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1999 National Literacy Week Awards for Literacy and Numeracy Achievement, Melbourne, 7 September 1999: opening address - presentation ceremony\n

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The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs





Melbourne, 7 September 1999

Ladies and Gentleman,

This year, Australia is celebrating National Literacy Week for the first time and it is a pleasure to be at this awards ceremony today, honouring those who have achieved excellence in literacy and numeracy achievement.

Of course, by being here today, we are part of a much bigger celebration. I refer to International Literacy Day, which will be celebrated in many countries around the world tomorrow.

Raising literacy and numeracy levels in Australia has been a key goal of mine as Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The Federal Government has introduces a range of measures in order to do so, including negotiating literacy benchmarks with the states - which is an important first for this country - and increasing funding for literacy projects.

Another aspect of our focus on literacy and numeracy is recognising and rewarding excellence in literacy and numeracy outcomes. So today it is a great pleasure to be present at this event.

The literacy level that each of is attains had a profound effect on our lives. Strong literacy can be the key to further learning and employment. It helps us every day in the most simple and mundane tasks. It can also give us great enjoyment.

On the other hand, reduced levels of literacy often lead to unhappy and unfulfilling experiences. One reason why I am so personally committed to boosting literacy levels is the feedback I receive from those who feel their own literacy is not what it should be.

Literacy and numeracy are important for people of all ages, but I am delighted that Australia’s first National Literacy Week, will focus on children’s literacy. I believe that this is a most effective way to raise community awareness of the importance of all young Australians developing these skills in their early years.

A key aim of National Literacy Week is to showcase efforts to improve the literacy and numeracy levels of all children in primary schools across Australia. This is why the Federal Government decided to fund Australia’s first National Literacy Week Awards for Literacy and Numeracy Achievement.

The National Literacy Week Awards will provide substantial cash prizes for schools that have been able to demonstrate excellence in teaching literacy and numeracy. These prizes will reward school communities for the hard work they have undertaken to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes.

A total of 70 awards valued at $160,000 are being announced this week. There are sixty national awards of $1,000 each and ten major national awards of $10,000. We are here today to find out who those major award winners are and, of course, to congratulate them on their fine achievements. But first, let me explain briefly what the Awards competition is about.

The Awards are designed to recognise and reward Australian schools that have shown improvement in literacy and numeracy through good practice. They also provide a unique opportunity for teachers to showcase the very high quality work, which - as we saw in the video - is going on in schools across Australia.

These Awards provide a means of delivering an important message to the Australian community - that both government and non-government schools are making real progress under the National Literacy and Numeracy Plan.

Over 360 schools entered the Awards and I think that is a magnificent start. We wondered, for the months after the original announcement that the Awards would be held for the very first time, what the response would be. My thanks go to all schools that have put in the time and effort to enter the Awards in this, their inaugural year.

Each school that entered was required to demonstrate how it is implementing an effective literacy or numeracy programme. Selection committees also took into account:

  • the nature and extent of whole community involvement;
  • the degree of innovation and creativity demo nstrated by the school’s programme; and
  • the extent to which the school’s programme is likely to have a sustained impact on attitudes to literacy and numeracy.

I know that selection committee members had a very difficult job. This was due to the quality and depth of the applications they receive d. I know that they spent many hours in every State and Territory - and at the national level - discussing the relative strengths of each school’s submission against the Awards criteria.

The winning schools have shown very clearly what can be achieved when teachers, students and whole school communities work together to tackle literacy and numeracy.

One feature of these schools is that they have closely matched their literacy programmes to the needs and characteristics of their students. Another is the focus on early intervention - early diagnosis, early identification of students ‘at risk’ and of course early instruction in foundation literacy skills by appropriately trained teachers.

It is notable too, I think, that the schools with effective literacy and numeracy programmes almost always have the wholehearted and enthusiastic support of the whole school community. These schools have developed programmes that are balanced and well-structured, based on sound research, innovative and achieving results.

Congratulations to those who are going to be amongst the award winners today.

Before I conclude I want to thank all the people who have worked on National Literacy Week and supported the Awards to make them a success. I particularly wish to thank:

  • the students and parents, teachers and principals of the schools represented here today;
  • leaders from education authorities, national peak bodies and parent organisations who have supported this initiative;
  • members of the National Literacy Week Working Group;
  • membe rs of State, Territory and national Selection Committees.

And now it is my very great pleasure to hand you back Linda so that we can move on to the award presentations.




jy  1999-09-24  15:38