more efficiently. The importance of selecting the right assessment program is therefore paramount and has led to a growing demand among teachers for evidence about the effectiveness of different assessment programs.

In response to this thirst for research Oxford University Press conducted an impact study into its flagship assessment program, Oxford Literary Assess.

Oxford Literary Assess is a suite of print and online tools for gathering and managing reading assessment data, based on rigorous research and trialling, allowing student data to be gathered and analysed to identify individual learning needs. The program was implemented at Lalor Gardens Primary School in Melbourne in 2015 to improve the consistency and reliability of its assessment system.

In February 2016, six teachers and senior leaders at the school were invited to participate in a series of in-depth interviews, investigating their experience of using Oxford Literary Assess. During the interviews, teachers discussed how the program had impacted their teaching practice and helped them to develop their learners’ reading ability.

The staff who participated were positive about the impact of Oxford Literacy Assess on their school. They highlighted four key ways in which Oxford Literacy Assess had supported them in developing their learners’ reading ability

  1. Understanding learners’ support needs

All of the interviewees felt that Oxford Literacy Assess was a powerful tool for formative assessment that allowed them to identify individual learning needs. According to one teacher, using Oxford Literacy Assess made it “much easier to track a student and pinpoint their needs”.

“Oxford Literacy Assess is my go-to place. Doing the online reading records has been really beneficial in terms of consistency with other teachers. When kids are moving through reading groups, to go back and to see the records all there without having to go through papers makes it much easier to track a student and pinpoint their needs.” Heidi, Foundation teacher

  1. Providing instructional strategies to address individual and group learning needs

The teachers interviewed said that the data gathered using Oxford Literacy Assess was used to support the formation of guided reading groups by instructional need, placing students into groups based on the results they obtained in the reading records. As one teacher mentioned, “the information is really useful because it helps us set our focus for the group”.

  1. Increasing professional knowledge and learning

All interviewees felt that Oxford Literacy Assess had helped improve teacher knowledge and judgement, including literacy instruction and the ability to track and report on progress. This, in turn was perceived to have a positive effect on learners.

“It’s fantastic to have all the data online that you can refer back to throughout each student’s schooling.” Amy, Foundation team leader

  1. Facilitating planning and reporting

Two senior leaders mentioned that using Oxford Literacy Assess had supported the school’s ethos of evidence-based planning and had become crucial to the planning and reporting activities. Oxford Literacy Assess has established an accurate baseline of student achievement at the school level.

Senior leaders in the study felt that Oxford Literacy Assess had a more robust comprehension component than their previous method of assessment and “provide[d] a truer indication” of what assessment texts at a particular level should be.

 “The assessment results from Oxford Literacy Assess corroborate our NAPLAN and On Demand Testing results, showing that the data we have now is more streamlined and accurate compared to the data from our previous benchmarking system.” Cassandra Hoggins, Assistant Principal

This impact study demonstrated not only the importance of adopting a considered approach to assessment but also the benefits that Oxford Literacy Assess can have on teachers and students in a real world context.



Consistency and community key in Indigenous literacy: Q&A with Shirley Davey

Literacy is a community affair in the Top End, according to Literacy and Numeracy Trainer Shirley Davey.  In the remote areas where Shirley works, students, families, teachers and trainers are working together to bring the benefits of literacy and numeracy.

We asked Shirley about her experience working in Indigenous literacy.

Where do you work? Northern Territory Department of Education.

 What is your role?

Literacy and Numeracy Trainer, focusing on the implementation of the LANE (Literacy and Numeracy Essentials) project in rural and remote schools in the Northern Territory.

I currently support 11 remote schools across the Top End region with six schools focusing on numeracy and five focusing on literacy and numeracy.

What is the best part about working in Indigenous literacy?

The five schools that I am supporting with literacy are implementing Read Write Inc in their schools, as well as using an explicit teaching model.

Seeing the progress that a large number of students are making with Read Write Inc in 2017 has been amazing.  Seeing the excitement on the faces of the students, especially when they have the opportunity to share their successes with other students in their class or in the school is a great reward for me as a trainer. It is equally as exciting to see how proud families are of their children.

Some of the schools have involved their Assistant Teachers in the training of Read Write Inc, which has meant that they are building capacity in their own work. The Assistant Teachers are having conversations with the communities about what the children are learning and how, which has created an increased sense of pride within communities.

Overall, the level of dedication and standard that the teachers are working to is the best part of working in this area. Teachers expect that their Aboriginal students, particularly remote students, can learn and work to a high level, so it’s rewarding to see the positive improvements and sense of pride it ensues.

What are the main challenges you face in Indigenous literacy?

In the Northern Territory, education operates in a unique context given the vastness in location of our communities and the mobility of students between communities.

The benefit of schools implementing an explicit teaching and learning program such as LANE, is that the impact of mobility and their location is minimised. If a student moves between communities throughout a school year, teachers who are trained in the delivery of LANE can easily identify where a student is up to in their learning and can deliver a tailored program to suit. Most importantly, students benefits from this type of program, as they have familiarity in their learning which often results in achieving greater outcomes.

Over 40% of Territory school students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, which means that for many students, English is an additional language. This can present a challenge in the delivery of a literacy program.

In the Northern Territory, we have a targeted focus on early years education to ensure that students have access to learning literacy and numeracy essentials from the youngest possible age. This learning is extended past the students and to the families, through other programs such as Families as First Teachers which includes mothers, fathers, aunties and grandmothers in the learning journey, so children are learning together with their family.

By focusing on working with children and families from the youngest possible age, we are seeing an impact on school attendance and engagement. This is a result of students and families developing a habitual routine to attend school every day as well as allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of the value of education and the positive impact it has on their future.

What improvements could be made in the way we approach Indigenous literacy?

A consistent approach across schools in terms of literacy is needed. LANE and the Explicit Teaching Model is one way of ensuring this, particularly in rural and remote schools.

Early feedback has shown that this has been an effective and successful model to ensure consistency, not only for our students but also for our teachers who are new to an Indigenous context.

Continuing the focus on early years education will also ensure that students have access to learning literacy and numeracy essentials from the youngest possible age.

Do you have any anecdotes about your experiences?

One remote school I support for literacy, Woolianna School has seen dramatic improvements in student literacy this year. They have seen five-year-old Aboriginal students who couldn’t read, now reading after six months at school.

It is even the little things, like feedback I receive from Assistant Teachers and parents about how their children are using the skills they’ve learnt to sound out words in the local community or even at the supermarket.

What is the future in Indigenous literacy?

The future of Aboriginal literacy, particularly in regards to remote schools in the Northern Territory, is very positive.

We are currently seeing students at Transition and Year 1 levels working at the appropriate levels in regards to the Australian Curriculum and this can only benefit them for the rest of their primary school education and into the high school experience.


Q&A: Indigenous literacy trainer Emily Davies

Working in Indigenous literacy can be ‘pure magic’ according to NT Government Literacy and Numeracy Projects Training Officer Emily Davies.

To celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day, we spoke to Emily about her role visiting schools in the Katherine region, the challenges she faces and the joy of helping Indigenous students to read.

Where do you work?

I work for the Department of Education NT as part of the Literacy and Numeracy Project team which is part of the Indigenous Education Review.

What is your role?

I am a Literacy and Numeracy Essentials Trainer. I go out to all the remote Indigenous schools in the Katherine region, which includes 26 schools with the furthest school being 773km away from Katherine. My role is to support teachers and principals to improve the literacy and numeracy of their students. This may include support in planning and assessment, modelling, team teaching and observations. It also includes supporting the Read Write INC phonics program.

What is the best part about working in Indigenous literacy?

“Working in indigenous literacy is the most rewarding job I have had.”

I work with students and teachers that have struggled to make progress in the past or have come to a road block. I love working with classrooms to overcome challenges and help students to succeed and make continual progress. This progress can become more rapid and exciting for these students when they don’t see it too often.

What are the main challenges you face in Indigenous literacy?

There are countless challenges. The language barrier can be a big and frustrating one. Teacher turnover makes it very difficult to make continue progress when we are constantly starting again. In my job, location is a challenge so it’s lucky I love driving!

What improvements could be made in the way we approach Indigenous literacy?

We need to be putting students in the centre. There is so much policy and red tape that is stopping teachers do what is best for their students.

“These students are so unique and have unique needs that should never be compared to the rest of Australia.”

This is why I love Read Write INC phonics. It doesn’t look at how old you are or what you can’t do. It works for all students, even older teenagers that are struggling to learn, and it doesn’t compare them to early years students. It just helps teachers to do their job and teach.

Do you have any anecdotes about your experiences?

I am often told that once students get older, ‘it’s too late’ and programs are introduced to teach them how to function with low literacy in society. With a hard working school and teacher, I have seen huge progress in literacy using early years strategies, with a high level of trust established.

“I now see older students excited to read fairy tales to me and to read to each other. This is pure magic.”

What is the future in Indigenous literacy?

This will depend a lot on what the future policies will look like. I am seeing very small progress, but in a lot of places the overall progress is often going backwards because of the students’ difficult lives going on around them. So much needs to be done to see a change.