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Porirua principal wins research award

MEDIA RELEASE 8 September 2003

Porirua principal wins research award

Porirua principal Pauline Thomas has won this year's Wellington Regional Primary Principals' Association annual award allowing her to undertake research overseas.

The award, sponsored by the Wellington College of Education and school furniture manufacturer Furnware New Zealand Ltd, will allow Mrs Thomas to travel to Britain for six weeks and pays for relieving principal to cover for her while she is away.

Mrs Thomas will use her study award to study a national project aimed at improving the oral language skills of young children, and particularly as it relates to the use of computers.

Association chairperson Dianne Patterson said there is always competition for the award. "But Pauline Thomas' proposal for research into the development of oral language skills among children was very strong. In New Zealand we've placed a huge focus on reading, and more recently on writing, but haven't done a significant amount on oral language skills."

Mrs Thomas, who has been a teacher since 1960 and principal at Glenview School for the last seven years, said oral language skills were vital to a child's development.

"Listening and speaking skills come before literacy and while we have learnt how to accelerate literacy through teacher training, teachers have not had a lot of training on how to improve oral language skills."

Mrs Thomas said unless children had good oral language skills they would not be able to talk to each other in ways that helped them learn. "Collaborative learning involves children listening to what others are saying in a group and then building upon each others' ideas. It's quite complex conversation."

Mrs Thomas said she was particularly interested in how oral language skills could help children learn while using computers. "Computers are really powerful learning tools but it is essential children have the oral language skills so they can learn collaboratively in groups."

College principal Dugald Scott said the College sponsored the award, by paying for a relieving principal, as a way of encouraging principals to take study leave.

"The award allows primary principals to widen their knowledge and skills of new teaching practices throughout the world and then bring that information back to New Zealand and to their colleagues. The research previous recipients have carried out has been very influential."

Furnware managing director Hamish Whyte said sponsoring the travel costs of the award was a way the Hastings business could further contribute towards improving schooling in New Zealand.

"Schools have supported us for the 70 years we've been making furniture and this is one way we can put something back into the system by giving a principal the opportunity to do some significant professional development. They can then take the knowledge they’ve gained and use it to improve our schools and the education of New Zealand's children."

Issued for the Wellington College of Education by Victoria University of Wellington Public Affairs

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