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Focus on foundational skills

There is good news today with the announcement of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy for 2017-2020. It represents a $340 million investment over the next four years to improve literacy and numeracy skills in 673 schools, including 533 public schools.

We all understand that literacy and numeracy skills represent a passport to life's opportunities for the young people in our schools. They are a key foundation for future learning and a myriad of practical life skills, from completing a job application to managing a household budget.

We all want our students to master these foundational skills. This strategy will help meet the Premier's Priority for education – to increase the proportion of NSW students in the top two NAPLAN bands.

This morning I accompanied the Premier, Mike Baird, and the Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, to Curran Public School in Macquarie Fields, one of the 448 schools supported by the current State Literacy and Numeracy Action Plan where funding is targeted to students in Kindergarten to Year 2 whose literacy development is at risk.

At Curran Public, students have shown great progress in reading, writing and maths in recent years. The school has put its focus on individual student need, with instructional leaders mentoring teachers and using student data to see what actually works in the classroom.

We have learnt from the experience of schools like Curran Public. The strategy announced today is a big investment in the early years of learning, with the focus now extending to secondary schools, with a literacy and numeracy check on entry to Year 7.

Key to the strategy is providing teachers with more student data than ever before, with new tools for online assessment. There are also literacy and numeracy progressions to tailor teaching to individual student needs.

The approach of this strategy is strongly evidence-based.  I would like to encourage you to read the report by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, How schools can improve literacy and numeracy performance and why it (still) matters.The report shows us clearly we need to:

  • Intervene early in literacy and numeracy development and maintain focus
  • Know what students can do and teach accordingly
  • Have clear and transparent goals, and
  • Focus on teacher professional learning that improves the teaching of literacy and numeracy.

My thanks to all who have worked to develop this strategy, which will guide our teaching and learning focus in coming years. We have learnt much about what works and improves outcomes for young people in these vital foundational areas and it is wonderful to be able to expand the strategy today in such a sound and significant way.

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Mark Scott

About the Secretary

Mark Scott is Secretary of the Department of Education. He has worked as a teacher, in public administration and as a journalist and media executive. He is committed to public education and learning environments where every child can flourish.

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