In December 2016, Dyslexia South Australia met with Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham. During the meeting ...

How children's Red Letters for Dyslexia are creating Red Ripples of Change

11:50:00 Dyslexia Australia 1 Comments

In December 2016, Dyslexia South Australia met with Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham. During the meeting the group presented him with a bound copy of all the letters received during the 2016,  ‘Make it a Red Letter Day for Dyslexia’ Campaign.

When interviewed by a newspaper journalist in late December Senator Birmingham was asked several questions, one of which was “What is your holiday reading and why?” his answer was the ‘Make it a Red Letter Day Book, a book of inspiring and confronting letters from children with dyslexia, that was presented to me last week’.

We are hopeful that reading the Red Letters has highlighted the urgency of the announcement made today, by Senator Birmingham of the 'expert group of principals, teachers, speech specialists, academics and researchers that will progress the staged implementation of a nation-wide phonics assessment and the development of a numeracy check'.

Thank you to Dyslexia SA for presenting our Book of Red Letters.

Following is more information from the announcement made today:

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the short assessments of year 1 students' literacy and numeracy skills are backed by evidence and will provide early identification of those students who are behind so they can be targeted with interventions before the achievement gap grows.’

“The time to act is now if we’re going to turn around our declining national and international education results. We can’t afford to wait any longer,” Minister Birmingham said.

“it is important that these evidence-based reforms are ready to hit the classroom as soon as possible once new agreements are finalised and this expert panel will ensure that is the case’.

“These highly regarded academic, health and education experts will drive these reforms, establish an implementation plan including an initial pilot to be scaled up to an early years’ skills check for all Australian students. They will consider the frequency, timing and core skills to be assessed prior to reporting by mid-2017.

Minister Birmingham said the implementation of the phonics assessment was an example of an evidence-backed reform that had previously been lost in the “washing machine debate” of schools funding over many years.

“The introduction of nationally consistent assessments on-entry to school for every Australian child with a specific focus on decoding skills and word reading accuracy using objective testing was recommended in the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy.

“In England, the improvement in the first five years of students taking part in the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check has been significant and includes the number of children meeting the expected standard from just over half in the first year to more than eight in 10 this year. The results are even more promising in the year following a student completing the initial assessment.

“It is important to identify if a child is not learning to read effectively, because then you can intervene and you can fix that problem, while evidence indicates that once a child reaches the age of eight there are enormous challenges to turning that around and the learning gap only blows out further.”
Minister Birmingham said the panel that would report back to Education Council in mid-2017 would consist of:

  • Ms Mandy Nayton OAM – Chief Executive Officer, Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation, Western Australian President AUSPELDProfessor 
  • Pamela Snow – Head of the La Trobe Rural Health School, registered psychologist, having qualified originally in speech pathology
  • Dr Jennifer Buckingham – Education Research Fellow the Centre for Independent Studies 
  • Mr Steven Capp – Principal, Bentleigh West Primary School Victoria 
  • Professor Geoff Prince – Director, Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute 
  • Ms Allason McNamara – Maths Teacher at Trinity Grammar, Kew, Vic, President Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT)

 “Australia cannot afford to follow the status quo in schooling. We must be focused on delivering reforms that evidence from teachers and researchers have shown us will boost student outcomes.

“It’s time for Australian leaders, educators and families to focus on what works in our schools and I look forward to collaborating with all sections of the community to implement our reforms which are designed to support all students to achieve their absolute best.”  

The Terms of Reference for an early years’ assessment expert panel can be found at

And the Statement can be read in full at :