No change in policy on literacy teaching and learning

To be attributed to Ellen MacGregor-Reid, Deputy Secretary Early Learning and Student Achievement

You may have seen a New Zealand Herald story which claims that the Ministry of Education has made a “U-turn” on the way children are being taught to read.

We want to assure educators and parents that this is incorrect.

The Ministry has not changed its position on literacy teaching and learning.

We are always looking at ways to strengthen and support teacher practice so that we can effectively meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student population. We’re continuing to address inequitable outcomes, by better supporting our at-risk learners.

The Ministry has always supported a range of approaches to teach young children to read, including the teaching of phonemic and phonological awareness (understanding and using the written code), as well as making meaning and thinking critically about text. In line with this, teachers in New Zealand use a range of teaching methods. What the Ministry does not support, and has been consistent about, is using phonics as the only approach for teaching reading.

We know that schools are sourcing their own phonics programmes. We’re aware that there are in excess of 50 different programme being used in schools. The quality is variable, not always designed for a New Zealand context, and are not aligned to the approaches of our Ready to Read Instructional Series.

The Ready to Read series is a long-standing series that has supported generations of Kiwi kids to learn to read. We regularly update the series to make sure teachers and children have access to up-to-date, engaging content. With this work, we are retaining the best features of the Ready to Read series. We want teachers to be able to access quality support materials that provide them with explicit word level instruction to use with those students who need it. 

This is not a policy change, it is not a reversal of position. It is business as usual, as we update and improve existing resources. If we were making any changes to current approaches, we would do this in consultation with the sector.

This kind of reporting isn’t reflective of the great work that happens every day in classrooms around the country. We have addressed the inaccuracies of The New Zealand Herald article with them.

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