The case for early intervention

Year: 1994

Author: Russell, V. Jean, Hill, Peter W.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of literacy to the wellbeing of the individual and society. Literacy also provides the foundation for the development of life-long learning which is essential if Australia is to establish and maintain the flexible, innovative and internationally competitive workforce that it seeks. Yet there is sufficient evidence available to establish that some 10 to 15% of Australian school children at the end of the compulsory years of schooling have inadequate literacy skills. There is also evidence, for example from the Victorian Quality Schools Project, showing that difficulties in literacy development are manifest early in children's schooling.

Given that the consequences of inadequate literacy are far-reaching, that students having difficulties can be identified early and that effective means for improving students' literacy development are available, action needs to be taken at system and school level. Using Stringfield's concept of the High Reliability Organisation, it is argued that primary schooling should be reconceptualised so that it becomes highly reliable in relation to literacy achievement, ensuring as close to universal literacy as is possible for the student population. Such a reconceptualisation would see priority being redirected to the early years of primary schooling, with system/school goals, resource allocation and performance indicators reflecting this. Strategies involved, such as funding arrangements, school resource allocation (e.g., class size, teacher expertise), staff professional development, consistent general and special intensive literacy programs, monitoring and reporting on student progress, a possible new form of national sample surveys, and cost effectiveness, are considered in relation to their effectiveness in establishing primary schools as High Reliability Organisations for literacy achievement.