Funding supports programs to lift literacy

Mahogany Rise Primary

It may be a small school, but Mahogany Rise Primary in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston North is drawing on the latest literacy research for an innovative program that’s delivering big results.

The school has been using speech pathologists to help train teachers to improve students’ oral language skills . And that, in turn, has brought significant improvements in literacy, numeracy and other areas.

Oral language is a key to helping students both read and write, says principal John Culley.

“If students don’t understand what’s being communicated, we have to teach them to be able to decode what’s being said so they can understand . And, if they can’t express their own views, they lose out big time . Therefore, we’re trying to shore them up in that way as well,” he says.

The program has been in place for about seven years providing plenty of data to prove its value.

“We can see the students’ growth over time because we’ve been testing them from Prep all the way through to Year 6. The data has been very positive and it encourages us that we’re on the right track. We know the students’ expressive and receptive language skills have improved significantly and that is then linked into their reading and writing and approach to numeracy,” says John.

“Interestingly, as soon as we take our foot away from the pedal, the results drop. So, we know it must be continued all the way through primary school. We’re now trying to expand it into our secondary college, which is quite close by,” says John.

The program has also helped teachers to understand their students better and it’s had a big effect on the way they teach, he says .
Extra Gonski funding has helped to support the program. The funding has also provided other support that’s designed to remove barriers to learning. The school co-ordinates a range of services including a youth worker, a family engagement worker, an occupational therapist, two psychologists, a paediatrician and a lawyer to support families with complex needs.

The focus on student well-being and engagement is building greater engagement of students and the parent with the school and creating a strong community.

John says that needs-based Gonski funding has allowed Mahogany Rise to meet the challenges of its complex environment and ensure that its students and families can fully participate in learning.

Under the Turnbull Government’s new funding plan, Mahogany Rise Primary School will miss out on $400,000 of funding it expected to receive over the next two years.