ONE of the English-speaking world’s leading experts in early years teaching will help improve literacy standards in Warracknabeal.
Professor Iram Siraj, of the University of London’s Institute of Education, will work with the town’s educators for the next three years.
Her other projects included leading a review of Scotland’s early years education system.
Warracknabeal Secondary College principal Tony Fowler said he met Professor Siraj at the launch of the State Government’s Linking Learning Birth to 12 Years Project.
Warracknabeal is one of eight Demonstration and Action Research Locations involved in the project, which aims to create seamless transitions between all stages of education from birth to adolescence.
“She was at that session and did the keynote address,” Mr Fowler said.
“I realised everything she was describing in her presentation we were seeing in Warracknabeal.
“Her research was about building literacy in remote regional areas.”
Mr Fowler said he asked Professor Siraj to be a research partner in Warracknabeal Oral Reading Development Strategy, or WORDS, which aims to improve literacy in children up to eight.
“She rang back the next day and asked me to Skype her right away,” he said.
Mr Fowler said WORDS started because of a growing gap between the highest and lowest achievers in the early years of high school.
He said many of the contributing factors could be traced back to early years learning, at home and in education centres.
“The level of literacy in children coming into school is declining over time,” he said.
Professor Siraj’s contract includes 10 visits to Warracknabeal, starting October 20.
She will work with all teachers at all levels of the town’s education system during the day.
A community meeting with parents will be scheduled that evening.
“Our aim is to get one parent from every family in town there,” Mr Fowler said.
He said Professor Siraj’s Australian counterpart, senior lecturer Dr Pauline Jones, of the University of Wollongong, would work alongside her on the project.
“To have someone who has done the work and had success will certainly help guide our journey over the next three to five years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Wimmera Southern Mallee Local Learning and Employment Network is celebrating the expansion of Let’s Read.
The program equips parents of children aged four months to four years with age-appropriate reading kits.
Executive officer Tim Shaw said West Wimmera and Hindmarsh shires had signed on with the program following its success in Yarriambiack Shire.
He said there would be a meeting on August 26 to discuss literacy initiatives in Horsham Rural City.
Mr Shaw said Let’s Read seemed set to roll out in all four local government areas in Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN’s 28,500-square-kilometre catchment area.
“The next challenge is putting in place a sustainable funding model to ensure it continues,” he said.
The future of Victoria’s LLENs is in jeopardy.
Their funding will run out at the end of the year.
“It was pleasing to see on Thursday the State Opposition committed to funding LLENs for the next four years,” Mr Shaw said.
“We are hopeful the State Government will match or better that commitment.”