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Staff Collaboration Creating Literacy Success at St Paul’s Catholic School

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St Paul’s Catholic School have been proactive in ensuring that the latest pedagogy and research in the Literacy sphere is being implemented throughout their School. On 9 August 2022, St Paul’s Catholic School welcomed Her Excellency, Governor of Tasmania, Barbara Baker AC to view the Literacy Programs that are currently in operation at the School. 

Her Excellency has always shown a keen interest in education and knows the importance of literacy for students. She is the patron of the Literacy Non-for-Profit Organisation Connect 42, which St Paul’s ‘Expert Companion’, Rosie Martin founded. The relationship that Her Excellency has built with Rosie, led her to visiting St Paul’s, a school that is focused on bettering outcomes of students in the Bridgewater area. The School Principal Jo Clark, Her Excellency and her husband, Don Chalmers, and two School Captains alongside Rosie, toured the school grounds watching the early years students participate in the Literacy programs that the school has put in place.

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Rosie explained why she believes the Governor is interested in what was happening in Literacy at Catholic Education Tasmania schools. “I think the Governor is interested in education. Literacy is a cornerstone of education. Without it there are so many other opportunities that are closed.” She said, “I think when a Head of State takes such interest, only good things can flow from that.

The staff work collaboratively to ensure that the students are at the centre of everything within the school. At St Paul’s having an expert like Rosie readily available for any question a member of staff might have, or for extra support in upskilling their own knowledge, has empowered them to become better educators. They have also found the work they have been undertaking in the Literacy sphere to be very exciting, and the collaborative aspect has meant that they are a real team and work together. The consistent approach to teaching literacy across the school has made teaching the subject for the staff much easier. “Every teacher is on board. Every teacher is part of this collaborative approach and it’s making a big difference across the school.” Explained Jo Clark, “It’s all about working together for the best outcomes for our students.” 

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Using Early Intervention in Literacy

In one of the classes Her Excellency walked into, the students were working on phonics, as Student Support Leader Anne Duigan led them in recognising words that they had been working on becoming familiar with. At such a pivotal age, the Learning and Teaching team at St Paul’s have been using early intervention to ensure their students are getting the extra help they need. “We really believe in early intervention so that down the track as students move through the grades, there won't be as many problems and gaps with their reading.” Anne said. 

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Renae Millikan is the Literacy Practice Leader at St Paul’s and has been a key aspect in ensuring that the Literacy programs and initiatives that are being applied at the school are being done effectively. She works together with Anne, Jo, Rosie, and other members of staff to ensure that extra support that is required is done so early on. She explained, “Early intervention involves constantly assessing and reviewing, so that we can help target students straight away if we see gaps early enough and provide the intervention then and there.” The school has made best use of their resources to maximise the efficiency of students not having to be taken from one side of the school to the other side for one-on-one work on their Literacy. It means that less time is wasted in transitioning and the student can become settled much faster. This year the school also purchased a microphone and noise-cancelling headphones to be used in this learning space, which has been a fantastic tool in ensuring that students can remain focused and not be distracted from the Literacy task they are completing. This device is especially useful in one-to-one speech sessions so students can hear the articulation of sounds correctly. “We have an amazing para-professional, Louise Morgan, who has been trained and supported by Rosie to do this valuable speech work. We know that if children are unable to hear or articulate the sounds correctly, they will be unable to recognise, read or write them.” 

St Paul’s have also had the support of Rosie, who has been a key aspect in supporting teachers and sharing her experience of working with children in the Literacy field. Her work is based around the establishment of speech and language programs, which help develop the correction of student’s speech and correction of their language. “We’ve been setting up phonemic awareness drills and making sure that they are operating on a regular basis, and the children that need extra input are getting input in daily doses.” Rosie said.

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Consistency in Learning

Daily Literacy sessions ensure that the skills and knowledge that is taught in classes by staff are regularly reinforced and therefore backed up and strengthened. This is especially useful in those early years which is an important time in the development of a young student. Jo Clark, the Principal of St Paul’s, explained that the entire staff has had phonological and phonemic awareness training; most teachers have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham Approach and all early years teachers have been trained in InitiaLit. “We've started in the early years because we want to get it right for these students that we have in the early years now, so that we're not chasing our tail later on and trying to put interventions into place with gaps that children might have missed when they were younger.

 

The staff at St Paul’s set aside time in their teaching schedule each day, to help develop the Literacy skills for their students. Rosie explained how a typical session might look, “We might have five minutes doing a phonemic awareness activity, 10 minutes working on language, then they might do 15 minutes targeting language and questions with three or four other students at the same level, which will help extend their listening and answering of questions.” Ensuring that students have access to these sessions allows for continued learning, the growth of their vocabulary and important literacy skills throughout their formative early years.

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