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In May 2016, the Australian Government released Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes, an evidence-based approach to schools reform to improve learning outcomes for all Australian students. As part of this reform, a national Year 1 check of all children in the areas of reading, phonics and numeracy was announced. This reform aims to ensure that students who are behind in their schooling are identified early and can receive the extra support they need.

On 29 January 2017, Simon Birmingham, Federal Minister for Education and Training, announced the establishment of an Expert Advisory Panel (the Panel) to advise the government on how to best develop and implement a national Year 1 check.

The panel met on three occasions: 15 February 2017, 8 March 2017 and 23 March 2017. During this period, the panel undertook consultations with key stakeholders and invited written submissions. The panel also undertook an online, public submission process between 4 March 2017 and 17 March 2017.

The purpose of this report is to provide the minister with advice and a set of recommendations to guide the development and implementation of a national Year 1 check in literacy (phonics) and numeracy.

Key findings

Large numbers of children in Australia are not meeting the expected learning outcomes and standards in literacy and numeracy in their schooling years. This has an impact on their future learning and development, and their ability to be productive and participate fully in society. Early success in reading and number sense is a powerful predictor of later achievement, and is strongly correlated with schooling performance across the curriculum.

This means that effective reading and numeracy instruction in the early years of schooling is critical. Part of effective teaching is the use of appropriate assessments to inform teachers of the achievement level of students so that appropriate teaching and intervention strategies can be put in place if a child is not achieving at the expected level.

A review of current literacy and numeracy early years assessments in Australia found that most schools undertake assessment on-entry to school at the Foundation Year. Many schools also provide follow-up assessments at the end of Foundation Year. While a number of schools do have literacy and numeracy assessments in Year 1 and Year 2, there is no consistent approach across education systems or jurisdictions, and they are not mandatory in every state or territory.

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