Every Victorian child will be screened for dyslexia and other learning difficulties when they start school under a new state government program.
Parents and disability advocates have welcomed the move, which will lead to more learning difficulties being detected earlier.
It follows concerns that too many children – particularly those with dyslexia or "the invisible disability" – have been slipping through the cracks.
State school teachers currently use an online tool to assess every prep's English skills – but, until now, the tool has not been specifically designed to identify students at risk of having learning difficulties.
Education Minister James Merlino said students achieved better outcomes when their learning difficulties were identified earlier and they received support.
Jason Henham, the president of dyslexia support organisation SPELD Victoria, welcomed the initiative and said screenings needed to be backed with better classroom support and teacher training.
"If a prep goes through school now and struggles with reading, the teachers don't have the information about what might be causing that struggle. This will provide an indicator of whether something like dyslexia is a contributor."
He said students with dyslexia were often told that they were not trying hard enough, and there was a misconception they had an intellectual disability.
"We see really smart kids, but because they have challenges reading they are bullied and called stupid," he said.
ACER chief executive Professor Geoff Masters said the changes would help teachers target their teaching more effectively by providing them with more evidence to identify potential learning difficulties.
"We know that students start school with very different levels of literacy knowledge and understanding," he said.
The Andrews government is reviewing its funding program for students with a disability and teachers must now engage in professional learning on disabilities as part of their registration.
From The Age