Walking through Crib Point PS and Tyabb Railway PS one thing stands out in classes from foundation to grade 6: every student is engaged in their work. Crib Point PS Principal, Tina Coumbe, and Tyabb Railway PS Principal, Emma Slater, both credit the work that their teaching staff have been doing with literacy specialist Julie Scali over the past year, for the calm and focused students in their classrooms.

Julie, a former teacher and Assistant Principal, is the founder of Literacy Impact. Julie says, “My mission is to help teachers, school leaders and changemakers bridge the gap between evidence-based research and literacy success for every student.”

We are excited to have Julie working with more MPF partner schools in 2024 including Western Port Secondary College, Wallaroo, Hastings, Eastbourne and Tootgarook Primary Schools. This consistency of approach across schools bridges gaps within and between communities, to strengthen foundations so all children and families are supported through a cohesive network.

Emma says before working with Julie her school’s literacy data was showing a high percentage of children in the senior years who had additional learning needs and required extra support to reach benchmark. Emma says, “As a whole school we reflected and have worked hard to establish a culture of using data and evidence based practices to implement tiered intervention practices in line with the implementation of the science of reading.”

Julie explains a whole school systemic framework is the most effective intervention response. “It’s not just tiered instruction, it’s universal screening three times a year to identify risk and to track whole school trends. And to diagnose issues in whole class teaching because if you have 60% or 70% of students at risk it’s not a learning difficulty problem it’s a teaching practice problem.”

This is not about blaming teachers; it’s about giving them the tools to do their job effectively. Julie’s observation about teaching practice is in line with the findings of Professor Mark Scott’s review of initial teacher education that highlights teachers leaving university are ill equipped to teach reading and to effectively support those students needing intervention.

At Crib Point PS, Assistant Principal Ross Wettenhall says, “I’m really excited by our Prep/Foundation and Year 1 data, not only because we’re seeing the numbers of at risk students decrease greatly in a matter of months but also because from the first year of school we’re administrating valid and reliable universal screening to identify risk and to track whole school trends.”

Julie goes on to say, “When done well at a school wide level – implementing effective structured literacy – it becomes apparent literacy, behaviour and wellbeing go hand in hand.”

Huge thanks to our many donors who are contributing  to this work and also to those who have laid the foundations for it by contributing to our earlier initiatives, including No Limits. All of this work is building upon learnings from dedicated professionals and community members. It is about building community through trust as well as empirical evidence.