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Sounds like a phonics debate

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Phonics has been controversial for years and leading educators will meet in Sydney next week to further the debate.

They will present and argue the case for particular methods as well as the limitations of approaches. It is timely as the NSW State Government plans to support a mandatory Year 1 phonics check.

The event, presented by the Australian College of Educators and the Centre for Independent Studies will see experts on both sides of the argument debate the benefits and pitfalls of teaching synthetic phonics (where children practise sounding out letters and sounds out of context) in Australian primary schools.

The role of phonics in teaching reading is a controversial topic among many teachers, parents and peak education groups. Advocates firmly believe it is an essential tool to help struggling students, while others argue that a focus on phonics out of the context of reading is too mechanical and does nothing to support comprehension.

The Federal Government’s plans to introduce a phonics check, a five-minute quiz administered by a teacher which tests students’ ability to sound out a mix of 40 real and made up words, has divided many of Australia’s leading educators.

Some interpreted the move as an affront to educators and their teaching abilities, while others supported the decision.

Australian College of Educators CEO Helen Jentz said the College, working with the Centre for Independent Studies has secured some of Australia’s leading educators, researchers and practitioners for the lively debate.

“Although the phonics ‘issue’ can be polarizing within the education arena, this debate and the consequent discussions that it will generate is one way the College proactively ensures educators, ALL educators, have positive and constructive input into their profession,” Jentz said.

“It is critical teachers have a seat at the table when discussing how best to deliver quality education to Australian students.”

Arguing that phonics in context is not enough: synthetic phonics and learning to read is the most effective way of teaching phonics will be Prof Anne Castles from Macquarie University, Dr Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre for Independent Studies and Troy Verey from Marsden Road Public School.

Arguing against the proposition will be Professor Robyn Ewing and Dr Kathy Rushton from the University of Sydney and Mark Diamond from Lansvale Public School.

New South Wales Education Minister, Rob Stokes will also deliver the opening address.

What:              Phonics debate hosted by ACE and CIS

When:             Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Where:            Wesley Theatre, 220 Pitt Street, Sydney

Time:              5:30pm – 7:00pm


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