By Matthew Plummer
Principal of Bennett Road Public School
All children deserve to leave primary school with solid literacy skills because without those they will struggle to benefit from further education.
I am the Principal of a school in Western Sydney where Gonski has made a positive difference by letting us target investment in literacy instruction for our students.
A few years ago we became part of a NSW Government initiative called Early Action for Success. This is an early intervention initiative which included the appointment of an Instructional Leader to our school to work alongside teachers to help them improve literacy for Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 students.
This initiative has been very successful in lifting literacy and we have been able to build on this success with Gonski funding which started in 2014.
Gonski funding has enabled the school to provide teachers with the resources they need to teach well and has made it possible to employ additional specialist support for every student who needs it.
We were able to buy over $80,000 worth of books so that every classroom has its own library and students have access to the highest quality reading materials available. Students see these print resources as a natural part of their school day. These resources support the great work that our teachers are doing.
Prior to Gonski we did not have the resources to ensure that our students could reach their potential, despite the efforts of our dedicated staff.
Our NAPLAN results now reflect the improvement we see every day in our students work.
In 2015 NAPLAN results for Year 3s indicated improvement in all areas with writing moving towards the State average.
Gonski Means one-on-one support
We have been able to supplement our Reading Recovery allocation by using Gonski funding to allow an increased number of students to have access to daily one-to-one reading and writing instruction from a specially trained Reading Recovery teacher.
On top of this we have also employed a speech therapist who sees between 20-25 students across each fortnight and we employ two School Learning Support Officers to provide follow up speech lessons daily for these students. Speech problems can be a huge barrier that inhibits children participating in class and learning to their full potential. The earlier we can remove that barrier the better.
If we can get the full six years of Gonski funding it will mean that we will be able to continue to build on and improve students’ literacy even further.
While our emphasis for improving literacy has focused on K-2 students we know it is important to extend the same high quality teaching, learning experiences and resources for all students in Years 3 to 6 and if we receive six years of Gonski funding this is what we will do.
The full six years of Gonski is vital
There is no magic program or formula to improve literacy. It takes a lot of effort, a lot of knowledge and a lot of personalised and expert teaching to support every student as early as possible.
The bottom line is that our improving results have come from good teaching. Teaching and learning opportunities are restricted if teachers and students don’t have the very best resources that money can buy at their fingertips.
While the teaching has been shaped by the Instructional Leader the additional human and material resources that have been provided by Gonski funding have made all the difference.
We recognise that teachers need to be learning all through their careers and funding from Gonski will also mean that high quality, ongoing professional learning for teachers will be a possibility.
That’s why it is so crucial that we have certainty that we will get the full six years of funding, from the Federal Government.
It is clear that Gonski funding has worked for us and can work for other schools in similar positions. There can be no excuse for turning our backs on students by failing to implement the full six years of this vital reform.