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Trust invests heavily in child literacy

23 February 2005

Development Trust invests heavily in child literacy

In its biggest grant to date, The West Coast Development Trust has agreed to invest up to $1.73m on a literacy programme designed to boost the reading and writing skills of West Coast children.

The literacy programme starts next week with a series of meetings in schools across the Coast. It has been developed in conjunction with the University of Auckland and the Woolf Fisher Research Centre, led by Professor Stuart McNaughton.

The programme will be implemented over the next three years and targets children from Year 1 through to Year 8 as well as early childhood centres.

The programme gives education professionals on the Coast unprecedented access to research and development expertise aimed at improving the effectiveness of teaching. It acknowledges the importance of the role that teachers play in childhood development.

“Teachers make the difference,” says Professor McNaughton. “Our current best estimates are that up to 60% of variability of children’s achievement can be attributed to good teaching. So if you want to improve literacy rates you need to help teachers recognise their potential to make an even greater difference.”

Improving literacy is a nationwide issue, however some areas on the Coast are lagging behind national averages. The programme sets out to address issues of “literacy, qualifications, career aspirations and self esteem in the region’s population”, as identified in The West Coast Development Trust’s 2004 Business Plan.

Says Professor McNaughton, “the programme aims to shift the distribution of achievement and by that I mean we want to see improvements across the whole range of students, rather than within one specific group of students. We are working on children’s achievement right throughout their primary school years, focusing not just on reading but also comprehension and writing skills.”

To combat the Coast’s issues of isolation and physical distance, a purpose-built, web-based platform is being developed by Learning Media Ltd and Christchurch-based software company, Interact. The platform will allow teachers to watch videos, share achievements and undertake professional development exercises without having to travel to a main centre.

The programme has the support of the Ministry of Education and the collaboration between the Trust, West Coast Schools and the Research Centre is expected to be a very productive one.

Michael Trousselot, chief executive of The Development Trust, says the Trust’s investment in this educational initiative is designed to deliver results that will be felt throughout the region in the long term. “The grant indicates the seriousness of our commitment to education and training as enablers of sustainable economic growth on the West Coast.”


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