In all areas of the curriculum, literacy is embedded as a core competency that students need to communicate and participate in activities both in and outside of school.
However, as important as this is, student outcomes in this critical discipline have been slipping over the years.
As such, education departments across Australia have been revamping their curriculums to help reverse this worrying decline.
Over the last four years, one school in Northern Queensland has also been hard at work to improve student literacy outcomes, taking tremendous strides in improving its students’ writing abilities.
Since implementing the Seven Steps at the end of 2014, principal Claudine Moncur-White and the teachers of Rasmussen State School have transformed their school from one of the worst performing Queensland schools to significantly outperforming the state in writing improvement between 2015-2017.
Even better, the improvements they’ve seen haven’t just been in writing ability.
In under four years, Rasmussen – a school with an ICSEA value of 803 – has built up student confidence in writing, increased their willingness to learn and improved communication and engagement with staff and peers.
“We used a hands-on approach; our leadership staff would take a class through Seven Steps Action Activities in front of year level teachers,” Moncur-White said.
“The following days and weeks teachers would then implement what they had seen to their own classes while being coached (supervised) by our leadership staff.”
In addition to the coaching, Moncur-White used staff meetings for further training and explanation to ensure the whole school was confident to teach the Seven Steps.
“It is inspiring to see schools like Rasmussen take the techniques and create massive change,” Seven Steps to Writing Success creator, Jen McVeity, told The Educator.
McVeity said the teachers, and the school’s principal, don’t give themselves enough credit.
“Look at what they have achieved. They did such strong training in the Seven Steps techniques, the leadership team systematically passed that on to teachers, then they modelled great action activities in the classroom,” she said.
According to McVeity, strong planning and implementation are the keys to the success behind the Rasmussen story.
“We don’t want a quick fix. The Seven Steps is not about that. We want to help schools make real, long-term change. It is exciting to work with leaders with vision,” McVeity said.
“It seems like all you hear in the press lately is about schools and their data and NAPLAN.”
However, she said every teacher and leader knows that to make a real difference, they need student engagement.
“That’s a big focus for us – we help teachers make writing lessons fun for students,” she said.
“We also make the writing techniques simple to understand so students build their confidence and ability to put words on paper.”
McVeity said real learning occurs when students feel confident and they are engaged.
“The data just follows automatically,” she said.