During April and May 2015, Emeritus Professor Bill Louden investigated and prepared a case study report on the school operations and pedagogical practices in place in nine high-performing primary schools as measured by NAPLAN to establish the top literacy programs in Australia.
The intention of the investigation was to inform the Department of Education’s understanding of the conditions required for a school to achieve improved literacy and numeracy outcomes.
PLD’s Founder Diana Rigg strongly believes in the importance of a structured approach to phonics in the junior primary, although it’s a common belief that it’s the latter primary years that are more important. The research by Professor Louden recognised PLD’s strength in the junior primary years.
Most researchers agree that the returns are highest from the early years of schooling when children are first learning to read and that prevention is easier to achieve than remediation. This quote from Australia’s Keith Stanovich highlights this perfectly:
“The focus must be on early instruction because the problems magnify over time … Initially small differences between more and less skilled readers become exaggerated by enormous differences … the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. To prevent this vicious cycle we must optimise initial instruction.” (1986).
PLD Founder Diana Rigg concurs strongly with these research findings, recommending explicit quality instruction, focused in key areas as essential for early learning.
Wider Skill Set Approach in Top Literacy Programs
PLD’s learning resources are part of the wider skill set approach to literacy, incorporating Oral Language (speaking and listening), Motor and Movement and Decoding and Spelling. The resources are available from the early years (3 and on) ensuring this important focus on prevention.
The quality implementation of the synthetic phonics approach is the key to driving positive gains in reading, spelling and writing. PLD also supports what Professor Louden terms ‘lower-variation teaching’ in which high-performing schools establish positions on pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and often a school-specific scope and sequence.
In large schools, schools with non-permanent staffing and a crowded curriculum, lower variation teaching ensures quality delivery in key areas. Creating high-performance primary schools takes a team approach as well as the implementation of effective programs, systems and processes.
We would like to acknowledge the leadership teams within the nine participating schools as well as the hard work and dedication on the part of the teaching and support staff operating within those schools.
You can find the full report here High Performing Schools: What do they have in common?