Project Proves That Literacy Underachievement Can Be addressed - 3 March 2020


‘New Zealand teachers can achieve very high levels of literacy with their Year One to Three students if they have evidence-based resources, effective Professional Learning and Development (PLD) and peer support’ says Joy Allcock. Joy is the lead consultant for the Shine Literacy Initiative based in Porirua. The results of this Initiative will be presented at the World Literacy Summit at Oxford University in early April.

The Summit will have 600 participants in Oxford and an online audience of 40,000. ‘There is already international interest in what has been achieved by teachers who committed to the Shine Literacy Initiative.’ says Ms Allcock.

‘The World Literacy Summit will be a great opportunity to learn from countries that have overtaken New Zealand in early literacy achievement. We can reverse the current trend if we return to strong professional leadership by well-informed educators.’ says Ms Allcock.

The Shine Initiative had six goals. All the goals were achieved.
Goal 1: Disrupt the typical pattern of underachievement that exists, where those who start school with the least early literacy knowledge fall further and further behind their more knowledgeable peers
Goal 2: Ensure children who start school behind their peers are achieving at least at their chronological age by the end of Year 2
Goal 3: Close the gaps for students who have fallen behind
Goal 4: Shift achievement across a large group of children from different schools
Goal 5: Show that the same achievement profiles are possible at any school – that school decile – socioeconomic status- does not determine success
Goal 6: Accelerate achievement – ensure that students make more than a ‘normal’ year’s progress

The combination of using evidence-based resources, appropriate assessments, analysing assessment data to drive instruction using the beagle software application, PLD and peer support changed the outcomes for thousands of students in schools in this initiative. This project shows that all children can make progress if they receive the right instruction.

There is general agreement that the present situation in New Zealand is unsatisfactory. However, the focus seems to be on remediation, which would be unnecessary if children receive an appropriate, evidence-based introduction to writing and reading in the first place.

Unlike other more successful countries, New Zealand does not provide teachers with any direct support to evaluate the effectiveness of resources and programmes they use in their classrooms. The Ministry of Education made the following comment about the teaching of phonics in New Zealand classrooms.

‘Currently, we are aware that schools/teachers are using in excess of 50 different 'phonics' programmes of variable quality, without necessarily understanding what each programme seeks to develop or why, and which students might benefit from the approach used.’ Source: RFP for updating Ready to Read series

‘We recommend that only validated evidence-based resources and assessments are used in New Zealand classrooms and that a competent group is formed to evaluate and approve the resources that are available to schools’, says Ms Allcock.

The keys to the success of the Shine Project were: PLD for teachers, peer support, evidence-based instructional resources and a software application to analyse and interpret data to drive instruction and measure impact. We are looking for ways to continue to support this initiative for schools currently involved, and for schools wanting to take up the same approach.


Contact: Joy Allcock (Lead consultant Shine Project) 027 243 0827 -

John Cody (Shine liaison) 021 056 1623

Project Proves That Literacy Underachievement Can Be addressed - 3 March 2020

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