A literacy intervention programme at Merivale Primary School for some 5-year-olds who could only write in squiggles and struggled to recognise letters is getting big results. Principal Jan Tinetti says the difference it has made brings tears to her eyes. "It's absolutely amazing. These children are now flying and have gone from not being able to recognise or understand letters to confidently know those letters and write them," she says.
SKILL LEVEL Ideally a 5-year-old starting school should: Know how to write their name Have an understanding of letters Be able to talk and have a conversation relevant to their age Know the different colours Have a knowledge of books and how to use them Have been read storiesThe programme is delivered by Nga Reanga e Toru who visit the school three times a week with funding from Tauranga Rotary Club. It has been initiated to enhance the reading recovery programme and help pupils at an earlier age develop literacy skills. "About four years ago we looked at the data of children coming into the school and for a lot of them their oral language was sitting between two to three years lower than other 5-year-olds," Jan says. "We looked at that and by the time we were getting them up to the age of 7 about 50 per cent of our kids still weren't at national standard." The board of trustees decided to hire a fulltime teacher to address the issue with some support from the Ministry of Education for the reading recovery programme. At the end of 2013, 20 out of 23 children were at national standard or above. Now the school has established other support systems to help 5-year-olds and reduce the number of pupils needing reading recovery. Reading recovery may be a necessity but Jan says the literacy intervention programme is showing results and helping the school build a case to seek alternative funding. "I don't think people really understand the gift Tauranga Rotary is giving those children - it's crucial," she says. "We will be gathering the data to enable us to go to other places like the ministry to say this is what we know works and therefore we shouldn't have to be relying on others." Jan credits the new entrant teacher for adopting the project and says the children are excited to learn and show off their work. Tauranga Rotary is also the main sponsor for the Duffy Books in Homes project at the school. The school's roll is about 135 with an average of 30 new entrants a year.