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Monday, 30 November 2020

Phonics Screening Check

Phonics Screening Check (PDF, 1.3MB)

Phonics Screening Check (PDF, 1.3MB)

The Year 1 Phonics Screening Check is a short assessment that takes 5-7 minutes and indicates to classroom teachers how their students are progressing in phonics. The Phonics Screening Check is designed to be administered in Year 1, after students have had time to develop phonic knowledge, but with enough time left to make sure interventions and targeted teaching can still make a difference.

The Phonics Screening Check complements existing school practices used to identify students’ progress in developing foundational literacy skills.
This document provides a summary of information and data from the Phonics Screening Check trial delivered in 2020.

Published in Research report

Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) review (PDF, 1.1MB)

Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) review (PDF, 1.1MB)

One-page summary (PDF, 208kB)



Language, Learning & Literacy (L3) is a pedagogical approach to teaching reading and writing (not a collection of curriculum resources or a programmed scope and sequence). L3 Kindergarten was developed first as a Tier 2 intervention to provide personalised instruction for individuals and small groups of students within a whole class setting. L3 Stage One was developed later not as a tiered intervention, but as a professional learning program for Stage One teachers.



The aim of this review was to examine the design, content and implementation of L3. We used three methods to achieve this: document review, quantitative survey analysis and qualitative interview analysis. This review does not include an outcome evaluation.

In this review, we addressed seven research questions:

      1. What was the original research base for L3?
      2. How was L3 originally designed and implemented?
      3. To what extent does L3 reflect current departmental policies and publications?
      4. How is L3 currently designed and implemented?
      5. Why did NSW government primary schools choose to use L3?
      6. What aspects of L3 are perceived to be working well?
      7. What aspects of L3 could be improved?


Main findings

          • While L3 drew on some research, it did not draw on the full range of available research into early literacy teaching, especially research that emphasised the use of code-based approaches to early reading instruction through explicit and systematic pedagogies.
          • L3 provides only limited ‘systematic’ teaching and a form of ‘explicit’ teaching that is not consistent with current best practice. L3 does not adequately reflect the phonemic awareness or phonics components in CESE’s ‘Effective reading instruction’ literature review. L3 did not include a scope and sequence to systematically structure the introduction of alphabetic code-breaking skills.
          • Over time, L3 shifted away from being a closely monitored and targeted intervention to being perceived as a general literacy pedagogy suitable for any school. This shift was exacerbated by a lack of alternative departmental whole class literacy programs from which schools could choose. As the use of L3 expanded to reach an increasingly large and diverse range of schools, departmental oversight and implementation monitoring were reduced. This impacted on the department’s ability to identify which schools were using L3 and to monitor program fidelity, and therefore hindered the ability to evaluate of the impact of L3 on student learning.
          • The demand for teacher professional learning in literacy has driven the use of L3. L3 filled knowledge gaps in both pre-service and in-service training in the fundamentals of teaching reading and writing. Many reported that they were impressed with the training model, especially the in-school coaching.
          • Three in every five schools reported using L3 in 2019 and implementation of L3 varied considerably between schools. In addition, 84% of these schools reported adopting other programs alongside L3. Two-thirds of schools reported modifying L3.
          • Teachers reported that a key strength of L3 was a substantial change in their knowledge, practice and confidence. L3 promoted the use of quality texts and provided specific procedures for talking with students about texts. The five-weekly goal setting and use of data to inform practice supported teachers’ reflective practice.
          • Teachers reported that some of the L3 strategies were time consuming and challenging to implement, with some students needing more support than L3 offers. Implementation of L3 also presented challenges for classroom management, with some schools reporting that students struggled with the requirement to work independently during L3 lessons.



          1. Consider key elements of the L3 professional learning model for future training.
          2. Clarify how best to program and implement the K-6 English syllabus.
          3. Clarify how best to differentiate phonics instruction in different contexts.
          4. Clarify the purpose of different assessment tools and how to use the data they generate.
          5. Develop a logic model and an evaluation plan for a comprehensive outcome evaluation of future programs.


Literacy support for schools and related resources

Since 2017, the department has undertaken a range of strategic activities and developed a suite of new resource to support schools with early literacy instruction. These are available via the links below.

Effective reading instruction in the early years literature review

Professional learning

Published in Research report

 MiniLit evaluation report (PDF opens in new window)

Authors: Jon Quach, Sharon Goldfeld, Janet Clinton, Tanya Serry, Libby Smith and Anneke Grobler

Evaluator company/business: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the University of Melbourne for Evidence for Learning

URL or PDF: The MiniLit Learning Impact Fund evaluation report (PDF opens in new window) is available from the Evidence for Learning website.

Summary: This report examined the efficacy of the MiniLit intervention in improving reading skills among Year 1 students who were struggling to learn to read. MiniLit is a prescriptive, synthetic phonics intervention program led by tutors that focus on improving children's word reading. A total of 237 students from nine schools participated with 119 students randomly allocated to the MiniLit group and 118 students to the control group.This study found no statistical evidence that the MiniLit intervention resulted in increased improvement in the primary outcomes of reading accuracy, rate or comprehension over that of a control group receiving usual learning support after 12 months. However, it did find evidence of improved secondary outcomes for skills that underpin reading. The evaluation also identified costs associated with delivering MiniLit and implementation factors influencing program outcomes.

Published in Evaluation repository

 Literacy Numeracy Action Plan 2012-16                   Literacy Numeracy Action Plan Exec summary                       

 Full report                                Executive summary


Evaluator company/business: Erebus International
Year: 2017
URL or PDF: Download the Evaluation of the NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2012-2016 (PDF, 2.93MB) and Executive summary (PDF, 519kB)
Summary: The Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2012-2016 was developed to address the widespread inequalities in learning outcomes known to exist from the earliest years of schooling in NSW schools serving low socioeconomic status communities. This report presents the findings of an evaluation of NSW Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan 2012-2016. It examines the extent to which student literacy and numeracy improved, factors that may have led to any improvement, and the extent to which any improvement achieved was cost-effective.

Published in Evaluation repository

Lit Num NP Prog Eval Focus On Reading 

Authors: Alison Wallace, Benita Power, Lee Holloway, Chloe Harkness
Evaluator Company/Business:
URL or PDF: 
Download the External evaluation of the selected NPLN NSW Programs: Evaluation of Focus on Reading 3-6 final report (PDF, 1.5MB) 
The evaluation aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Focus on Reading 3-6 program, to identify the extent to which the program was operating as intended and to assess whether the program had improved the educational outcomes of Aboriginal students. Focus on Reading 3-6 was designed to provide professional learning support to classroom teachers in a school or community of schools. The main goals of the program were to increase teacher knowledge about how to develop fluent readers and to develop  comprehension and vocabulary skills based on effective evidence-based practices. The evaluation methodology comprised a knowledge review, scoping of data sets, site visits, and stakeholder interviews and surveys. In both the quantitative and qualitative research, the great majority of teachers and school staff reported increased knowledge and skills in teaching reading. Gains in mean reading scores were also observed for all student cohorts at Focus on Reading 3-6 schools.

Published in Evaluation repository

effect read

Effective reading instruction in the early years of school (PDF, 3.7MB) 

Effective reading myPL course


Evidence summary poster for school staffrooms

To help share the evidence, Effective reading is available as a summary poster.

What does the poster say?

Reading is a foundational, yet complex cognitive skill upon which other skills are built. Early success in reading is a powerful predictor of later achievement in a range of other academic areas. Individuals without literacy skills are at risk of being unable to participate in the workforce or engage fully in civic and social life.

Since 2000, there have been major reviews of the teaching of reading in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. These reviews, along with other research, have consistently identified five key components of effective reading programs: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The CESE literature review ‘Effective reading instruction in the early years of school’ summarises this research and concludes that, to be most successful, the five key components must be taught explicitly, sequentially and systematically.

The evidence identifies five key components of effective reading programs:

Phonemic awareness
The ability to hear the sounds in spoken words and understand that words are made up of sequences of sounds.

Phonics instruction connects phonemes with written letters so that the reader can transfer knowledge of sounds to the printed word. Synthetic phonics’ is the approach with the most robust evidence base.

The ability to read quickly and naturally with accuracy and expression. Fluency contains the skill of automaticity which allows a reader to recognise words quickly.

When children ‘sound out’ a word, their brain connects the pronunciation of a sequence of sounds to a word in their vocabulary to find a logical match. If a match is not created because the word they are reading is not in their vocabulary, comprehension is interrupted.

The understanding and interpretation of what is read. Comprehension requires having a sufficient vocabulary.

Published in Research report

 Reading Recovery Sector-wide Analysis 2015

Authors: Deborah Bradford and Wai-Yin Wan
Evaluator company/business: Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, NSW Department of Education

Year: 2015
URL or PDF: Download Reading Recovery: a sector-wide analysis  (PDF, 1.23MB).
Summary: The primary aims of this study were to examine the impact of Reading Recovery (RR) on students’ literacy outcomes at the end of Year 1 and whether any benefits associated with participating in RR are sustained over the longer term to Year 3. This evaluation was conducted state-wide across NSW government schools. It focussed on identifying the impact of RR on student outcomes compared to similar students who attended a school that did not offer RR. The study employed a quasi-experimental design drawing on retrospective data that detailed participation in RR and student outcomes in the early years of school. The results showed some evidence that RR has a modest short-term effect on reading skills among the lowest performing students. However, RR does not appear to be an effective intervention for students that begin Year 1 with more proficient literacy skills. In the longer-term, there was no evidence of any positive effects of RR on students’ reading performance in Year 3.

Published in Evaluation repository

How schools can improve literacy and numeracy performance (PDF, 1MB)


How schools can improve literacy and numeracy performance (PDF, 1MB)

How schools can improve literacy and numeracy performance myPL course



This paper examines evidence-based practices that can be implemented by schools to enhance literacy and numeracy performance. Educating students in literacy and numeracy is a key responsibility of schools as literacy and numeracy are ‘foundational skills’ that underpin the subsequent development of more complex skills. Literacy and numeracy skills also underpin workforce participation, productivity and the broader economy, and can impact on social and health outcomes. Individuals without these skills are at risk of not being able to participate in the workforce or engage fully in social and civic life.


Main findings

Intervene early and maintain the focus
Research shows that access to quality early childhood education programs makes a significant and long-term difference to children’s development in many areas, including their cognitive development. Early intervention needs to be followed by continued high quality learning experiences to maintain efficacy. The first three years of school are a peak window within which children develop the literacy and numeracy skills that they will carry into upper primary and secondary school.
Know what students can do and target teaching accordingly
There is a wide range of learning achievement amongst students in Australian schools. Targeted teaching can lift the performance of students who are many years behind and also challenge students who are already well ahead of year-level expectations. In order to implement targeted teaching effectively, teachers need accurate information about what students know and are ready to learn next. This information can be acquired through the use of formative assessment which has been shown to have a significant effect on learning across the spectrum.

Have clear and transparent learning goals
Research shows that having clear and transparent learning goals at both the school and classroom level leads to improvements in learning achievement. Evidence shows that students who experience explicit teaching practices perform better than students who do not. Explicit teaching practice involves teachers clearly showing students what to do and how to do it, rather than having students discover or construct this information for themselves. Well-defined learning continua or progressions support explicit teaching by enabling teachers to understand what is to be learned and to determine accurately students’ current learning achievement.
Focus on teacher professional learning that improves the teaching of literacy and numeracy
High-quality teaching is the greatest in-school influence on student engagement and outcomes. Quality professional learning increases teaching quality. Research indicates that professional learning is most effective if it deepens teachers’ content knowledge and knowledge about how students learn that content; is supported by the wider school community and is seen as part of achieving whole school goals; and is linked to clear and relevant goals that are related to student outcomes.


The information on this page is also available as a one-page summary (PDF, 162kB)

Published in Research report

Teach Learn Share 56 Language Learning Literacy Early Years

Evaluator company/business: Erebus International

Year: 2013

URL or PDF: Download the report on Language, learning and literacy in the early years (PDF, 252kB)

Summary:  The Language, Learning, Literacy program evaluation aimed to determine whether teachers who undertook professional learning from a qualified trainer developed improved techniques for planning and delivering instruction to small groups and classes. The methodology measured student improvement levels by using students’ end-of-year data gathered from the previous year’s cohort at each school, and compared it with the data of current students and their progress over a school year. The authors stated that the program achieved its goals of: 50 per cent of all students reading and writing above end-of-year expectations and only 20 per cent of students reading and writing below end-of-year expectations. 

Published in Evaluation repository

Lit Num NP Prog Eval MindfulLearning MindfulTeaching


Authors: Alison Wallace, Lee Holloway, Chloe Harkness and Amanda McAtamney

Evaluator company/business: Urbis 

Year: 2012

URL or PDF: Download the National Partnership on Literacy and Numeracy - External Evaluation of the Selected NPLN NSW Programs: Evaluation of Mindful Learning Mindful Teaching final report (PDF, 1.9MB)

Summary:  The aim of the evaluation was to assess the effectiveness of the Mindful Learning Mindful Teaching (MLMT) program that was designed to build teacher capacity to improve the reading comprehension skills of students. This evaluation involved eight schools and used qualitative and quantitative components including site visits, consultations with all stakeholders, analysis of test data and online surveys. The schools reported a high percentage of LBOTE or ESL students. A high satisfaction rate with the program was shown with teachers indicating MLMT had a positive impact on their literacy teaching practice and gains in reading comprehension for students.

Published in Evaluation repository
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