Letter to ACARA, with signatures

This week the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) released its revised Australian Curriculum for consultation. The many proponents of evidence-based early literacy instruction around the country had hoped that the revised curriculum for English would reflect and support the significant progress that has been made in our knowledge (and, in some Australian states, our practice) of the way early reading should be taught. The proposed curriculum fails in a critical aspect of this enterprise when it comes to the teaching of reading as part of the English curriculum document.

We draw particular attention to the continued inclusion of methods that reflect the ‘whole language’ approach to teaching reading – the approach that has led to thousands of Australian children not acquiring the all-important skill of reading in the first few years of school. The direction to teach phonics is obviously welcome but it is not credible to mandate this approach while retaining elements of instruction that undermine the most effective and efficient method of teaching reading – that is, a method firmly based on phonics in the first couple of years of schooling. Phonics instruction is an essential foundational element in the early teaching of reading and this should be done explicitly, systematically and synthetically. An amalgam of strategies intended to represent a ‘balanced’ approach to teaching reading is letting our young children down. If this is an attempt by ACARA to keep everyone moving forward together, it is a failure of leadership by the national body.

For example, the continuing inclusion of the use of ‘predictable’ texts in the early teaching of reading in the Foundation Year and in Year 1 is particularly troubling. As the revised curriculum document for English F-6 provides scope for using “texts that may be decodable and/or predictable” [emphasis added] it provides no clear direction to teachers in how the early phonic skills they are teaching should be consolidated in text reading. There is the problem; an ‘and/or’ approach is weak and misinformed. It leaves teachers potentially unsure about the most appropriate text to consolidate the phonic skills they are teaching. Not only is this confusing for teachers; worse, it is confusing for young children.

When students are learning to read they should be given a text type that matches the instruction in the classroom. If we agree that teaching phonics is the way to go (and the scientific research evidence overwhelmingly supports this approach) then providing decodable texts to students for the early stages of learning to read is not optional, it is essential. Conversely, predictable texts rely on the discredited ‘three-cueing method’ of reading, the language of which is also reflected in the curriculum as using “contextual, semantic, grammatical knowledge” to read words. This is not what we should be teaching. In fact, we know from research that it is the poorer readers who are most likely to resort to the methods advocated in the three-cueing method; it is the strategy of those who are struggling.

The Australian Curriculum is a very important document. While education is a state responsibility in our federated system, all states have to meet the standards of the national Curriculum as a minimum in the design of their own curricula. In this sense it is a master plan for what and how we teach in this country.

We have no wish to pour fuel on the fires of the ‘reading wars’. There is absolutely no need to revisit this well-trodden ground. The science is in on effective reading instruction. ACARA must not set this country back in its attempts to ensure that young children are given the very best start in learning to read. Federal Minister Tudge and a growing number of state education ministers and their departments are promoting evidence-based instruction. ACARA must not slow down the momentum that is building in this country to ensure that every child learns to read in the first few years of school.

We draw your attention to, and unequivocally support, the article written by Dr Jennifer Buckingham that was published in The Australian on April 30, 2021 and which we append to this letter.

We appeal to ACARA to consult with groups like DDOLL (Developmental Disorders of Language and Literacy which consists of well over 1,000 members who are reading scientists, teachers, linguists, speech pathologists, psychologists or parents), as well as the many groups of Australian teachers employing evidence-based practices to teach reading to review what has been proposed for this iteration of the Australian Curriculum.

Professor Max Coltheart AM DSc Hon DLitt (Macq) FASSA FAA FBA

Convenor, DDOLL network

May 7 2021

List of signatories

1Adrienne Adams
2Mhairi Alcorn
3Jessica Alexander
4Nicole Alexander
5Alex Anchor
6Laura Anchor
7Suzanna Andric
8Kristin Anthian
9Susan Antill
10Rebecca Apted
11Tammy Armstrong
12Nicole Arvidson
13Greg Ashman
14Jen Awty
15Jayne Ayliffe
16Zoe Baer
17Dr Bartek Rajkowski
18Clare Baker
19Peter Baker
20Sharon Barber
21Carol Barnes
22Christie Barrett
23Leanne Barrett
24Nicole Barton
25Vanessa Basilone
26Martha Bates
27Dr Velma Beaglehole
28Dr Nicola Bell
29Dr Anne Bellert
30Celine Bellve
31Leisa Benjamin
32Tracey Bennion
33Kerri Best
34Jane Betteley
35Miriana Bibrlik
36Kelly Bienvenu
37Zoe Bilton
38Rebecca Birch
39Jenny Black
40Diana Bleby
41Dana Bloye
42Jeanine Bodi
43Hayley Bonnici
44Kyla Booth
45Erin Boreham
46Faith Borkowsky
47Luisa Bornholm
48Leonie Borresen
49Anita Bounds
50Dr Caroline Bowen AM
51Laura Box
52Tracey Bradley
53Sharon Bramble
54Kylie Brewster
55Dominique Broomfeld
56Emma Brown
57Karen Browne
58Dr Jennifer Buckingham
59Nicole Buckley
60Kylie Budarick
61Amanda Bugiera
62Rebecca Burns
63Andrea Burt
64Merryn Burt
65Jo Butler
66Louise Byatt
67Tammy Byrne
68Justin Caban
69Natalie Campbell
70Alison Cannell
71Brendan Cannell
72Christine Cao
73Rebecca Carey
74Priscilla Carlisle
75Dr Sarah Carlon
76Leah Carmody
77Melinda Carritt-Madden
78Karen Cassidy
79Prof Anne Castles
80Teresa Cazzulino
81Renee Chakaodza
82Natalie Challis
83Gareth Chandler
84Lauren Chisholm
85Paula Churchward
86Renae Cirillo
87Gloria Clark
88Kathryn Clark
89Melanie Clark
90Alison Clarke
91Helen Cleanthous
92Frances Cleary
93Greg Clement
94Michelle Clifton
95Gisele Clough
96Penny Clunas
97Rebecca Cobb
98Elizabeth Cobcroft
99Code REaD Dyslexia Network
100Maria Colarusso
101Jessica Colleu Terradas
102Prof Max Coltheart
103Riaane Comport
104Kylie Conrad
105Ellisha Conway
106Jacinta Conway
107Bronwyn Cook
108Susan Cooper
109Emily Corcoran
110Gina Cordwell
111Edwina Cottino
112Clare Cox
113Susie Coyle
114Chelsea Anne Crane
115Fiona Crockett
116Jennifer Cross OAM
117Fleur Crowe
118Karen Cucchiarelli
119Melissa Cuming
120Mandy Cuneo
121Chelsie Cunneen
122Jessica Curnow
123Natalie Curtis
124Dr Katelin daCruz
125Dr Tessa Daffern
126Sophie Dall-Ava
127Tina Daniel
128Amanda Dansky
129John Dargel
130Emma Davey
131Jennifer Davies
132Lizzie Davis
133Nikki Davis
134Susan Davis
135Dr Emily Dawes
136Louise Day
137Melissa Day
138Rachele Day
139Dilini De Dauwe
140Rosina De Giglio
141Dr Molly de Lemos AM
142Megan De Reus
143Bianca De Sousa
144Caroline Denning
145Jo Dennis
146Dr Lisa Denny
147Narelle DeYoung
148Deborah Dimauro
149Prof Stephen Dinham OAM
150Julia Dix
151Berys Dixon
152James Dobson
153Samantha Donnan
154Dorinda Donoghue
155Anna Dougall
156Leanne Downie
157Monique du Sautoy
158Laurinda Ducatel
159Alison Duff
160Kerryn Duncan
161Kirsten Duncombe
162Amanda Dunstan
163Isabelle Duquennois
164Skye Eagles
165Alison Eaton
166Sarah Edwards
167David Eggleston
168Rebecca Eilers
169Emma Elix
170Elizabeth Ellett
171Stacey Elliott
172Gisela Ervin-Ward
173Brodie Files
174Lisa Fiorentino
175Simone Fisher
176Erin Fitzpatrick
177Jane Flack
178Anna Flanagan
179Jo Fletcher
180Alison Folland
181Rachel Forbes
182Adelaide Ford
183Kelly Forder
184Susanne Forey
185Dr Charlotte Forwood
186Sarah Fowler
187Lyn Franklin
188Dianne Fry
189Dr Julie Fry
190Scarlett Gaffey
191Kathryn Gallagher
192Susan Garai
193Tricia Gardner
194Dr Belinda Gardon
195Karl Garton
196Shallon Garton
197Trish Ghirardello
198Olivia Giglia
199Stephanie Girdwood
200Christine Giuffre
201Vanessa Glenn
202Laura Glisson
203Jodie Goddard
204Melanie Goddard
205Gyllian Godfrey
206Genevieve Godwin
207Sarah Gole
208Alicia Goodwin
209Lynette Goodwin
210Madeleine Goto
211Carly Gray
212Karen Green
213Sarah Green
214Dr Allison Greenland
215Chris Gregoriades
216Heidi Gregory
217Jessica Griesser
218Joanne Griffin
219Erin Griffith
220Megan Griffiths
221Aimee Griggs
222Liana Gunzburg
223Kate Gurjian
224Chris Guy
225Carole Hall
226Jasmyn Hall
227Jodie Halliday
228Brooke Hamden
229Amy Hamlyn
230A/Prof Lorraine Hammond AM
231Kirsty Hannah
232Jo-Ann Harder
233Eleonora Hare
234Jennifer Harford
235Natalie Harman
236Suzanne Harmer
237Katrina Harris
238Melanie Hart
239Em Harvey
240Melissa Haw
241Donna Hayward-Brown
242Dr Kerry Hempenstall
243Katrina Hennigan
244Melanie Henry
245Katherine Herbig
246Michele Hervatin
247Erin Hickey
248Louise Hill
249Simone Hill
250Cass Hinchcliffe
251Natalie Hine
252Therese Hine
253Jo Hirst
254Sarah Ho
255Katherine Holford
256Jacqui Holland
257Leonie Holloway
258Melinda Holmes
259Annemarie Honeybone
260Dr Wesley Hoover
261Caroline Horg
262Samantha Hornery
263Sarah Horton
264Bernadette Hovens
265Dr Sally Howell
266Elizabeth Howes
267Peta Humphreys
268Clare Hunt
269Jane Huy
270Dr Lynne Ivicevic
271Jayde Jacobs
272Jennifer Jakobi
273Shirley James-Sharry
274Harriett Janetos
275Karene Janke
276Lisa Jeffery
277Kate Jenkins
278Sharon Jewell
279Anita John
280Kate Johnson
281Leanne Johnson
282Louise Johnson
283Melanie Johnson
284Hannah Johnston
285Tara Johnston
286Samantha Jolly
287Julia Jones
288Kylie Joyce
289Anita Jurat
290Heather Keig
291Joyce Keirsten
292Kim Kelley
293Claire Kelly
294Katrina Kelso
295Sandy Keltie
296Dr Coral Kemp
297Jasmine Kemp
298Charmaine Kenner
299Clare Kennington
300Kelly Kensett-Smith
301Leah Kernot
302Tracy Kerridge
303Elise Kershaw
304Carolyn Key
305Kym Kilgallon
306Siti Kim
307Kelly King
308Michelle Kingsbury
309David Kinnane
310Erin Kinson
311Yuriko Kishida
312Karen Knight
313Sue Knight
314Karyn Knowles
315Lauren Koch
316Deslea Konza
317Alayne Kowald
318Melenna Krenmayr
319Anna-Lisa Kristof
320Monique Lagana
321Hayley Laing
322Rachael Lamrani
323Felicity Laurence
324Laura Law
325Stephanie Le Lievre
326Paula Leach
327Jessica Lee
328Kathy Lefevre
329Louise Legerstee
330Fay Lehmann
331Hazel Lekkas
332Pamela Leonardi
333Therese Levins
334Petrina Lewis
335Debbie Lifran
336Tania Limmer
337Anna Linard
338Ashley Lincoln
339Emma Linthwaite
340Joanne Lockwood
341Helen Longwill
342Vicki Lorraway
343Rosie Lucas
344Paul Luke
345Lisa Lynch
346Amanda Lyons
347Yarni MacAlister
348Bronwyn Macindoe
349Jane Mackenzie
350Karen MacLean
351Shayne MacMahon
352Louise Macquet
353Suzanne Maher
354Dr Susan Main
355Courtney Maitchell
356Yvonne Manchée
357Kirsty Manning
358Kate Marais
359Larissa Marchant
360Ann Marriott
361Dr Sandra Marshall
362Dr Deborah Martin
363Rosalie Martin
364Gabi Martínez
365Jessica Mason
366Amelia Matlock
367Julie Mavlian
368Lyndal Mayhew
369Josephine Mazzotta
370Leanne McAlpine
371Paul McCallum
372Carole McCluskey
373Fiona McCreadie
374Fay McDarmont
375Kathryn McDiven
376Dr Sarah McDonagh
377Angela McDonald
378Debra McDonald
379Fiona McElhone
380Tarin McElroy
381Jane McFie
382Oriel McGee
383Kerryl Murray McGlennon
384Charlene McGrath
385Amy McKay
386Linda McKillop
387Arlene McKinney
388Michelle McLeod-Dryden
389Catherine McMillan
390Alison McMurtrie
391Carina McNaughton
392Jacinta McPherson
393Carina McSweeney
394Dianna McTavish
395Kendall Mead
396Dr Linda Meeks
397Corinne Meers
398Dr Katelyn Melvin
399Ben Merrett-Troup
400Tamara Messina
401Dr Jamie Metsala
402Yvonne Meyer
403Celeste Miller
404Virginia Milliken
405Kate Mills
406Trinda Mills
407Angela Mitchell
408Caroline Moir
409Kiran Money
410Paula Montroy
411Amanda Moore
412Donna Morris
413Olivia Morris
414Ursula Morris
415Karen Morse
416Jessica Mounsey
417Morgana Mountfort-Davies
418Lyndal Mukherjee
419MultiLit Pty Ltd
420Sally Murphy
421Aliesha Murray
422Celeste Musgrave
423Camilla Mutton
424Naomi Nagorcka
425Belinda Nash
426Dr Zahra Nawaz
427Fiona Naylor
428Danielle Nayna
429Dr Ros Neilson
430Kylie Neville
431Liz Nevin
432Kenny Nguyen
433Delia Nicholas
434Melissa Niejalke
435Peter Nielsen
436Jackie Nieuwenhuizen
437Dhanya Nikhil
438Gabrielle Nilsson
439Paige Nilsson
440Kelly Norris
441Julie Norrish
442Tara Norwood
443Natalie O’Brien
444Kate O’Callaghan
445Carolyn O’Connor
446Sonja O’Connor
447Rebecca O’Donnell
448Belinda O’Rourke
449Christine O’Rourke
450Haley O’Rourke
451Daniel Oliver
452Kathryn Olsen
453Valerie Oppedisano
454Katie Ottosen
455Juliet Palethorpe
456Gareth Palmer
457Dr Ann Parker
458Melissa Parker
459Leigh Parlor
460Carol Parry
461Gay Parsons
462Kate Parsons
463Gail Paterson
464Cheryl Patterson
465Dr Alexia Pavlis
466Verity Payne
467Carmen Pearce
468Sarah Pearce
469Shane Pearson
470Jennifer Pendlebury
471Georgina Perry
472Patricia Peters
473Melissa Petersen
474Diane Philipson
475Julie Phillips
476Renelle Pitman
477Simmone Pogorzelski
478Anna Pogue
479Nicola Polglase
480Maureen Pollard
481Alena Pople
482Amy Posselt
483Lisa Powell
484Kristy Puccio
485Anne Puchert
486Freya Purnell
487Natalie Pusey
488Alison Quodling
489Natasha Radcliffe
490Faye Rallings
491Miksha Ramlukun
492Melina Ramp
493Martin Suhas Ravindran
494Emily Raynor
495Colette Read
496Nicole Reardon
497Terese Reeve
498Karen Reeves
499Ashlee Regan
500Sarah Reichelt
501Xanthi Rice
502Vanessa Ridley
503Diana Rigg
504Deborah Riley
505Jan Roberts
506Jane Roberts
507Rosemary Roberts
508Ainsley Robertson
509Edell Robertson
510Jennifer Robertson
511Susan Robertson
512Helen Robinson
513Dr Sally Robinson-Kooi
514Ewa Rochowczyk
515Christine Roddy-Clark
516Elissa Rodger
517Rhonda J. Roe
518Jo Rogers
519Christina Roodt
520Kerrie Rooke
521Sir Jim Rose
522Carolyn Rotolo
523Martine Rousset
524Kellie Rout
525Sarah Rowe
526Caroline Rowland
527Leanne Ruggero
528Emma Rutherford
529Ann Ryan
530Brooke Sacco
531Maricel Salazar
532Eridani Saleh
533Stacey Sampson
534Danielle Sanders
535Rebecca Sanders
536Sharon Sanna
537Tanya Saraikin
538Jess Sarmento
539Sascha Saulsman
540Wendy Savaris
541Erin Sawley
542Melanie Sayer
543Karlee Schade
544Kim Schelberg
545Carlie Schmitt
546Loredana Schwartz
547Dr Catherine Scott
548Ingrid Sealey
549Cheyne Sellwood
550Hanya Senjov
551A/Prof Tanya Serry
552Jasmine Shannon
553Ryan Shaw
554Claire Sheehan
555Leonie Shelley
556Lisa Sherman
557A/Prof Kym Simoncini
558Christie Simpson
559Judith Sinden
560Tiffany Sirisisavath
561Angela Skerman
562Caroline Slaytor
563Kristine Sloman
564Ruth Smart
565Amy Smith
566Hayley Smith
567Jenny Smith
568Michael Smith
569Michelle Smith
570Dr Karen Smith-Lock
571Prof Pamela Snow
572Sarah Spangenberg
573Anastasia Spanos
574Speech Pathology Tasmania
575Biljana Stavreski
576A/Prof Jennifer Stephenson
577Caitlin Stephenson
578Andrew Stewart
579Justine Stewart
580Cindy Stirling
581Dance Stoilov
582Natasha Stoilov
583Julie Stone
584Lyn Stone
585Melanie Stone
586Sybilla Stonnill
587Darren Stops
588Lisa Sturgess
589Laura Sundqvist
590Annray Sutcliffe
591Andrea Suttle
592Jenny Swain
593Prof John Sweller
594Renai Symons
595Belinda Tasker
596Tasmanian #100percentliteracy Alliance
597Sarah Tassicker
598Anna Taylor
599Margaret Taylor
600Madonna Thomas
601Myu Thompson
602Sandra Tidswell
603Rebecca Tinley
604Susanne Tocher
605Tara Toonen
606Kylie Torrens
607Nicole Townsend
608Jo Tregenza
609Karen Trengove
610Vanessa Tripodi
611Glenys Trouncer
612Dr Pye Twaddell
613Robyn Twells
614Annette van Brakel
615Rebekah van den Heuvel
616Michelle van der Werf
617Anne-Marie Van Duinen
618Sarah Van Kruining
619Lara van Rooyen
620Sharon Vaughan
621Melissa Verdon
622Troy Verey
623Kimberley Versteden
624Kelly Vimpani
625Sophie Visser
626Elle Walker
627Merryn Walker
628Nonie Wall
629Danielle Wanliss
630Melissa Ward
631Bec Ware
632James Ware
633Fiona Waters
634Renae Watkins
635Jodie Watson
636Monica Watts
637Melanie Weinberg
638Thizbe Wenger
639Tiffany Westphal
640Dr Robyn Wheldall
641Prof Kevin Wheldall AM
642Samantha White
643Kathryn Whitworth
644Jocelyn Williams
645Samantha Williams
646Karen Williamson
647Sarah Wilson
648Rebecca Wise
649Bianca Wolverton
650Clare Wood
651Troy Wood
652Dawn Woodfin
653Benjamin Woods
654Dr Kerry Woods
655Jessica Wright
656Steph Wright
657Kate Wurth
658Rose Ye
659Jennifer Young
660Penny Zajitz-Ceravolo
661Sally Zingelman
662Sarah Zjacic
663Sue Lloyd
664jacqui Tarquinio