Written by Marilyn Gwilliam, Principal, Papatoetoe Central School
We all know about keeping it simple (stupid) and in these somewhat complex times, it feels like a good way to go.
For those of us working in schools, we often reflect on what is working and what needs to change. The simple solutions often feel like the right solutions.
In the early years of schooling, we know that effective early childhood education usually ensures a positive transition to the more formal learning of the school classroom. We know how an early intervention especially in year 1 and 2 can support students who struggle with their early learning.
We know that if this is an individual programme, or a programme involving just a small group of children, there is often a lot of additional progress made as the teaching can be tailored to the specific learning needs of the children concerned.
It can be as simple as that and I can’t think of any primary school principals who wouldn’t welcome the funding to employ teachers to implement a range of individual and small group instructional programmes in their schools. We know that they work.
Recently on “Campbell Live” there was a refreshing story located in Auckland about a group of impressive young men from St Peter’s College in Epsom. In their discretionary time, they assist young students with their reading at St Therese School in Three Kings.
The teacher who coordinates this support programme commented that the regular individual assistance really helps to improve the children’s reading capabilities. The young men described their pride and satisfaction in contributing to the programme. It struck me how simple and effective the programme is with no cost involved at all.
At our school, a group of granny helpers have supported one of our teachers for 16 years. These women come to our school weekly and work with individual students throughout the year. Like at St Therese School, we see exciting improvements in reading achievement. The helpers work with the same young students regularly over the year, they get to know them really well and together, they ultimately share the buzz of success.
I know that programmes like these operate in many many schools up and down the country. The young children involved enjoy success very early in their schooling. Once their basic reading and maths skills in particular are established, we see this success building on yet even more success. In each of these examples of a simple programme, there is no cost involved and there is plenty of evidence that they work.
Imagine the outcomes if our schools were resourced in our MOE assured staffing that enabled us to employ additional staffing for specific learning support in the early years. Wouldn’t it be great if we could ensure that each and every student who needed a personalised early learning intervention was assured of this? And wouldn’t it be great if the intervention could be sustained, if required?
One of this government’s Better Public Services programme targets is 85% of 18 year olds achieving NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2017. Maybe the government would be better placed to achieve this if schools were given additional resourcing to implement early intervention programmes for the students that required them?
It doesn’t seem stupid to keep it simple.