Phonics in context is not enough: Synthetic phonics & learning to read

Tuesday 31st July 2018


ACE NSW and the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) is pleased to invite you to a debate on Phonics, where speakers will argue for and against the following proposition:

Phonics in context is not enough: synthetic phonics and learning to read

Event Details

Opening remarks: The Hon Rob Stokes MP
Moderator: Natasha Robinson, ABC

Speakers for the proposition:

1. Distinguished Professor Anne Castles, Macquarie University
2. Dr Jennifer Buckingham, The Centre for Independent Studies
3. Mr Troy Verey, Marsden Road Public School

Speakers against the proposition:

1. Professor Robyn Ewing AM, University of Sydney
2. Dr Kathy Rushton, University of Sydney
3. Mark Diamond, Principal, Lansvale Public School

Please see below for full program of the event.


Natasha Robinson | Australian Broadcasting Network

Natasha Robinson is the ABC’s national education reporter, based in Sydney with the Specialist Reporting Team. She has a background in writing on national affairs, particularly Indigenous affairs, law and immigration, and international crime. Natasha is a Sir Owen Dixon Chambers Law Reporting Award winner, and Kennedy awards finalist.

Distinguished Professor Anne Castles | Macquarie University

Anne’s research is in the cognitive science of reading and language, with a particular focus on reading development and developmental dyslexia. She completed an Honours degree in Psychology at ANU and a PhD at Macquarie University.

Anne then moved to the University of Melbourne where she had a teaching and research position in the Department of Psychology. She returned to Macquarie University in 2007 to take up a CORE research appointment. In 2010, Anne became the Scientific Director of the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science and subsequently Head of the Department of Cognitive Science. In 2011, she became the Deputy Director and Reading Program Leader for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders.

Dr Jennifer Buckingham | Centre for Independent Studies (CIS)

Jennifer’s main area of work is school education, and she has published papers on school choice, school funding, literacy, international assessments (including PISA), NAPLAN and My School, religious schools, boys’ education, teacher training and employment, class size, and educational disadvantage.

She is currently heading up the CIS FIVE from FIVE Literacy Project which has the aim to have effective reading taught in every classroom, every day. Jennifer has been at the forefront of debate on education matters for more than a decade, with hundreds of articles in major newspapers and regular radio appearances. 

Mr Troy Verey | Marsden Road Public School

Troy is currently a literacy and numeracy instructional leader at Marsden Road Public School. He has had teaching and leadership experience in English and Australian schools for over 10 years. A strong advocate for using evidence-based teaching and a knowledge-specific curriculum to overcome social inequities, Troy involves his students in the five elements of effective reading instruction, explicit teaching of writing and relational mathematics activities that aim to develop sophisticated academic schema and vocabulary.

Troy is a current member of the Liverpool Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group. In 2009, Troy was awarded the University of Wollongong Faculty of Education Alumni Award for Innovation in IT for his work in creating a web-based resource for Wollongong Botanic Gardens Education. Most recently, he was honoured with a 2016 Liverpool Principals Network Directors Award for his contributions as a teacher in an executive role at Marsden Road Public School.

Professor Robyn Ewing AM | University of Sydney

Initially a primary teacher, Robyn Ewing AM is currently Professor of Teacher Education and the Arts, Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney. She lectures in curriculum, English, literacy and drama across pre-service and postgraduate teacher education programs. She is passionate about the role that the Arts can play in transforming learning and has a commitment to innovative teaching and learning at all levels of education.

Currently she is Chair of the Academic Board, Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) and a board member of WestWords. Robyn is also a past President of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association and the Primary English Teachers Association Australia.

Dr Kathy Rushton | University of Sydney

Kathy is interested in the development of language and literacy, especially in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and with students learning English as an additional language or dialect. She is an experienced EAL/D and classroom teacher having worked in primary and secondary settings and with adults learning English.

She is a lecturer in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney and she also provides professional learning for teachers, especially in the areas of literacy and language development. Her current research projects are on the impact that teacher professional learning has on students’ literacy and language development and on the confirmation of student identity and the impact this has on wellbeing, literacy and language.

Mark Diamond | Lansvale Public School

Mark Diamond is the proud principal of Lansvale Public School learning community. He is an educator of thirty plus years and has previously been the Principal of Green Valley and Ashcroft Public Schools. He was an active partner and co-researcher in the Western Sydney University, Fair Go Project since its inception.

He was acknowledged by Western Sydney University as a Lead Learner for his contribution to the field of pre-service teaching and as a long-term participant on its External Advisory Board. Mark has also held the position of Instructional Leader – Mentor, through the Early Action for Success Program in NSW. He performed this role across five schools in South Western Sydney. Mark was also a Principal Education Officer in the Priority Action Schools Program.

Date & Time

Venue Location