View Comments
$8.8m bid to boost literacy
Mark and Sarah McGowan take their children Amelia, Alexander and Samuel to school this morning. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

Labor Leader Mark McGowan has used the first day of the new school year to pledge $8.8 million to boost WA literacy rates.

Mr McGowan and his wife Sarah took their children, Samuel, 9, Alexander, 7, and Amelia, 3, who starts her first day of Kindergarten, to Rockingham Beach Primary School.

After seeing them to their classrooms he told media that literacy standards in WA needed to improve.

With 25 per cent of Year 4 students failing to meet literacy benchmarks, standards were "unacceptable".

"The situation has to improve. We can't allow that to continue to happen," he said.

Mr McGowan said under a Labor government a phonics-based approach to literacy, Explicit Instruction, would be made a priority in WA classrooms.

He said the three-year funding program would pay for 32 literacy experts - four for each educational region - to help roll out the back-to-basics program.

However, it would not be compulsory, as a teaching method was not part of the curriculum or syllabus, but rather would be made a priority.

"If you come in, in a heavy-handed way, that doesn't work. You need work and take the teaching workforce with you when you put in these forms of changes."

Mr McGowan, an education minister in the former Labor government, said currently many schools taught literacy with a "whole language" approach, which emphasised critical thinking and context to learn words.

Under Explicit Instruction, students were taught to understand that written language represented sounds and that these symbols were arranged to create words, he said.

"The phonics-based approach is supported by decades of research and ha delivered impressive results in some of our schools," he said.

Mr McGowan said at Ballajura Primary School a switch to this approach had reduced the number of students not meeting literacy benchmarks from 30 per cent to 3 per cent.

He said the Government's recent announcement of literacy testing for Year 10 students came too late and early intervention was needed.

He said he did not have a formal target for how many schools would use the method in four years other than it would be "a great many".