Reading results turned on their head

20:50, Aug 05 2013
Titahi Bay School
PAGE TURNER: Titahi Bay School students Jimi McMahon and Persephone Lindsay, both aged 5.

A Wellington primary school is bucking the country's poor literacy trend after turning reading results on their head.

Titahi Bay School teachers knew something had to change when 60 per cent of its pupils were below the national standard in 2009.

In the space of four years, they have reversed those results to 70 per cent of pupils achieving the national standard level or above.

Massey University researchers published a report yesterday that said widening inequalities in literacy rates were a result of schools' "fundamentally flawed" approach to reading.

Despite more than $40 million being spent on reading recovery programmes each year by the Ministry of Education, the gap between European and Maori pupils continued to grow, it said.

Titahi Bay principal Kerry Delaney said the school took a new approach to literacy in 2010 to try to combat the poor results of new entrants.

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A literacy facilitator, Joy Allcock, was called in and teachers completed a questionnaire about what they did and did not know about teaching reading.

Ms Delaney said the information led to teachers assessing pupils and teaching to gaps, including increasing pupils' knowledge of the alphabet in their first three years.

"The work done has shown teachers new ways to teach, it's made a real difference to a range of writing abilities, and it's given teachers more confidence."

Teachers quickly discovered pupils could learn much more in their first year at school than initially thought, she said. The new style of teaching to specific gaps also meant pupils could be successful regardless of their knowledge when they first came to school.

Persephone Lindsay, 5, said she loved reading and writing at school, but when it came to telling a story it was her nana who came up trumps. "I like books with angels and Hairy Maclary, and Scarface Claw is the best."

Reading was a big part of her school day and this week's book of choice is David and the Phoenix, which she is chewing her way through with her second-favourite storyteller - her father.

The Dominion Post