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Reading Is Fundamental To Success In Maths Too, Says Literacy Lobby Group

A lobby group advocating for changes in New Zealand schools around the delivery of reading instruction has welcomed recommendations from an independent panel on mathematics.

A major new report from the Royal Society Te Apārangi is calling for urgent measures to improve mathematical outcomes including better testing, a clearer and more prescriptive curriculum, better classroom resources and more training for teachers.

NZ's leading independent literacy advocacy group, Lifting Literacy Aotearoa, has similarly been calling, for over a year now, for greater specificity on what and how children are taught to read and write and better teacher training that is grounded in the science of reading.

New Zealanders have poor literacy skills, just like those in numeracy. For example, according to the OECD Adults Skills Survey around 40% of adults have a level of literacy that is too low for them to fully participate in everyday life. And we now rank 33rd out of 50 countries for the literacy achievement of our 15 year olds with one of the widest gaps in literacy achievement in the OECD.

“For too long each university has chosen what is included in its teacher training. We need better cohesion and consistency across the country. At the moment teacher training is a lucky dip, which means the efficacy and quality of what children get is basically left to chance,” said Alice Wilson, Chair of Lifting Literacy Aotearoa.

“We understand and agree with the importance of raising mathematics achievement, but children simply cannot do maths if they’re unable to read properly. Good literacy is the foundation of all" she said.

Lifting Literacy Aotearoa is calling for an urgent overhaul in teacher training across all universities in all subjects, but especially in literacy and in mathematics. All those engaged in the Education sector, from the teacher training institutions, to The Ministry of Education, to the Education Review Office, to the Teaching Council and the Unions need to get up to speed and embrace teaching methods backed by robust science, she added.

The Ministry has recently made some changes towards a more evidence-based approach but it seems they are not yet fully committed to going down this path. They continue to pour millions 1 of dollars every year into programmes like Reading Recovery which are not backed up by robust evidence-based findings from the science of reading, and have long since been ditched by other jurisdictions as they do not benefit all children.

“The Ministry needs to take a good hard look at what is not working, what is not backed by science and give all children the best possible chance at getting a solid grounding in maths and reading.”

Low literacy, like low numeracy, is closely associated with low wages, poor health, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

A recent survey by Lifting Literacy Aotearoa to help inform the Education and Workforce Select Committee’s Inquiry into School Attendance found a strong link between low attendance and poor literacy achievement with schools using a structured literacy approach to teaching reading having improved and high levels of attendance. The results from the survey can be found here:

Lifting Literacy Aotearoa are a diverse and large group of educators, professionals and parents from around New Zealand who have been on our own learning journeys - some over the past 30 years - seeking to help our own children, or the children we teach and support, learn to read and write. Our vision is that every child in New Zealand receives the very best literacy instruction informed by the Science of Reading. As part of our advocacy work we collect and collate teachers’ and parents' feedback on literacy policy and initiatives funded by the Ministry of Education (MOE). We use that feedback to compile reports that we can then use to engage with the MOE and other appropriate stakeholders.

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