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Why a Whole School Approach is Essential to Literacy Success

In the recent WA Education Department report, which highlighted the success of PLD literacy programs, Professor Louden asked the question ‘What do high-performing primary schools have in common?’. Louden’s research reported that seven of the nine high-performing schools had adopted what the researcher referred to as ‘lower variation teaching’. Lower variation teaching is defined as, the development of “… school wide-positions on curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.” (Page 25). SOURCE.

Hence the high-performing schools had introduced consistent approaches to literacy instruction, literacy assessment and the embracing of current literacy research. One core element of the literacy approach that was common across all of the high-performing schools was the implementation of a synthetic phonics approach. In addition, each of these high-performing junior primary classes also implemented explicit instruction teaching methods. Delivering research-based quality instruction is particularly important within the first years of schooling when children are first learning to read. Why? Most researchers and practitioners agree that literacy problems are more difficult to remediate than prevent.

Efforts to maximise literacy and learning levels in the early years of schooling are typically more effective than once students begin to experience difficulties. In previous blog posts, I have focused on the importance of starting at home with parents regularly reading with their children.

Despite the clarity within the research of what constitutes positive literacy instruction, there is still much debate within the general teaching community. School leadership within these high-performing primary schools took a clear and directive stance. The strong leadership within these schools meant that the approach to early literacy was research-driven and the variation in opinions was reduced.

In the majority of these school, the ‘lower variation approach to teaching’ lead to the creation of a clear scope and sequence outlining what is to be instructed. Related to the scope and sequence, the high-performing schools continued to invest in teachers’ professional learning.

For schools who are keen to establish ‘lower variation’ teaching and the implementation of an explicit synthetic phonics approach either in their junior primary or right through the primary school years, we have created a whole-school literacy and learning strategy.  The 24-page document outlines how to implement this within your school.

In addition, if you would prefer a WORD version of this document you can contact the PLD office. This document enables a school to work within the established framework and scope and sequence of skills but adapt it so that a school-specific plan can be established which reflects the ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage) rankings.

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