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National makes literacy guarantee for young readers

PRESS RELEASE | Erica Stanford MP | 08 September 2023 -


National makes literacy guarantee for young readers


Under a National Government, every child will learn to read using the proven “structured literacy” approach in order to turn around declining educational achievement and give all kids the best chance of success in life, National’s Education spokesperson Erica Stanford says.


“New Zealand’s literacy rates have been steadily declining in recent decades. Currently, after eight years of schooling, only 56 per cent of pupils are able to read as well as they should for their age.


“Further, kids in low-decile schools are almost two years behind their peers in high-decile schools.


“In the Progress in International Reader Literacy Study that measures reading of children in Year 5, New Zealand not only recorded its lowest-ever score and was the worst-performing English-speaking nation, we also had one of the largest gaps between the highest and lowest-performing learners, with more kids failing to reach the proficiency standard than ever before.


“Rather than being the great equaliser, the education system is right now embedding inequality.


“This is unacceptable to parents, and to National. A National Government will not continue to do what isn’t working. Ensuring children learn to read, write and communicate effectively from an early age is critical to their life prospects.


“National’s Teaching the Basics Brilliantly policy will teach an hour each of reading, writing and maths to every child, every day, and we will go further by introducing a “Literacy Guarantee” that requires schools to use the structured literacy approach for reading. That approach teaches reading in an explicit and systematic way, starting with the smallest units of sound and building from there.


“Mountains of evidence shows it is the most effective method to equip children with strong reading skills. However, not all schools currently use it.


“National will not play Russian roulette with our children’s future by leaving the fundamentals of reading to chance.


"Under National, schools will receive funding to engage a structured literacy provider to effectively deliver the approach in classrooms under the guarantee. The policy will cost $60.5 million over four years.”


National will:

· Teach every child to read using structured literacy by making it a requirement at primary school.

· Introduce short phonics checks for Year 2 students to inform parents and teachers about each child’s reading progress.

· Provide structured literacy intervention for learners who need extra support.

· Make knowledge of how to teach structured literacy a requirement of primary teacher certification.


“National is serious about reversing New Zealand’s decline in educational achievement. Our Literacy Guarantee strategy will be phased in over several years, starting with Year 1-3s in 2025, and being used for all students up to Year 6 by the 2027 school year.

“A world-class education system is a necessary foundation for long-term economic growth.

“Without a world-class education system, we will not have world-class incomes and living standards.


"Every child, irrespective of their background or where they attend school, deserves a world-class education that equips them with the basics, and National's Literacy Guarantee is a critical part of our plan to make this a reality.”


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