On the same page. . . Dean and Coleman Law pair Ben Coleman with Weston School teacher in charge of structured literacy Nikki Langford. Dean and Coleman Law donated $5,000 for school literacy resources. PHOTO: ASHLEY SMYTH

A cash boost for Weston School means a literacy boost for its students.

The law firm Oamaru Dean and Coleman Law donated $5,000 to the school, to expand its Structured Literacy (SL) program to cover all students at the school.

The school began changing its approach to teaching children to read and write in newcomer and first grade classes about 18 months ago, principal Deidre Senior said.

It previously used a ”whole language” approach.

The Ministry of Education had funded some professional development as part of the Better Start Literacy approach, but so far this has only been for teachers of new entrants and first graders. It had been led by the University of Canterbury and based on its research, Ms Senior said.

Data collected by the school, on the children who were part of the program, showed a ”marked increase in the children’s ability to learn to read”, using the SL method.

”Children who come to school as new entrants learn to read faster under the SL approach than those who came before and were taught using a ‘whole language’ approach, she said.

The school was now keen to introduce the method to all age groups, support older children and strengthen their reading, writing and spelling skills.

Recent studies have shown literacy rates in New Zealand are falling, and Ms Senior said the decision was made to take the SL route after ‘reviewing our practice and achievement data’.

”We were concerned about the difficulty many of our children were having learning to read.”

Structured literacy was research-based and stemmed from the findings of The Science of Reading. This meant that children were taught according to their brain development.

”We have obtained professional development for our teachers and are slowly building up our resources to support teaching in this way.”

The books were specifically written to support the scope and sequence of neurodevelopment and therefore featured targeted letter and sound combinations.

“So we need to create a whole new set of reading resources in our school.”

Dean and Coleman’s money would allow the school to equip all teachers with physical teaching tools and resources to support them in the classroom.

“Importantly, it will also allow us to buy very interesting and engaging reading materials for our older students, within the framework and sequence of structured literacy practices. »

Weston was a decile 8 school, which meant that operational funding was lower than that of deciles 1-7, and it was also not eligible for funding from the $200 per child per year school donation program ( about $54,000), she said.

”Instead, we have to ask our parents for a voluntary donation of $100 per child, of which we usually receive around $14,000.

”So there is a big difference in what we can offer within our school.

“That’s why our home and our school are so important – and of course their funding has been affected by the cancellation of fireworks three times.”

Dean and Coleman’s managing director and partner, Ben Coleman, had two children at the school and said the company saw the SL program as beneficial to students learning in different ways, teachers wanting to improve, and the system. education in the broad sense.

“The English language is conceptually complex, and introducing mechanisms to break down some of those complexities and build learning abilities in that context is, in our view, a very useful tool,” Coleman said.

”We are delighted to help the school with this worthwhile initiative.”