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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2468


Mr LANGMORE(3.45) —Last week I visited two primary schools in my electorate and saw two particularly effective and fine activities. At Flynn Primary School I was introduced to the reading recovery program, which is a new program begun in Australian Capital Territory schools last year. The aim of the program is to help children who are having difficulty with the early stages of learning to read, and to sort out those difficulties so that they quickly begin to cope with reading before it has become an intellectual or psychological problem for them.

For the majority of children, a good classroom program is adequate to get them started in reading and writing. However, children differ widely and in any school system, regardless of the teaching methods used, a small proportion of children do not make satisfactory progress. The reading recovery program aims to enable these children to catch up with their age mates, so that they are able to cope well in the classroom. Children receive daily individual teaching in addition to their classroom instruction. They have a wide range of problems with learning, so especially trained teachers select from a range of techniques ones that are suitable for a particular child. Most children make rapid progress with this daily support and are able to reach the average reading skill of their age within three to five months.

At Flynn Primary it was a delight to see the individual care of the teacher and the response of children to this individual attention and encouragement. I was impressed to see the attentiveness of the teacher to every aspect of the skill of reading and the care with which the children were encouraged to address each difficulty as it occurred. For many children this program will be sufficient to ensure that they are able to progress to thoroughly competent reading and writing skills for the rest of their lives. Such a program is invaluable. It is a preventive program. A long delay in achieving success with reading carries high risks of emotional and intellectual underdevelopment. A child who gets further and further out of step with the class in which he or she is a member, loses his or her opportunity to learn effectively.

The reading recovery program was developed in New Zealand by Professor Marie Clay, and research carried out there supports the claim that children who have participated in this early individualised program are still maintaining their progress four years later. Two Australian Capital Territory teachers, Margaret Clough and Margaret Olding, studied with Professor Clay at Auckland University during 1985 and are currently providing on the job training for the second intake of reading recovery teachers in the Australian Capital Territory. I would like to congratulate them and all the other teachers participating in this program for the imagination and effectiveness of reading recovery. The program is obviously expensive because a one-to-one teacher-pupil activity, even though it is only for half an hour at a time, is a high investment of teacher time. But it is clearly cost effective if the great majority of those students who go through the program are from then on able to improve their reading skills at the same rate as their peers. Competence in reading is one of the most central skills with which students must leave school, yet a proportion of students, sometimes estimated to be as high as 10 per cent, never completely master reading and writing. If this reading recovery program substantially reduces that proportion to one or 2 per cent, it will clearly be particularly cost effective.

The other primary school I visited last week was at Cook, where a peace park was being opened on the day before Anzac Day. The impressive aspects of this opening were that the park had been thought of by the students themselves; much of the money to pay for the preparation of the park had been raised by them, supported by a $400 International Year of Peace grant; and the quality of the opening itself. During the opening, probably a dozen Year 6 students participated, and showed that they had reflected carefully on the nature of peace. They clearly recognised that peace was more than the absence of war and that it involved personal peace, peace within the family and peace within our own community.

There was reflection on both the courage of the people who had defended Australia in the First and Second World Wars and, as well, a strong emphasis on the contribution which everyone can make to reducing conflict in the future. The Principal, Jan Laut, and the teacher responsible, Connie Owen, and all the children who were involved are to be warmly congratulated on this fine celebration.

These are just two striking examples of the high quality, creativity and intelligent compassion being demonstrated in the education provided through the Australian Capital Territory school system. I would like to put on record my whole-hearted congratulations of not only the teachers involved in these two programs but also all the others who are providing such a fine service to the children of Canberra.