If you’re one of the many parents who believe that children should just wait until they begin kindergarten to start learning phonics, research has shown that many primary schools don’t explicitly teach phonics either. The simple explanation for this is that the teachers themselves haven’t learned how while at university. It could be argued that the pervasiveness of the whole language approach in State curriculums for the past 20 years has contributed to the decline in literacy standards; either way, ACARA has been forced to overhaul subject English in the new Australian Curriculum. Part of this overhaul includes the strengthening of phonics and phonemic awareness instruction in Australian schools. Thankfully, many universities are now reviewing their teacher education degrees to reflect this focus, however, there remains a plethora of teachers whose experience lies in the whole language approach when teaching children to read. Add to this increasing class sizes, children with learning disabilities, and children from non English speaking backgrounds, and you begin to understand why some children fall through the cracks.
Therefore your third question should be directed to the principal of your child’s prospective new school :
Have the K – 2 teachers in your school all been trained in explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction?
If the answer is no and there are no plans to upskill existing staff, it’s time to look at what other local schools have in place.
Given the important role that phonics and phonemic awareness play in teaching children how to spell, read fluently and comprehend text, it’s just not worth leaving to chance.