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Family background should not restrict learning

Hon Trevor Mallard
24 July 2003 Speech Notes

Family background does not need to restrict learning

Speech to the launch of research on literacy achievements, Koru School, Mangere

Thanks for inviting me to help celebrate the release of the Professional Development Sustainability research which is another watershed for literacy teaching in New Zealand.

This is a great day for Koru School, for South Auckland and for the future of literacy achievement across all of our schools in New Zealand.

The research I am releasing today confirms that quality teaching practices can have a direct - and lasting - effect on the reading levels of six-year-olds.

I’d like to congratulate Doctor Gwenneth Phillips for her work in the professional development of teachers and also thank Stuart McNaughton for his work with the Pacific Early Childhood Centres.

The research is saying loud and clear that all learners - whatever their background or learning needs - can do well when their teachers have the right kind of professional support.

Importantly, it is reinforcing my belief that students flourish where teachers raise their expectations.

It is helping lay to rest the old myth that only certain kinds of people can succeed in education.

For the past three years Dr Helen Timperley and her team have focused on seven schools in Mangere and Otara.

It is one of a series of projects being carried out by The University of Auckland as part of the Ministry’s landmark Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara (SEMO) initiative.
Here, they looked at how schools are working to lift student achievement - and keep them there - after teachers were upskilled in early literacy teaching.

They found the ones posting the best results were those where teachers and managers worked directly with information on how well the six-year-olds were achieving.

This meant groups of teachers tracking the progress of these kids - poring over reading comprehension data, making changes in the classroom, and rechecking results to assess any gains.

The research found achievement gains in each of the three years in reading for six-year-old students in all of the schools.
Results were outstanding in two schools in particular - your school is one of them.
The report dismisses several of the hoary old factors often thought to affect schools’ capacity to raise student achievement.

It found that teacher satisfaction about programmes and teacher turn-over made no difference in student achievement levels.

And another myth destroyed - achievement was not related to the socio-economic background of the students.

This backs up what our government is focusing on in education.

We believe every child, regardless of their background, can aim high, and should be given the chance to do so.

This is essential if we want all New Zealanders to participate and contribute to New Zealand’s growth, socially and economically.

This research shows how we can start our young children on the right path for this to happen.

Further research will be carried out to help the schools increase their gains.

But we can take heart from the findings being released today.

This study is exciting news and shows professionalism is on the rise in Mangere and Otara.

I’m delighted that the talk amongst the professional leaders is focusing on how to teach students effectively. This also reflects one of my key goals for education.

There has been a lot of interest in the lessons learnt in Mangere and Otara within the education sector and this research is another important resource for teachers in other schools.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the work of all those many people involved in this research project - the researchers, the teachers, and of course the kids.

Best wishes to you all and thanks for the contribution you are making at the school and community level.


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