Picking up the Pace

Publication Details

This research project delivered concentrated professional development in literacy instruction to groups of early childhood and new entrant teachers in decile one schools in Mangere and Otara. The outcome was a substantial lift in the reading and writing achievement of new entrants. Picking up the Pace was a component of the Early Childhood Primary Links via Literacy (ECPL) Project which was part of a much broader project, Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara (SEMO), which aimed to raise achievement significantly among students in these two communities.

Author(s): Gwenneth Phillips, Stuart McNaughton, Shelly MacDonald and Michael Keith, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: January 2002


On the centenary of renowned educationalist Dr Clarence Beeby's birth, the success of this research brings to mind the statement he prepared for the then Prime Minister Peter Fraser in 1939. The statement said broadly that the Government's objective should be that every person regardless of their ability or whether they are rich or poor, has the right to a free education and the opportunity to realise their fullest potential.

For children to become confident learners and succeed in all aspects of life, they must gain a strong foundation in literacy in their early years. The national literacy strategy has had, and continues to have a strong focus on raising achievement in literacy for all students as well as reducing the disparities which have existed for some time between our highest and lowest performing students.

In its report to Government in 1999, the Literacy Taskforce indicated its awareness of classrooms throughout New Zealand where children who might have made low progress because they met the profile of underachieving groups, were in fact making excellent progress. The taskforce was concerned that not enough was known about the particular classroom practice that brought about this success, and recommended that more research be undertaken so that better guidance could be provided to teachers.Picking up the Paceis an example of an innovative intervention that has worked to raise the literacy achievement of children in decile one schools involved in the Strengthening Education in Mangere and Otara (SEMO) schooling improvement initiative in South Auckland. The resounding key message from this research is that low rates of progress in literacy are neither inevitable nor unchangeable for children in low-decile schools. The success of

Picking up the Paceis a tribute to the efforts of the people involved. It's success has also highlighted the critical importance of families, schools and teachers having the highest possible expectations of what children can and should achieve.

The Ministry will continue to work with schools to lift the pace in literacy. Picking up the Pace demonstrates how teachers with openness and commitment to professional development can make literacy achievement happen. Principals and managers also have a key role to play in promoting high expectations for effective classroom instruction and promoting and supporting the professional expertise of their staff.

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