Directions for South Australia – Literacy for All

“Literacy is a fundamental human right”  – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction

“Literacy is a fundamental human right and the foundation for lifelong learning. It is essential to social and human development in its ability to transform lives.  For individual, families, and societies alike, it is an instrument of empowerment to improve one’s health, ones’ income, and one’s relationship with the world.” (UNESCO)

Many students who need it do not currently receive individualised tailored support until they have been at school for at least 12 months.  For some students they are never identified as requiring support for their learning and evidence of this is being seen in NAPLAN results in South Australian Schools.

The impact of not changing this trajectory cannot be underestimated as it contributes to student’s risk of experiencing mental health issues and acts as a barrier to future learning opportunities.

To date, none of the recommendations from a National Inquiry into the teaching of reading (published more than a decade ago) have been adopted in South Australia.

The foundation for literacy (oral language competence) is developed well before school age and is critically important as a precursor for literacy learning and therefore earlier identification of and access to support that could also prevent students from experiencing the negative psycho-social consequences associated with them “failing” to learn.

Evidence shows that uniform change not only needs to occur in schools but at the tertiary level where student teachers need more detailed instruction on how to teach literacy.

Statistics show that 46 percent of Australians aged 15 – 74 years have a functional literacy challenge that makes it difficult for them manage everyday tasks (ABS).

Dignity Party know that successful literacy development:

  • Allows students to optimise their potential for learning;
  • Increases participation in the classroom and playground;
  • Fosters positive social development and wellbeing;
  • Protects against risk of mental illness;
  • Reduces the likelihood of students engaging in antisocial behaviour or exhibiting behaviours of concern, and increases workforce participation.

Action:

  • More early intervention services in the area of literacy development – this has been shown to be more effective than remedial support for struggling school-aged readers;
  • A review of the National Inquiry into the teaching of Reading in Australia (K Rowe – 2006) and adoption of its recommendations;
  • Compulsory inclusion and recognition of the five essential components of a literacy program in schools. These include formal explicit teaching and opportunities to practice: phonemic awareness; phonics; reading fluency; vocabulary development; and language comprehension;
  • Mandated provision of speech pathology services in all South Australian schools to provide regular on-site multi-disciplinary support services in relation to the teaching of literacy. This may include advocacy, clinical services, consultation, education, prevention and research in addition to the provision of detailed assessment and early intervention for those with reading difficulties;
  • Appropriate and evidence-based training for tertiary level education students in literacy teaching and intervention with literacy difficulties.

Dignity Party are committed to this policy, and welcome ongoing consultation with people with literacy difficulties and their families and those working in the education sector to promote further solutions.