Kaiapoi school captures national attention with teaching approach

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti (top) watches Kaiapoi North School junior team leader...
Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti (top) watches Kaiapoi North School junior team leader Mel Poynter teach new entrant/year 1 pupils structured literacy. Photo: David Hill
Kaiapoi North School’s innovative approach to teaching literacy has caught the attention of the Government.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti visited Kaiapoi on Thursday to observe the school’s approach to structured literacy first hand.

A former school principal, Tinetti said she was impressed with what she saw.

"Jason has been an amazing advocate for structured literacy and he’s kept at me to come and visit, so it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

"Other schools are using structured literacy, but this school has put it’s own flavour to it and we want to see schools and teachers show themselves.’’

Tinetti said she was particularly impressed with the consistency of how the school’s approach to structured literacy was applied by teachers at each year level.

She said it will help to inform the implementation of the Government’s literacy and numeracy strategy, which was launched earlier this year and is aimed at improving literacy and numeracy standards.

A recent survey by the Education Hub found that 35 percent of 15-year-olds were not at the required levels for reading and maths.

Kaiapoi North School. Photo: Google
Kaiapoi North School. Photo: Google
Kaiapoi North School first trialled structured literacy in 2018, with North Canterbury-based literacy resource teacher Marina Mounsey working with junior team leader Mel Poynter.

"It’s been a massive shift for some teachers in how they do their teaching and it has required some professional development," Poynter said.

The school’s approach revolved around phonetics, or sounding out letters and words, which ultimately led to improved spelling and writing, as well as reading.

The trial was a success, so it was rolled out across all year levels the following year, deputy principal Felicity Fahey said.

"It’s not a silver bullet. It won’t fix everything, but we believe it’s the best way to teach all of the children," she said.

Tinetti said the research had been available for 30 years, but successive Governments had failed to pick it up until now.

The Government has introduced the Better Start Structured Literacy funding for teaching new entrants children, which several North Canterbury schools have engaged in.

Courses are now being offered at the University of Canterbury and the Ministry of Education aimed to have 4500 teachers throughout the country teaching structured literacy by the end of next year.

-By David Hill
Local Democracy Reporter

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