Help us make reading and writing successful for all children in their first year at school – when they are most ready to learn.
Literacy success for all - it’s not an impossible dream!
This community project is showing that we can make a difference to reading and writing success for all children.
Between 2010 and 2012 the teachers at Titahi Bay School tried a different approach to teaching literacy in the first three years at school. They had stunning results. 90% of children taught this way achieved at national expectations for reading compared to 60% previously, and 82% achieved at national expectations for writing, compared to 49% previously.
We approached Massey University to help us design a larger research study to see if other schools could achieve the same results. Seventeen schools immediately opted to trial the approach. Fifteen other schools volunteered to be comparison schools for the first year. The project started in May 2014 with 259 five-year-olds from these 32 schools taking part. The community sprang into action to support the project, raising funds to get it started.
Results show that after only 16 weeks, we have made a difference. The children trialing this approach have made greater gains than those not using it.
The results compared the progress made by children in low and high decile schools. Overall the challenges these groups face are very different. Children who start school with more literacy knowledge (typically those children in high decile schools) usually make more rapid progress than those who start with less knowledge - the gap that exists at school entry slowly widens. This was not the picture we saw for children in the trial schools. The rate of progress was the same for children in the trial schools whether they were in a high or low decile school. The gap that existed when they started school did not increase. This is very encouraging. In the comparison schools, children in the high decile schools made more progress than those in the low decile schools – evidence of the increasing achievement gap.
What has made this difference? A small but significant change to the way literacy is taught and the skills and expertise of our teachers. The commitment teachers have made to finding out about and trying the approach, their willingness and enthusiasm for accommodating these new ideas into teaching practice and their openness for sharing new ideas with their colleagues has generated these results. This approach can be used in any classroom anywhere!
It is very exciting to see that we can make a difference to the outcomes for children, even if they come to school with limited literacy knowledge. What we want to do now is see if we can not just prevent the achievement gap from getting wider, but reduce it.
We need funds to pay the coordinator and the research assistants who carry out three lots of testing per year. We also need funds to provide resources for teachers and children. While we have already provided resources for some classrooms, we will have more classrooms joining the trial in June 2015.
We are always being told about the long tail of literacy underachievement. This community project set out to prove that we can change this and ensure literacy success for all children, no matter what they know when they start school. Our early results show that we are definitely heading in the right direction!
I am a literacy consultant leading this community-run research project with 32 schools in the greater Wellington region.