Updated to have explicit teaching at its core, the state’s Victorian Teaching and Learning Model will be rolled out across the state from next year, Carroll said today.

All students from Prep to Grade 2 will be taught to read using a systematic synthetic phonics approach as part of schools’ reading programs.

This will include a minimum of 25 minutes spent on the explicit teaching of phonics and phonemic awareness each day.

Explicit teaching of oral language, vocabulary, reading fluency and comprehension will also come into effect in all schools across the state.  

“The evidence is clear from Victorian schools and reviews conducted by research organisations like the Australian Education Research Organisation and the Grattan Institute – showing explicit teaching works best for the largest number of students, particularly capturing those who may be struggling,” the Allan Labor Government said.

“The weight of evidence at home and abroad has become clear and compelling – with studies from the United States, United Kingdom and across Australia now recommending systematic synthetic phonics as the most effective method to teach children to read.”

Educators, experts and learning support groups have broadly welcomed the news

La Trobe University’s Professor of Cognitive Psychology, Pamela Snow, gave kudos to Carroll for his “courage and leadership” in leading the change.

“Rising tide lifts all boats. We have to get this right, so that all children, regardless of postcode, languages spoken at home, neurodiversity and other variables, can succeed and flourish…” Snow posted on X.

She told EducationHQ that the plan will signal the end of high variability in the approach to initial reading instruction in Victoria.

"High variability and high quality cannot co-exist," Snow said.

"Until now, parents and children have been entering an unwitting lottery on school entry. Some schools use the most evidence-aligned approaches to early reading instruction, while others, equally well-intentioned, are still relying on approaches that are not successful with the highest proportion of children.

"This maximises the likelihood of success for all children, regardless of postcode, languages spoken at home, neurodiversity, or any other factors that can stand between them and reading success."

Snow said that if the reform is done well then over time there will be "less of a burden on parents to be paying for tutors and other forms of remedial support, to deal with problems that in a large proportion of cases, can be prevented through high-quality instruction".

Snow has previously warned that balanced literacy – an “inherently murky concept” and discredited approach to teaching reading – has unfortunately been “quite strongly endorsed” by the Victorian education department. 

“…no one can define it, and you get to do pretty much whatever you like, because anything is in scope if you’re doing balanced literacy.

“As long as you’re doing some sort of phonics, some sort of vocab work, some sort of comprehension, fluency work, it doesn’t really matter how you’re doing it, because it actively promotes eclecticism…” Snow flagged. 

A 2023 study from consulting firm Equity Economics called out Victoria for its failure to introduce evidence-based literacy instruction in primary schools.

Lead researcher Jessica Del Rio told EducationHQ at the time that while no system could say they were doing enough to support teachers to shift away from ineffective approaches, Victoria and the ACT appeared unmotivated to bring in wide-reaching change. 

“[These states] don’t recognise that there is a problem,” Del Rio said. 

"They think that their outcomes are good, sometimes because they compare their outcomes to the performance of other states and territories or to the national average. 

“And so for these higher performing jurisdictions, which in some cases have better outcomes driven by their more educationally advantaged population, they don’t see a need to do anything differently.”

Victorian Education Minister Ben Carroll says the State Government’s ambition is to ensure “every child from any background can read fluently”.

Announcing the plan, the Government highlighted the latest NAPLAN results which it said showed Victoria “leads the nation, ranking first or second in 16 of the 20 measures and scoring the best overall results in Year 3 literacy and numeracy”.

Carroll, meanwhile, emphasised that explicit teaching and the use of systemic synthetic phonics instruction has been shown to get results.

“…while we already lead the nation in NAPLAN results, we’re always looking to improve, especially in relation to lifting outcomes for disadvantaged students," he said. 

Leading maths teacher David Morkunas indicated the move was an overdue step in the right direction.

“And the wheels of progress continue to turn! So happy that Victoria is finally getting on board and moving in the direction of best practice. The price of illiteracy is profound, and this decision will be an important part in preventing kids statewide from falling behind,” he posted on X.

Learning support specialist Charlotte Peverett said the commitment was especially important for students with disabilities across the state.

"...Feels like Christmas morning. Let’s Go Victoria!! For all the advocates that have been fighting for change – We crossed the line and now the work begins!!!” she posted on X.

Heidi Gregory, founder of community group Dyslexia Victoria Support (DVS), has spent years driving a campaign for evidence-aligned reading practice to be a given in all Victorian schools.

In 2022, she was successful in getting two documents supporting the discredited literacy intervention program Reading Recovery removed from the Department’s website, but said at the time there was evidence to show around 85 Victorian schools still promoted or used the program and/or discredited levelled literacy interventions.

“Dyslexia Victoria Support never thought this day would come,” Gregory posted today.

“Let’s not forget those left behind, subjected to outdated and debunked programs for decades. This is a step in the right direction.”

DVS said it was “elated” to see the Department embrace an evidence-informed model that prioritises the proven efficacy of Systematic Synthetic Phonics and Explicit Direct Instruction. 

“Today’s announcement is not just a policy change; it is a beacon of hope for thousands of students who will now have access to the quality education they deserve,” the group said. 

For Gregory, the scrapping of balanced literacy in public schools “signifies a bold and necessary step towards rectifying past educational shortcomings and aligns Victoria with best practices in literacy education worldwide.”

Schools and teachers will be supported to adopt the evidence-backed approaches via “high-quality, practical lesson plans” which will be available first in English and Mathematics, followed by Science and Design and Digital Technologies.

“The reforms and the rollout of the lesson plans will reduce teacher workload and equip them with high quality, best practice materials so they can spend more time with their students and less time planning,” Carroll said.

The Minister took to X today to share the reform effort, saying the Government’s ambition was to ensure “every child from any background can read fluently”.

“Studies show children learning by the phonics method are two years ahead of their peers. We’ll put high quality phonics at the heart of teaching children to read,” he posted.

More to come.