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National Inquiry into Literacy Teaching.

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Media Release


30 November 2004 MIN 1016/04

Today I am announcing details about the Australian Government’s National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy.

This important Inquiry reaffirms the Government’s commitment to ensuring that all Australian children achieve high standards of literacy and that they acquire essential reading skills to equip them with the foundation for learning in school, and throughout their lives.

The inquiry will conduct an independent examination of reading research, teacher training and classroom practices for the teaching of reading. There will also be an examination of the way reading skills are tested. The inquiry will be further informed by a review of national and international research on reading methods, including those used to help students with reading difficulties.

An independent Committee, chaired by Dr Ken Rowe, a Research Director at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) will conduct the Inquiry. The Committee comprises highly experienced people with backgrounds in literacy research and policy, teacher preparation and practice, classroom teaching of reading, and importantly, a parent experienced in trying to assist her child deal with reading difficulties.

The Committee, assisted by a broad Reference Group, will consult widely, and interested groups will have the opportunity to provide written submissions.

The Inquiry will be conducted in consultation with government and non-government school education authorities, the teaching profession, universities, parents and researchers.

A report will be provided in the second half of 2005, and will offer best practice in literacy teaching and the implications of this for teacher preparation, classroom teaching practice and supporting teacher professional learning.

Attached are the list of Committee members and the full Terms of Reference.

Media Contacts:

Dr Nelson’s Office: Yaron Finkelstein 0414 927 663 Dept of Education, Science & Training: Laila Lacis 0412 040 034

Committee Members


Dr Ken Rowe, BA (Hons), PhD, Melb; MSc, London; DipGenStuds, Swin; TPTC, FACEL

Dr Ken Rowe is the Research Director of the Learning Processes and Contexts research program at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Prior to this appointment, Ken was Principal Research Fellow and Associate Professor in the Centre for Applied Educational Research at the University of Melbourne (1993-99), Senior Research Officer in the Department of Education, Victoria (1986-92), Commonwealth Relations Trust Fellow at the University of London Institute of Education (1984-85), teacher and Principal in Victorian schools (1967-83). Ken has also had Visiting Research Fellow appointments at the University of Twente (the Netherlands, 1995) and at the University of London (UK, 1996). Ken is an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders (FACEL).

Dr Rowe’s substantive research interests and expertise include: students’ literacy development throughout the early and middle years of schooling (especially in reading); ‘authentic’ educational and psychological assessment; models of quality assurance; multilevel, ‘value-added’, educational and organizational performance indicators, achievement target-setting and bench-marking; teacher and school effectiveness; differential gender effects of schooling in the context of teaching and learning; the teaching and learning needs of students with disabilities and learning difficulties; the impact of externalizing behaviour problems on students’ learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy; and the educational implications of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in children and adolescents.

From 1981 to the present, Ken has authored/co-authored 25 books/chapters in books, 50 monographs, 63 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 76 contract research/evaluation reports, 3 computer software application packages, and presented more than 200 conference papers and invited keynote addresses.


Professor Alan Rice, AM is Dean (Interim) at the Australian Centre for Educational Studies at Macquarie University. He has also worked at a senior level on the New South Wales Department of Education and Training and has significant policy expertise in early childhood education and literacy development. He managed the NSW Literacy Strategy from 1996 until 2001 and coordinated the early literacy project Literacy, Communities and the Under5’s. He has been a member of national working parties on early childhood and on rural education.

Ms Yvonne Meyer is the parent of a child who had reading and writing difficulties. It was not until he completed grade five that Ms Meyer realised her son could not read. She took her son to various educational experts who diagnosed everything from giftedness to laziness to learning disabilities. It was his very poor score on a phonetic reading test that highlighted the problem. Ms Meyer is a graduate of The Australian Film, Television and Radio School, has worked in film and theatre, and is now a stay-at-home mother of one, and occasional screenplay writer.

Dr Gregor Ramsey is the Chair for the National Institute for Quality Teaching and School Leadership. His background as an international consultant provides him with a knowledge of overseas educational systems. In 2003 he led a team reviewing secondary education in the Northern Territory, which produced the report Priority Education: Better choices Brighter futures. In 2000 he reviewed teacher education for the New South Wales State Government which led to the publication of the report Quality Matters-Revitalising teaching: Critical times critical choices. Dr Ramsey has made significant contributions to reviewing educational systems and the transition from school to work.

Professor Terry Lovat is President of the Australian Council of Deans of Education and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Newcastle. Prior to this Professor Lovat was President of the NSW Teacher Education Council. Professor Lovat has had an extensive and distinguished academic career and has written a number of books and monographs, school texts and teaching resources.

Ms Fiona Knight specialises in literacy in the early years of schooling and is a teacher at Rosedale Primary School in rural Victoria. Ms Knight’s teaching interests include the use of Information, Communication Technologies, literacy and students with learning disabilities. In 2003, Ms Knight was the recipient of a National Award for Quality Schooling for Outstanding Achievement in the Individual/School Leader category.

Mr Ken Smith is Director-General of Education and the Arts and Chair of the MCEETYA Performance, Measuring and Reporting Taskforce. Prior to this, Mr Smith has held a number of senior positions in the government and non-government sectors. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland in the School of Education having previously held an Adjunct Professor position with School of Social Work and Social Policy. Mr Smith will bring to the Inquiry extensive national and state-level experience in major policy, service and organisational change. His experience also includes introducing significant financial and service delivery reform in the vocational education and training, TAFE and employment services sector.

Ms Miranda Devine is a widely read columnist with the Sydney Morning Herald, with a strong focus on issues relevant to Australian parents and families.

Professor Bill Louden is Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. His background as a teacher, team leader and researcher with the Western Australian Department of Education provides him with an understanding of classrooms and students. His research expertise lies in school education with a particular focus on literacy. Research areas include teacher education, effective early years teaching and literacy development; and the literacy and numeracy development of students with learning difficulties.

Ms Lina Scalfino is the Principal of Modbury School (Preschool - Year 7) and has held a number of leadership positions in the areas of curriculum development, multicultural education and English as a Second Language policy development. Her previous positions have included implementing models for whole-school change based on a values framework. Modbury School received a Highly Commended Achievement Award as part of the 2003 National Awards for Quality Schooling. Ms Scalfino was a panellist on the National Values Education Forum held in April 2004. Ms Scalfino will bring to the Inquiry a school leadership perspective.

Reference Group

The Inquiry Committee will be supported by a broad Reference Group drawn from government and non-government school education authorities, the teaching profession and

education specialists, universities, parents and researchers. The Reference Group will assist the Committee to maintain linkages with the broad education community and will be asked to comment on key documents (such as the literature review and development of the Committee’s final report).

The Reference Group will be comprised of experts in the teaching of literacy and representatives from the following stakeholder organisations:

● Australian Education Systems Officials Committee (AESOC)

● the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC)

● the Independent Schools Council of Australia (ISCA)

● Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE)

● The Indigenous College of Education and Research (ICER), University of South


● Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA)

● Primary English Teaching Association (PETA)

● Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE)

• Speech Pathology Australia

• Australian Federation of SPELD (Solutions for People Experiencing Learning Difficulties) Associations

● Australian Association of Special Education (AASE)

● National Council on Intellectual Disability (NCID)

● Australian Primary Principals Association (APPA)

● Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA)

• Australian Principals Associations Professional Development Council (cross sectoral Principals’ professional organisation)

● Australian Council of Education Research (ACER)

● Australian Council of State School Organisations (ACSSO)

● Australian Parents Council (APC)

• Australian Education Union (AEU)

• Independent Education Union of Australia (IEU)

Terms of Reference for the Inquiry

The Australian Government is working with the States and Territories to ensure all Australian children achieve high standards of literacy and numeracy. A key Australian Government priority is to focus on achieving real, sustained improvements in the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian children to better prepare them for their futures.

In April 1999, the State, Territory and Australian Government Ministers for Education, met in Adelaide as the 10th Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), and endorsed new National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-First Century known as the Adelaide Declaration. In relation to literacy and numeracy, it was agreed that upon leaving school:

students should have attained the skills of numeracy and English literacy; such that every student should be numerate, able to read, write, spell and communicate at an appropriate level.

To help support the achievement of these National Goals, the Australian Government and the State and Territory Education Ministers have endorsed a National Literacy and Numeracy Plan, which calls for a coordinated approach to improving literacy and numeracy standards at the national level. Under the National Plan, Ministers agreed to support:

• assessment of all students by their teachers as early as possible in the initial years of schooling; • early intervention strategies for those students identified as having difficulty; • the development of agreed benchmarks for Years 3, 5 and 7, against which

all children's achievement in these years can be measured; o the measurement of students' progress against these benchmarks using rigorous assessment procedures; o national reporting of student achievement against the benchmarks; • professional development for teachers to support the key elements of the Plan.

International data indicate that Australian school students compare well with the performance of students in other OECD countries, but some are still not achieving acceptable literacy standards. This Inquiry reaffirms the Australian Government’s commitment to ensuring that all Australian children achieve high standards of literacy and the essential reading skills to make satisfactory progress at school.

The Inquiry will be conducted in consultation and co-operation with government and non-government school education authorities, the teaching profession, universities, parents and researchers. To implement the Inquiry, a Committee will be established to provide advice and recommendations to the Minister for Education, Science and Training on best practice in effective approaches to literacy teaching and the implications of this advice for teacher preparation and teaching. It will also report on current classroom practice for the teaching of reading. The Committee will be further assisted by a Reference Group.

Objectives of the Inquiry

The Inquiry will:

• Review and analyse recent national and international research about literacy teaching approaches, particularly approaches that are shown to be effective in assisting students with reading difficulties.

• Identify the extent to which prospective teachers are provided with reading teaching approaches and skills that are effective in the classroom, and have the opportunities to develop and practice the skills required to implement effective classroom reading programs. Training in both phonics and whole language approaches to reading will be examined.

• Identify the ways in which research evidence on literacy teaching and policies in Australian schools can best inform classroom teaching practice and support teacher professional learning.

• Examine the effectiveness of assessment methods being used to monitor the progress of students’ early reading learning.

• Produce a report of the Inquiry's findings in the second half of 2005 and offer best practice in effective approaches to literacy teaching and learning, both at the classroom level and in the training of teachers.