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Speech: Keeping the focus on reading and writing

Hon. Chris Carter Speech

Literacy learning progressions: keeping the focus on reading and writing

New tool to help teachres identify students' progress in literacy

Speech - Rata Street School, Naenae, Upper Hutt, Wellington

I know your school's mission is to turn kids on to learning. But we all know that for us to be able to do that, we have to get the foundations right. Every subject, every part of the curriculum, requires some basic reading and writing skills and we know that kids who don't have those basic skills can get turned off learning early.

That's why I'm pleased the focus of your school is on literacy. I know teachers here at Rata Street have been working with literacy facilitators and attending literacy workshops as part of their professional development, and I want to thank you for that positive action.

Three weeks ago we launched the New Zealand Curriculum to guide teaching and learning for the 21st century, and enable all our young people to become active and positive members of their communities. The parallel document for Mâori-medium education, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, was released as a draft a fortnight ago.

Getting the foundations right is at the heart of both of these documents. Literacy really does matter. The New Zealand Curriculum says that: "As language is central to learning and English is the medium for most learning in the NZ Curriculum, the importance of literacy in English cannot be overstated." As a former teacher, I wholeheartedly agree.

And internationally we're actually very good in this area. Today, the latest results from a long-term international study in reading literacy were released in the United States. It's called Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, or PIRLS, and shows that many young New Zealand students perform strongly in reading literacy, among the best by international standards. And our achievement is well above the international mean. The results also show signs of improvement in informational reading.

But like the rest of our education system, we have a broad range of achievement. Not everyone is reaching those high standards, and that's a real concern for us. Some students don't make the progress they need to in reading and writing, and this limits their ability to fully participate in the rest of the education system. Evidence from the Competent Children project, amongst other research, clearly shows that slow initial progress in literacy has negative effects on achievement well into the teenage years, when students need to be focused on achieving qualifications.

I read a recent study by Andy Towers of Massey University, who surveyed hundreds of people about the things they regretted in life. For older people looking back, their most common regret was about education.

More than regretting their careers decisions, or their relationships, or that they didn't travel enough - they regretted not getting as much education as they could have. That's because education provides opportunities in all sorts of other areas. It's the key to success in life, and that's why it's so important to the Labour-led government.

Literacy achievement can be lifted, and effective teaching is vitally important. Evidence from the Literacy Professional Development Project, which Rata Street School is part of, has shown us that schools taking part have made significant improvements in student achievement for all students, but best of all they appear to have accelerated the rate of progress for students in the lowest achievement bands. This has been replicated in two further groups. So congratulations to Rata Street School for taking part in this great programme.

We're determined to ensure that students continue to achieve the literacy skills and knowledge they need to access learning at all levels of school and throughout life.

That's why today I am delighted to be launching the Literacy Learning Progressions, a tool for teachers that will help them ensure that our children master the reading and writing skills they need across the curriculum.

I know you've been trialling the Progressions in your school, and that real focus on literacy will make a difference for the Rata Street Students now and for years to come.

If education is a door to success and opportunities, then literacy is the lock on that door. These literacy progressions are a key to unlock that door.

Thank you.


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