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Lakeview’s new focus on literacy

Children at Lakeview School should soon be learning to read and write more quickly and easily thanks to a new literacy programme.

Assistant principal Michelle Kerr introduced structured learning in January after seeing great results at Martinborough School, which is in its third year of teaching the approach and has noted significant engagement from boys in particular.

While Lakeview’s literacy rates vary, Kerr has noticed that children tend to start off well and then plateau at a certain level.

“That’s why we looked at this,” said Kerr. “We recognise that we need to continue building those literacy rates as the children move through the school for them to be successful and ready to go to college.”

With children’s reading and writing attainment continuing to decline across the country, literacy has become a hot topic this election year.

Structured literacy – which focuses on word recognition and sounding out word sounds – is gaining traction in New Zealand due to research both here and overseas indicating it leads to better outcomes compared to the ‘whole language’ approach that’s been favoured by the Ministry of Education.

Kerr is excited by the results Lakeview has seen after just six months.

“Our board has been incredibly supportive to fund it,” she said.

Funding covers consultancy, releasing teachers, buying resources, and employing four structured literacy support staff.

Kerr estimates the cost will be about $130,000 by the end of the year.

She appreciates the board’s commitment but thinks the programme should be accessible to every school.

Although some schools can apply to the ministry for Better Start Literacy Approach funding, “we could wait forever for the ministry,” Kerr said.

“The children in front of us right now deserve to get best practice. If we wait for the ministry, kids will miss out.”

“We can determine more easily if a child has a learning difficulty, said Nelson “We can track kids’ progress more accurately.”

Learning Matters consultant Jill Symonds is helping Lakeview introduce the structured literacy approach.

“Structured literacy has many principles. One is that it’s based on an assessment of what the needs are. Another is explicit teaching; nothing is left to chance,” said Symonds.

“The teachers know what they are teaching and the children know what they’re learning. This approach is beneficial for everyone. But it is particularly essential for dyslexic children.”

“Dyslexic children can often be wonderful at language comprehension but the word-recognition side of the equation is where they struggle. Structured literacy builds up these word-recognition skills,” Symonds said.

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