Big tick for Phonics Check at Oatley West

From phonemes to graphemes and everything in between – students at Oatley West Public School have achieved great feats in phonics. Olivia Grey reports

Two school children holding up drawings
Image: Oatley West Public School pupils Tiffany and Luke practise phonics. Photo courtesy of The Leader.

Teachers at Oatley West Public School are literally loving the sound of their students reading.

As one of the schools involved in the 2020 Year 1 Phonics Screening Check trial, Oatley West Public School, on the land of the Biddegal People of the Eora Nation, is proof the new phonics-based approach to reading is working.

In December 2020 NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced phonics would be used explicitly in teaching reading and made the Phonics Screening Check assessment compulsory from 2021.

The Year One Phonics Screening check is a short assessment that tells teachers how a child is progressing in phonics.

The Phonics Check plays an important role in building strong reading foundations by assessing students’ ability to blend sounds together to read a word.

Completed in Term 3 each year, with results immediately available, the Phonics Screening Check includes 40 words – 20 real words and 20 pseudo words, allowing students to demonstrate their ability to use their phonic knowledge to read a word.

Since participating in the trial, Oatley West students have increased their scores by more than 40 per cent, and principal Paul Nash is thrilled.

“We have a community of high expectations from teachers, students and their families at Oatley West, and we are so pleased to see the significant improvement in results from the 2020 trial,” Mr Nash said.

More than 90 per cent of students achieved at or above the expected achievement level in last year’s check, up from 49 per cent in the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Trial in 2020.

“When the screening was first introduced, teachers were pleased because the online tool provided quick, specific results to assist in creating differentiated programs,” Mr Nash said.

“The 2020 trial showed us that some students required additional support, and that’s what we provided.”.

Year 1 teachers were given additional time to drill deeper into the needs of individual students in the area of synthetic phonics, and small groups for students who needed an extra boost were formed, allowing for more individualised help where it’s needed most.

With such encouraging results in such a short space of time, there’s no doubt that we have a generation of remarkable readers on our hands. A-ma-z-i-ng!

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