Structured literacy: Government to roll out new approach to reading in all state schools

Structured literacy: Government to roll out new approach to reading in all state schools
Photo credit: Getty Images

The Government has announced it will roll out a mandatory reading approach to schools in order to tackle New Zealand's declining reading rates.  

From term 1 in 2025, all state schools will teach reading using the structured literacy approach. Currently, schools and teachers can teach reading however they like. 

Education Minister Erica Stanford announced the pre-Budget policy, which was one of National's election campaign promises, at Auckland's Manurewa West Primary School on Thursday. 

"Structured Literacy is about getting back to basics and teaching children to read by using sounds and phonics to understand words," Stanford said. 

Structured literacy is an approach that explicitly teaches systematic word identification and decoding strategies, teaching phonics, syllable patterns, vocabulary, and writing structure. 

Paddy Gower Has Issues revealed in May 2023 that a structured literacy approach has shown substantially better results for tamariki learning to read and write in English. 

According to Stanford, Recent data shows that just 56 percent of Year 8 students are at the expected level for reading, and just 35 percent for writing. 

"A number of schools in New Zealand are already teaching structured literacy and have experienced significant improvements in student achievement. I want all children to have this opportunity," Stanford said. 

She said structured literacy is a crucial part of how the Government plans to reach its target of getting 80 percent of Year 8 students to curriculum level by 2030. 

The rollout includes a $67 million commitment as part of Budget 2024 to support: 

  • Professional development on structured literacy for teachers
  • Books and resources for schools and teachers
  • Introducing phonics checks to assess student progression 
  • Additional support for students that need it. 

"Structured literacy goes hand-in-hand with our requirement for schools to teach an hour a day of reading, writing and maths, as well as implementing a curriculum that is rich in knowledge and clear about what students should be learning and when," Stanford said. 

"Today's funding announcement ensures teachers will receive the training, support and resources they need to deliver this." 

Labour education spokesperson Jan Tinetti has previously hit out at the Government's plan, saying politicians should stay out of education policy decisions. 

"It's soul destroying. We have had that before. We had that with National Standards and it was absolutely soul destroying," Tinetti said.