Early words together is a flagship programme for the National Literacy Trust, now adopted by local authorities across the country. It’s a volunteer-led peer tutoring programme where parents run short training sessions for other parents, modelling how to develop early learning and oracy, in preparation for school. It’s often delivered in Children’s Centres that focus on vulnerable families. The ideal is six sessions for groups of parents who each get 1:1 support from a volunteer while they play/work with their child. A trained teacher and EWT facilitator supervises.
I took part in one EWT session and talked about EWT in many of my meetings across England. It’s clear that there is a strong evidence base and the material available for centres and for parents is high quality. An important part of EWT is building the capacity of centre staff to work with families and there’s a whole support structure for professional development and support. At the session I attended, the volunteers love talking and playing to the kids and it was easy to see how they were building in vocab enrichment and how they encouraged children to participate and guided their play. Volunteers build up skills and can progress towards qualifications.
Coordination is essential. Sustaining a peer-support programme is a big challenge. A lot of time and energy has to go into attracting and retaining volunteers. The intention is to draw volunteers from among the vulnerable families, but regular attendance then becomes an issue- because their issues aren’t so different from other families (transport, sick kids, family responsibilities). If volunteers don’t turn up, centre staff have to step in, which has staff and funding implications.
And just from one session I can see the challenge of getting the volunteers to be explicit about what they are modelling to the adults and why. It’s like embedded literacy. The best practice makes the intention and purpose explicit.
The Learning Auckland Leadership Table met for the second time on February 26. The Table endorsed continuing membership in Strive Together, the network of 53 cities in the USA working to create effective ‘cradle to career’ education and skills pathways for all young people. Membership of Strive enables Learning Auckland to draw on experienced collective impact initiatives focused on education change.
Table members reported back on ‘100 conversations in 100 days’, conversations each of them had with families, young people, educators and community leaders about what people believed to be the urgent issues for Auckland to address.
There were some powerful conversations that showed the lack of coherence in parts of system, and the enthusiasm and passion many people have for ensuring all young people succeed. Over the next few months, we will use those conversations as the springboard for action.
On the basis of these conversations, plus the data and their own knowledge and experience, the Leadership Table identified early oral language (oracy) and school readiness as their first focus area for action towards Learning Auckland’s wider goals.
Early oral language underpins success in literacy – and oral communication is a fundamental life skill. A focus on oracy and school readiness brings together families, early learning, health, child development, family-facing services and parent education.
Over the next few months we will be bringing together a cross-sector action group to plan and drive a systems response to support early oral language development for Auckland’s children and their families.
To learn more about Learning Auckland or the oracy work, please contact Alison Sutton Alison.Sutton@cometauckland.org.nz
For the full March 2015 newsletter, please click here.
We all know that children are more likely to thrive in education when their parents support them and understand how the education system works.
As long-term advocates for family learning, the COMET Auckland team were delighted to see that many of the themes in our submission and in the submissions of our stakeholders to the Select Committee were reflected in the resulting report. You can read our full submission by clicking here and you can access the Parliamentary inquiry report here. That’s why we were pleased to see that a recent Select Committee inquiry report recommended cross-sector initiatives to encourage parents to get involved in their children’s learning. Policy changes needed if we are to promote and value family learning.
Whānau Ara Mua, Parents as First Teachers, Reading Together, and HIPPY are proven examples of family learning where parents are encouraged, supported and given the skills to support and engage with their kids’ learning. What we need now is for programmes to connect up and to scale up to meet the need across Auckland.
For the full November newsletter, please click here.