Many WA schools still fail to use phonics properly when teaching children to read despite overwhelming evidence that the technique works, a parliamentary committee has found.
The final report of the education and health standing committee released yesterday said that despite some movement towards phonics, the culture in many schools remained biased towards the “whole language” approach.
International research shows that explicit and structured teaching of phonics — the relationship between letters and sounds — is the most effective way to teach reading.
But for many years, schools relied on the whole language approach, which immersed children in books to encourage guessing words using picture and context clues.
“A number of teachers lack an understanding of language and have little if any knowledge of phonics or how to teach it,” the report said.
Committee chairwoman Janet Woollard said there was a culture of resistance in many schools and in some schools phonics was not taught at all.
She found it disappointing that many new graduates and experienced teachers received scant training in teaching children to read using phonics.
The committee recommended that Education Minister Peter Collier include more funding in the next Budget to give priority to phonics teaching in schools.
Education Department statewide services executive director Juanita Healy said public school teachers had been directed to strengthen the teaching of phonics, grammar and comprehension.
She said director-general Sharyn O’Neill felt strongly about the issue and wrote a specific statement for early childhood teachers last year outlining the expectations for explicit teaching, including phonics.
“Teachers can access guidelines, syllabus documents and online resources to help them meet this expectation,” Ms Healy said.
“Raising standards in literacy and numeracy is a priority for every public school in WA and we have invested $21.2 million during 2012 to support schools.”
The committee also found high rates of non-attendance posed a risk to students’ education and that too many children were hampered by significant hearing difficulties. It recommended the Government help tackle hearing problems in remote areas with treatment from a mobile bus.