AUSPELD 2014 Tour to feature presentations from Pie Corbett…read more
AUSPELD will be proud to welcome Neil Mackay to Australia for a series of entertaining and educational workshops in 2012.
Neil Mackay is an educational consultant and trainer who created the concept of Dyslexia Friendly Schools in the UK. He is an experienced teacher who has taught for 26 years, working with children of all ages with a wide range of needs and abilities. There will be workshops for teachers in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth as well as parent workshops in some cities (TBA).
2012 Australian Tour Dates and Locations
Brisbane – May 28th and 29th (visit www.speld.org.au for further details)
Sydney – June 1st and 2nd (visit www.speldnsw.org.au for further details)
Melbourne – June 6th and 7th (visit www.speldvic.org.au for further details)
Adelaide – June 9th (see http://www.speld-sa.org.au/images/workshops/neil%20mackay%20seminar.pdf)
Neil is known for his ability to bring the classroom into his training and for providing lively, entertaining and thought provoking opportunities for teachers and allied professionals to reflect on and develope their practice. He has written a number of books including the extremly popular Removing Dyslexia as a Barrier to Achievement and Taking the Hell out of Homework. Both books are available though AUSPELD, click here for info.
Click here for more info on Neil Mackay’s australian tour…
Those in the ECD Workforce play a critically important role in potentially influencing the development of oral language, memory, fine and gross motor skills, pre-literacy and literacy skills of the children with whom they work. High quality, extensive training – detailing the knowledge, skills and understandings relevant to children’s early childhood development is essential. ECD workers need to have a well-developed understanding of the precursors to successful social, emotional and academic development across childhood. AUSPELD provides expert advice in the areas of literacy and learning and therefore comment will be made specifically regarding these key developmental domains.
The Australian Federation of SPELD Associations (AUSPELD) represents all state and territory SPELD Associations. These organisations, in turn, represent and support the many thousands of children and adults struggling with both learning difficulties and disabilities throughout Australia. In addition to providing advocacy and support for individuals with learning difficulties and disabilities, AUSPELD also promotes evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning for all children and adults. Over the last ten years a primary focus of the state SPELDs has been to prevent literacy failure, particularly amongst our most vulnerable children.
AUSPELD provides services to a range of professionals including early childhood teachers, education assistants, childcare workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and educational psychologists, as well as families and individuals. Through its state-based members, AUSPELD responds to in excess of 1,000 calls per week from community members and to a similar number of requests for information and support via email and website contact. State SPELDs also provides training, resources and support to over 30,000 teachers, principals and allied professionals working in schools and other organisations throughout Australia each year.
AUSPELD contributes to state and federal inquiries, forums and government departments on a wide range of issues related to improving literacy outcomes. AUSPELD is well-positioned to comment on the role of the ECD workforce on the development of children’s literacy skills. This submission will focus on the need to improve training in pre- and early literacy acquisition for ECD workers, the importance of an integrated approach to literacy and learning across early childhood service providers, and ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of the ECD workforce.
RELEVANT TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Early Childhood Development Workforce and The Schooling Workforce
1. Factors affecting the current and future demand and supply for the ECD workforce, and the required mix of skills and knowledge, including:
(a) Delivery of fully integrated ECD services including maternal and child health, childcare, preschool, family support services and services for those with additional needs.
Perhaps one of the most effective ways that the poverty cycle can be broken is through education and children are most likely to achieve educational success if they become literate. The protective factors and risk factors for literacy success or failure are established in the early years and there are a range of ECD workers who, with appropriate training, could ensure that children developed the pre-literacy skills necessary for literacy success.
The Early Years Learning Framework – “Educators: Belonging, Being and Becoming” – published and distributed by DEEWR in 2010 provided a valuable framework for discussion and planning for members of the ECD workforce. It was not (and did not pretend to be) a curriculum, syllabus or overview of the skills, knowledge and understandings that children need to acquire during the early years; or professional and strategic advice on how best these skills should be taught. In the past decade a great deal has been written, and there has been numerous international inquiries (NRP, Rose Report, Nelson, etc), clearly outlining the components of appropriate pre- and early literacy skill development and what needs to be provided to young children to ensure that their early language and literacy skills develop effectively. Unfortunately, very little of this information is ever provided directly and succinctly to members of the ECD workforce. Many ECD workers report a lack of confidence with respect to their ability to provide sound learning experiences to children to target the development of their early reading and writing skills and this is simply because they have not been provided with the appropriate skills.
Research suggests that children who become successful readers and writers are those who have been exposed to a language-rich environment in their early years. Children who are not provided with explicit instruction in vocabulary (building knowledge and understanding of words) and phonological awareness (the ability to distinguish and manipulate the sounds in spoken words) are at a significantly increased risk of struggling with literacy acquisition throughout their schooling. All children, but particularly, those children at greatest risk, require robust instruction in vocabulary, language comprehension and phonological awareness. They also require explicit, intentional, multi-sensory, systematic teaching of foundation-level literacy skills (such as a structured synthetic phonics program) from pre-primary (age 5 years).
There is strong evidence to show that there is a vast divide between the language experiences of children from different socioeconomic levels, and that these differences place children from low SES backgrounds at increased risk of academic and social difficulties. Graves and Slater (1987) found that year 1 students from high SES backgrounds had approximately double the vocabulary size of students from low SES backgrounds. Hart and Risley (1995) showed that not only do children from low SES backgrounds have reduced vocabularies; they are exposed to much fewer positive verbal interactions than children from high SES backgrounds.
The ECD Workforce has the opportunity to affect the volume and quality of oral language input children receive through the education of parents (by encouraging positive and appropriate parent-child interactions), and by intentional teaching of children. In order for parents to be provided with accurate and evidence-based information (including games, strategies, songs, etc) regarding language development, it is essential that the members of the ECD Workforce providing this information be well-informed.
Over the past thirty years the prevailing ideology in early childhood education and care has been that children learn best through play. This has therefore influenced not only policy and practice, but the development of resources, the physical layout of early childhood environments and the response to the needs of children demonstrating developmental delays. Obviously, the inclusion of play in early childhood centres is essential but for children with developmental disabilities, the lack of structure and the lack of intentional teaching have often added to their difficulties. The fact that ECD staff have often not been trained in delivering programs that are more structured, sequential, intentional and responsive also means that when asked to do so, they feel both out of their depth and also uncomfortable from a philosophical point of view.
(c) The availability and quality of pre-service education programs, including through undergraduate and postgraduate education and VET, and consideration of training pathways.
AUSPELD is an expert provider of literacy training to educational institutions. It is our observation through providing professional learning sessions to school staff that many teachers and support staff lack confidence with respect to their ability to teach literacy skills. As indicated earlier in this submission, there remains a very strong focus on play-based learning in early childhood education and child-care facilities throughout Australia. This is promoted to the exclusion of other approaches and fails to acknowledge the wealth of research evidence that suggests that those children considered to be at greatest risk do not respond well to unstructured, open-ended tasks. These children fall further behind their peers, become disenchanted with school and frequently display behaviour problems. Current pre-service education programs largely advocate for play-based, student-directed methods to the exclusion of any form of structured learning. As such, many teachers enter the workforce with little understanding of the science behind reading development and the strategies necessary to build strong literacy skills in their young students.
There is overwhelming support – both from current academic research and from practice – to support the view that all children benefit from teaching that is explicit, structured, sequential and multi-sensory. Pre-service training for ECD workers (especially teachers and teacher assistants) should focus on these key components in addition to the critical elements of effective reading instruction (Rose Report, 2006) which includes:
• explicit and systematic phonemic awareness instruction
• systematically sequenced phonics instruction
• guided and repeated oral reading with appropriate error correction and feedback to improve reading fluency
• direct instruction in vocabulary and reading comprehension strategies
It is our hope that the inclusion of explicit skill teaching in the early years will help to prevent the high (52%) level of functional literacy problems currently experienced by Australia’s 15 to 19 year olds (ABS data, 2006).
We would be happy to address any of our comments in greater detail or respond to any queries from the Commissioners. Thank you.
30 January 2011
MEDIA RELEASE – 15 February, 2011
The Gillard Labor Government is taking action to help remove barriers to educational achievement, with a review of Disability Standards for Education.
Minister for School Education Peter Garrett said recent figures show the numbers of funded school students with disability increased by more than 20 per cent in the four years from 2005 to 2009.
“Today I’m releasing a discussion paper inviting submissions to the Review, in a move to help ensure a more inclusive Australian society which enables people with disability to achieve their full potential,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Disability Standards for Education have been in place for five years and it’s time we looked at their effectiveness in giving those with disability every opportunity to succeed in the education system.
“School students with disability have steadily increased as a percentage of the total school population. In 2009 there were over 164,000 students with disabilities in Australian schools that received support by education authorities.
“It is central to Federal Labor’s belief that all students, regardless of their personal or social situations, have access to the very best education we can provide so that they can pursue their life’s aspirations to the fullest.
“This discussion paper will help us determine how effective the Disability Standards for Education are in practice and whether they need to be amended.
“I encourage people with an interest in improving the education and training experience for people with disability to make a submission to the Review.”
Senator McLucas welcomed the review of the standards.
“People with disability deserve the same opportunities as other Australians in their local community,” Ms McLucas said.
“The Disability Standards for Education help to ensure that people with disability enjoy the benefits of education and training.”
The Standards are designed to assist people with disability to access and participate in education and training opportunities and help eliminate discrimination in education and training.
The Standards also clarify the rights of students and the obligations of education providers, pre-school, school and tertiary, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
The Australian Government is also conducting a broader Review of Funding for Schooling, which is examining all funding to all schools including funding allocations to ensure students with disability can access a quality education.
Information on the review, including the discussion paper, is available at www.deewr.gov.au/DSEReview .
As part of the review process, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will conduct face-to-face consultations with stakeholders in each capital city.
In addition, the department will engage in a series of broader consultations with schools-focused disability organisations on education issues affecting school students with disability.
THE HON PETER GARRETT MP
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
SENATOR THE HON JAN MCLUCAS
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers
Minister Garrett’s Media Contact: Cameron Scott 0448 346 942
Senator McLucas’ Media Contact: Belinda Featherstone 0408 743 457
DEEWR Media: firstname.lastname@example.org
Non-media queries: 1300 363 079
FOUR years after the national inquiry into teaching reading, one Australian government has finally embraced the key recommendation that children be taught the sounds that make up words as an essential first step in learning to read.
The NSW government has released literacy teaching guides incorporating the latest research evidence on the best way to teach reading.
The guides mandate that children from the first years of school be explicitly taught the sounds of letters and how to blend and manipulate sounds to form words in daily 10 to 20-minute sessions.
The guides set out key principles for teachers to follow in reading instruction, stipulating that phonics need to be taught to a level where children can automatically recall the knowledge.
They also debunk “common myths” about phonics that “have almost become accepted as truths”, including that “phonics knowledge is caught, not taught” or that having a sound of the week is an effective way of teaching.
Devised in response to the 2005 national review on teaching reading, the NSW guidelines were yesterday lauded as the benchmark for the rest of the country.
A bitter debate has raged for the past three decades over the teaching of reading, with the proponents of phonics pitted against those favouring the “whole language” method, which emphasises other skills instead of sounding words.
Whole language advocates encourage students faced with an unfamiliar word to look at the other words in the sentence, the picture on the page or the shape of the letters rather than by “sounding out” the word. The national review, released after an inquiry led by the late educational researcher Ken Rowe, was one of three large international studies in the past decade to examine all the evidence about teaching reading, including an earlier US report and Britain’s Rose report, completed in 2006.
All three reviews concluded the same thing, that teaching children phonics and how to blend sounds to make words was a necessary first step in learning to read, but not the only skill required.
The Australian inquiry was prompted by a letter from reading researchers and cognitive psychologists, many based at Macquarie University, concerned about the state of literacy teaching in the nation.
One of the signatories to the letter, Macquarie University professor Max Coltheart, yesterday said the NSW guides were entirely consistent with the recommendations of the reading inquiry and that “Ken Rowe would have been delighted”.
Professor Coltheart called on the other states and territories to follow NSW’s lead.
Jim Rose, author of the British report and now reviewing the English primary curriculum for the British government, praised the NSW guides for “establishing the essential importance of phonics”.
“It provides some firm guidance for principals and teachers rather than leaving them to reinvent reading instruction, school by school,” Sir Jim said.
The assistant principal and kindergarten teacher at Miranda Public School in Sydney’s south, Susan Orlovich, has already started using the guides in teaching her students. “For the first time, we have really clear materials and guidelines for setting up an early literacy program that’s integrated and balanced but ensures we also teach phonics and phonemic awareness explicitly and systematically,” she said.
Ms Orlovich said the guides had struck the right balance between teaching the skills necessary to sound out words and decode the alphabet, and comprehension with students being able to write their own words.
They also gave teachers strategies for students at different stages in recognition that some already understand the phonemic basis of language.
“Some kids can learn with whole language, and make those connections and do phonemic substitution, so if they know how to write ‘look’, they can write ‘book’,” she said.
“Some kids are able to make that substitution without being taught, but for other students, you need to teach them explicitly, make it visual for them.”
In an interview with The Australian during a visit to Australia last week, Sir Jim said the simple view of reading was that it had two dimensions, comprehension and word recognition.
While teaching sounds is often denigrated by the whole language side of the reading debate as a decoding skill unnecessary to be able to read, Sir Jim said it was essential children knew how the alphabet worked and that it was a code to be understood.
“It’s not just barking at print, although that is a stage you go through,” he said.
Professor Coltheart, said he understood the new national English curriculum being written would include extensive material on the teaching of phonics in the early years of school, including phonemic awareness in the first year.
“This alignment between the national curriculum and the NSW guides for teachers is going to be of enormous benefit for the state’s young children. I hope other states will be following in NSW’s footsteps,” he said.
Sir Jim said the reading debate was a false dichotomy and the two sides had more in common than the extremists were prepared to recognise.
“A picture has emerged from the research that is overwhelmingly clear; I can’t see any conflict, they’re closer than they admit,” he said.
“I don’t understand why they can’t accept good evidence that would enrich both sides.”
The NSW Education Department has produced two guides, one focused specifically on phonics and a companion guide on phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear and manipulate the sounds that make up words.
In response to the myth that phonics knowledge is “caught, not taught”, the guide says letter-sound correspondences are arbitrary and therefore difficult to discover without explicit teaching.
“Left to chance or inference alone, many students would acquire phonics knowledge too slowly or fail to learn it at all,” itsays.
Another myth debunked is that teaching phonics impedes student comprehension by having them rely too much on “decoding” rather than “reading for meaning”, resulting in students “barking at print” without understanding what they’re reading.
“Effective phonics teaching supports students to readily recognise and produce familiar words accurately and effortlessly and to identify and produce words that are new to them. Developing automatic word recognition will support and enhance students’ comprehension skills,” the guide says.
- Justine Ferrari, Education writer
- From: The Australian
- September 29, 2009
Over the past decade numerous reports and inquiries have been commissioned by Governments worldwide to investigate and report on the incidence and prevention of literacy failure. Inevitably these initiatives result in recommendations targeting the early years; a reflection of the truism that ‘prevention is better than cure’. A common theme in the reports tabled in the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand is the need to provide instruction that is evidence-based. In addition, the need to improve the quality of literacy-related instruction through access to improved teaching resources, clearly articulated curricula and teacher knowledge is stressed. Central to all the reports is the need to improve pre-service and in-service training in the areas of reading development and reading instruction.
Canada is the most recent English-speaking country to develop a nation-wide response to the growing incidence of literacy failure. The report entitled National Strategy for Early Literacy was prepared by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network and was tabled in Parliament in October of 2009. As with earlier reports there is a strong emphasis on evidence-based practice and, in particular, the report suggests that most literacy challenges can be prevented through an appropriate mix of: 1) effective instruction; 2) early learning experience; 3) systematic assessments (to identify any children who experience difficulty at an early age); and 4) appropriate intervention.
The following is a reduced version of the Summary Report:
Literacy impacts all aspects of modern life. For individuals, it is the foundation for academic, financial, and life success; for nations, it is the key to a healthy democracy and a flourishing economy. Adults with poor literacy skills are less successful in school, work less, and are unemployed longer. They require more social assistance and are more frequently in poorer health. Moreover, it is clear that the economic and social importance of literacy skills is increasing as our nation and workforce face increased global competition.
Barriers to Literacy Improvement
Through the inquiry process, a number of systemic and individual barriers to successful literacy outcomes for Canada’s children and youth were identified. These barriers replicate the obstacles faced by children in Australia.
Important systemic barriers include:
1. The inability of many children to access high-quality early childhood education and care programs. This creates a particular challenge for those children who are most vulnerable to poor literacy outcomes because they lack adequate supports through their home and neighbourhood environments.
2. The inability of many children to access libraries, and other supporting programs and services, again with access challenges increasing for many of the most vulnerable Canadian children.
3. The inability of many schools to identify and deal effectively with children who already lag behind their peers when they first enter school.
4. The need to improve teacher preparation in the area of reading development and reading instruction, and to improve the quality of literacy-related instruction in classrooms.
One in four Canadian children who enter Grade 1 is significantly behind his or her peers and poorly prepared to learn. This statistic demonstrates the need to improve support for early learning. The language and literacy environment of the child’s home and early learning and child care (ELCC) settings are strong determinants of early language and literacy skills. Not all children receive the support they need at home in order to be successful in school. To provide an equal opportunity for all children to grow and develop appropriately, Canada needs to invest in universally available, high quality, affordable day-care/early learning centres. Attending high quality ELCC programs can improve children’s language and literacy skills, readiness for school, and early school performance. This is especially true for children from disadvantaged backgrounds for whom quality early childhood development programs can significantly improve longer-term educational and occupational outcomes.
In addition to the need for a comprehensive, universal ELCC system to address the early learning needs of Canadian children who do not receive appropriate support and stimulation within their home, there is an urgent need to improve literacy-related instruction in schools. Currently, many children who are well prepared to learn when they enter school nevertheless fail to acquire strong literacy skills alongside their peers due to the uneven quality of literacy-related instruction. Many jurisdictions have identified the need to improve literacy instruction in schools, but progress has been slow and the education system continues to fail too many children.
It is essential that changes occur in the way that reading and writing are taught in classrooms, as classroom experience is a critically important determinant of how well children learn to read. Improving the way reading and writing are taught in Canada is therefore the single most important consideration for increasing literacy outcomes for Canadian students.
Such change requires improvements in Canada’s system for preparing new teachers and in providing continuing professional education and teacher support programs. At present, many student teachers complete their university teacher preparation programs without learning the basic scientific principles behind the development of reading skill and effective reading instruction. As a result, the substantial body of knowledge on how to teach children to read, how to identify children who have failed to acquire specific reading skills, and how to intervene effectively is not being applied in many Canadian classrooms.
At present, many student teachers complete their university teacher preparation programs without learning the basic scientific principles behind the development of reading skill and effective reading instruction. As a result, the substantial body of knowledge on how to teach children to read, how to identify children who have failed to acquire specific reading skills, and how to intervene effectively is not being applied in many Canadian classrooms.
The report includes four broad recommendations encompassing a range of underlying strategies.
1. Encourage and assist initiatives that facilitate children’s language and literacy development from a very young age.
Language skills provide the foundation for literacy skills, thus the language environment to which children are exposed from an early age is very important. Experience gained within the family home from the time that children are very young has a significant impact on their language development.
While most parents wish for the best outcomes for their children, not all home environments presently support optimal language development; these children begin to fall behind their peers from the very beginning. It is therefore important to provide appropriate guidance and support for the families of all infants and young children and to assist vulnerable children through centre-based, high-quality early learning and care settings that provide the needed language-rich environment.
Because infants and young children are in contact with the health care system from the beginning, it is natural to use this system to provide early guidance and support. Recognizing the importance of literacy for better health and life outcomes, many hospitals, physicians, paediatricians, and home visiting programs by nurses have
initiated such programs. For example, the health-care based initiatives that distribute “books to babies” provide a natural, universal, and effective channel to help parents to value, and understand how they can support the language and literacy development of their young children.
Identifying and intervening at an early age with children who are at risk for poor language, literacy and learning outcomes as a result of sensory or cognitive development factors is essential for these children’s future success. Early identification and remediation of such developmental issues can significantly improve outcomes for children and can be highly cost effective.
Poor literacy development is more likely for children living in poverty, as well as for children in certain at-risk groups. Aboriginal (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) children are especially vulnerable to poor language and literacy outcomes and must receive opportunities for participation in enriched early learning programs. Children in families where neither English nor French is spoken could also be at risk if they are not provided with supportive environments for language and literacy development. It is particularly important for agencies having responsibility for at-risk groups to provide support as a routine component of the immigrant orientation and settlement process.
Many adults have low literacy skills or are otherwise poorly equipped to assist their children to acquire the necessary language and literacy skills. Investing in improving the skills of adults can benefit children by increasing the effectiveness of parents as their child’s first teacher.
The costs of the above initiatives are modest, and the returns on such investment are high.
1. Implement initiatives that help parents to understand the importance of their child’s language and literacy development and to engage in activities that support this development.
2. Build this guidance and support system around existing community resources that support early literacy such as hospitals, health clinics, libraries, schools, and early learning centres.
3. Facilitate the development of a system of high-quality, centre-based, enriched early learning and care programs for preschool children.
4. Ensure that pre-service and in-service training programs for early learning specialists provide a strong background on early language and literacy development.
5. Implement universal screening programs to identify important sensory and cognitive challenges at an early age (e.g., vision, hearing, language development, etc.) together with the appropriate intervention programs.
6. Develop targeted, evidence-based initiatives to improve outcomes for children in families where neither English nor French is spoken and for Aboriginal Canadians.
7. Support initiatives that improve the literacy skills of adults.
2. Ensure that appropriate teaching strategies, shown through rigorous, evidence-based research to be effective in developing strong literacy skills, are used in all Canadian classrooms.
Once children enter school, teachers play a very important role in children’s language and literacy development.
Teachers therefore require a deep understanding of how age appropriate literacy skills are acquired, and how these can be taught. They must also understand how to evaluate weaknesses in an individual child’s literacy skills and also know the range of instructional and intervention techniques that can help the child to overcome these weaknesses. It is therefore imperative that both pre-service and in-service teacher training programs provide teachers with evidence-based knowledge on how to measure and to teach fundamental literacy skills to all children.
Teacher and resource teacher education should be based on a three-tier model for teaching children to read. Through this process, all children would receive a standard baseline of core classroom instruction, sufficient for most children to learn to read. Regular assessments would quickly identify the approximately 20% of children for whom this core instruction may have been insufficient, so that supplemental instruction can be provided before they fall far behind their peers. Further assessment and intensive intervention would then be provided for the approximately 5% of children who require this level of service.
1. Enhance teacher training programs to ensure that all graduating teachers understand: a) how children learn to read; b) what instructional methods are effective for ensuring that children acquire strong reading skills; c) how to identify a child’s specific literacy weaknesses; and d) what interventions are appropriate to address each weakness.
2. Enhance in-service training programs and within-school support services to develop such understanding and skill development among current teachers.
3. Ensure that each school and school board puts in place an explicit literacy assessment, instruction, support, intervention and monitoring process, implementing the three-tier model.
4. Ensure that all children acquire fundamental literacy skills through an evidence-based instructional program that must include systematic, direct, and explicit instruction, supporting the acquisition of essential alphabetic, code-breaking skills, and the development of strong oral language, vocabulary, grammar, fluency, and reading comprehension skills.
3. Encourage community engagement and support for ongoing literacy development throughout the year.
Communities possess physical and human resources that can be harnessed at a modest cost, to improve children’s language and literacy skills. Currently, some programs organize community volunteers to provide literacy-specific tutoring for children with reading challenges. Other programs use corporate volunteers for more general tutoring and mentoring for vulnerable students and their families. In several Canadian cities, schools are now being used to provide vulnerable, inner-city children with recreation and learning programs during the summer months, when such children are otherwise likely to lose skills and fall behind their more privileged peers. These programs make use of schools that would be vacant during the summer and hire university students as program counsellors. Such community-based programs require very modest investments while having the potential to yield very good returns.
In addition, at the community level, physicians can use their privileged advisory role to promote literacy among their young patients – with potential benefits for both the patients and the health care system in general.
At each visit, physicians can have substantial impact by informing parents of the importance of, and ways to promote, optimal language and literacy development, and by making parents aware of relevant developmental milestones and inquiring about the individual child’s language progress.
1. Develop and advance community-based family literacy programs.
2. Encourage programs that engage community volunteers to work with young students within the school.
3. Support community-based programs for students in at-risk communities. Programs that engage local sports teams and businesses can be particularly effective.
4. Develop summer learning programs for at-risk children.
5. Encourage paediatricians and family physicians to work with childcare providers and literacy specialists at the community level to promote literacy locally, as well as within their practices.
4. Improve communication and the sharing of literacy-related knowledge and resources.
Public awareness of the status of literacy skills across the population is low, and there is very limited appreciation of the economic, social and personal impact that low literacy has. There is a special concern that businesses and the federal government are neglecting the economic and social impact of low literacy skills. The current investment in research and evaluation activities to improve literacy outcomes is vanishingly small.
At present, knowledge and experience gained from initiatives to improve literacy undertaken in one part of the country are rarely shared with other Canadians. This leads to needless duplication of effort and inefficient use of resources. Canada requires a comprehensive approach to facilitate networking and the sharing of information across regions and sectors in the early literacy area.
1. Communicate the urgency of the need to improve literacy skills.
2. Improve the sharing of knowledge about programs and resources across the country.
3. Support applied research and evaluation initiatives that address gaps in our knowledge of literacy skill development. These include:
i. Improving measurement instruments for a range of skills and populations, including non-English speaking groups.
ii. Developing and evaluating improved interventions and instructional techniques.
iii. Performing systematic evaluations of programs and initiatives.
iv. Facilitating knowledge transfer, exchange, and application, within and across the research, policy and practice sectors.
v. Promoting implementation of science research to enhance our capacity to “scale up” effective instruction techniques and interventions across whole education systems.
It will be valuable to monitor the implementation of the Canadian recommendations over the next few years and ascertain what lessons, if any, the strategies have for early literacy intervention in Australia.
The report was prepared by the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network of which Donald G. Jamieson, Ph.D., is currently CEO and Scientific Director.
A copy of the full report is available online at http://docs.cllrnet.ca/NSEL/finalReport.pdf
In a recent report commissioned by the British Government, the need to respond more effectively to students struggling with dyslexia was identified as a priority requiring immediate and substantive attention. The report – Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties (Rose, J) – was completed in June, 2009 and the Government have subsequently approved all 19 recommendations arising from the report.
At the heart of these recommendations are two important understandings. Firstly, dyslexia exists and is identifiable as a developmental disability of language learning and cognition. Secondly, in order to respond effectively to students with dyslexia we must ensure that all children are provided with high quality early instruction and that evidence-based intervention is offered to every child identified as at risk of literacy failure.
Pressure for the Dyslexia Report came from many sources but was driven by both parents and adult learners desperately seeking numerous changes to the education system. Of most importance was the early identification of dyslexia and an improved response once identified; two factors seen as being of paramount importance in reducing the impact of dyslexia on developing literacy skills. Many adult learners described the frustration and anxiety associated with their education, and the importance of assessment.
‘‘For years as a kid, I just knew that I couldn’t read properly. I didn’t know why I couldn’t read, but it was always like this big problem that was just sitting there at the back of my head, just waiting and it never went away, in fact it only got worse’. (pg.57)
…. and ….
‘At long last one of the teachers at my school got someone to come and assess me. They said I had dyslexia; well it was a great relief to actually know that there was a name for what I had… it was important for me to be able to say to myself, well that’s why you couldn’t read and now I have to get on and do something about it’. (pg. 42)
Many parents and teachers expressed concern about the adequacy of school provision, suggesting it was ‘too little, too late’ in terms of assisting students to overcome the impact of dyslexia. The following comment from a parent illustrates this point:
‘I gave up on her school. I was literally banging my head on a brick wall. Everyone knew she couldn’t read to save her life and that’s what was causing all her other problems, especially at home, it was a nightmare.’(pg. 2)
Early in the report it is suggested that “the long running debate about its existence should give way to building professional expertise in identifying dyslexia and developing effective ways to help learners overcome its effects.” (pg. 9) Many of the report’s 19 recommendations are in line with this objective. They are designed to improve teaching, learning and literacy outcomes for children with literacy and dyslexic difficulties and are grouped under five key headings:
- Strengthening teaching and learning;
- Assessing children’s progress and identifying children’s difficulties;
- Further strengthening intervention programmes;
- Guidance for parents and others; and,
- Assuring the quality of provision.
Most of the recommendations have policy and practice implications for Australian educators and should be given strong consideration; particularly as dyslexia remains an area that is both poorly understood and inadequately dealt with throughout Australia. The following is a summary of the recommendations made with some changes to nomenclature; designed to suit the Australian educational landscape.
Strengthening teaching and learning
Education Departments should fund a number of teachers to undertake appropriately accredited specialist training in teaching children with dyslexia, in order to provide substantially improved access to specialist expertise in all schools and across all education districts.
Education Districts should consider with schools how they might form groups which could share the resource of a specialist dyslexia teacher.
Education Departments should commission short courses for teachers on selecting and teaching literacy intervention programmes. These courses should:
- cover the definition and characteristics of dyslexia (see figures 3 and 4);
- equip participants with the expertise to select, implement, monitor and evaluate literacy interventions;
- ensure those trained are able to advise other teachers and support staff on delivering high quality interventions;
- provide links to on-line training materials.
Education Departments should develop, or commission the development of, dyslexia-relevant materials in light of this review. The materials should continue to be promoted for in-service and pre-service teachers, and other members of the workforce involved with teaching literacy, such as teaching assistants.
Education Departments should ask appropriate organisations (e.g. DSF) to review their accreditation criteria for training courses for specialist dyslexia teachers so that courses cover good practice in Wave 1 teaching of reading and writing, and how a child’s literacy would normally develop if s/he is not experiencing difficulties.
Education Departments should ask Universities and other organisations involved in pre-service teacher training to build on initiatives for strengthening coverage of special educational needs and disability (including dyslexia) in initial teacher training courses and through continuing professional development.
Education Districts should set out how schools can secure access to sufficient expertise to meet the needs of children with literacy and dyslexic difficulties (see figure 1 for recommended model).
Assessing children’s progress and identifying children’s difficulties
The first step in identifying that children may have dyslexia is to notice those making poor progress in comparison with their typically developing peers, despite high quality Wave 1 teaching. Therefore, Education Districts and Departments should work with schools to make sure that they have in place good monitoring arrangements to ascertain that Wave 1 teaching is of a high quality, especially in teaching word recognition and language comprehension skills in keeping with the ‘simple view of reading’ (see page 20 for a detailed description of the ‘simple view of reading’).
In a review of early childhood education, consideration should be given to how language development can be carefully monitored so that where children have emerging difficulties with aspects of language and literacy that may be obstacles to their progress, practitioners can take steps to overcome them and tailor provision more carefully to individual language needs.
The development of national assessment protocols should be linked to early years screening and assessment, thus assisting with the identification of literacy difficulties; a first step towards identifying dyslexia (see figure 2 for a model on the steps towards diagnosis of dyslexia).
Further strengthening intervention programmes
Education Departments should work with partners to develop the following:
- Effective Wave 2 provision that is systematic in its approach to phonic work;
- pre- and post-intervention phonemic awareness assessment that picks up the word level skills children should master (based on a thorough review of published assessment materials);
- guidance on how class teachers, and the intervention teacher, should share information so that children’s progress through the phonic phases (as in Letters and Sounds) can be tracked, and interventions and in-class support planned as complementary responses.
Guidance for parents and others
Education departments should commission clear guidance for parents and schools on the policy and purpose of interventions. This should include explaining how effective interventions, for all school age groups, are to be made available for children with literacy and dyslexic difficulties, and how children’s progress will be monitored. The content and implementation of this guidance should be independently evaluated.
The guidance should be placed on an interactive website covering literacy and dyslexic difficulties, on which there should also be:
- regular updates on successful ways of helping children to overcome literacy and dyslexic difficulties;
- links to inclusive education materials, and to the short course materials which feature in the third recommendation.
- A copy of this review and key background papers that contributed to it.
- A copy of ‘What Works for children with literacy difficulties? (G. Brooks’ 2007) guidance, which should be regularly updated –
All schools should:
- keep parents informed of the plans for, and progress of, children with literacy or dyslexic difficulties;
- publish the procedures they follow to identify and support children with such difficulties.
Education Departments should provide appropriate support for students with learning disabilities and should develop and promote guidelines for parents, so they are better placed to understand and question provision being made for their children. This should refer directly to provision for reading difficulties, including dyslexia.
Education Departments should continue to fund a helpline that provides advice to parents and people working in schools on dyslexia and literacy difficulties.
Assuring the quality of provision
Principals and School Councils should audit school provision to make sure that it complies with ‘The Disability Discrimination Act (1992)’ and the ‘Disability Standards for Education (200?) and use their best endeavours to ensure that the necessary provision is made for any student who has special educational needs. By definition, this will include identifying and making necessary provision for children with dyslexia.
With the help of Education Departments and School Districts, all primary and secondary schools should evaluate their intervention programmes, and make sure that where the expertise required for these programmes needs to be strengthened, steps are taken to do so.
Education Departments should consider commissioning an independent survey to evaluate the extent to which, and with what impact, primary and secondary schools are using interventions to advance the progress of children and young people experiencing a wide range of literacy difficulties.
In a written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons all 19 recommendations were officially accepted and endorsed. Ed Balls, Secretary of State, described the report as “excellent” and “a well-crafted distillation of research evidence and the concerns expressed by children with dyslexia and their parents”. The Government intend to work closely with peak bodies in the UK to ensure the recommendations are translated into practice and have committed over £10 million towards improving outcomes for all students with dyslexia.
Australia is the only English-speaking country that does not have clear policy and practice guidelines on dyslexia and the current improvements taking place in the UK, the USA and New Zealand serve to leave Australian children and adults struggling with dyslexia even further behind.
DSF Executive officer
Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties, Rose, J. (2009), http://publications.dcsf.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/00659-2009DOM-EN. pdf
An explanation of the ‘Simple View of Reading’ (see page 20 of this Bulletin)
‘What Works for children with literacy difficulties? (G. Brooks’ 2007) – http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/search/earlyyears/results/nav:46163
A great range of literacy resources for all ages are available from AUSPELD. From introductory information about learning difficulties to powerpoint presentations about dyslexia. From Magnetic Morpheme kits to Motivational DVDs – all at affordable prices. Wherever you are in the world these items can be yours with just a small charge for postage. Please visit our resources page to find out more!