Middle years literacy and numeracy support initiative case studies

These case studies highlight professional practice and successful literacy and numeracy implementation in secondary and primary/secondary schools.

The case studies are one of the resources developed for schools under the Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy Support (MYLNS) initiative. 

The initiative provides funding to government secondary schools to improve outcomes for students who are at risk of leaving school without the literacy or numeracy skills they need for future work, education and training.

Secondary schools engage improvement and network teachers to deliver intensive literacy and numeracy support to students. Improvement teachers with a time allocation of 0.6 FTE or above also have a role in building teacher capability to support these students.

Braybrook College

In 2019, Braybrook College appointed both Literacy and Numeracy Improvement Teachers to provide targeted literacy and numeracy support into the middle years.

 
Audio transcript

Opening text

Braybrook College implemented a range of literacy and numeracy initiatives over the last ten years, with sustained improvement trends evident across both Reading and Numeracy in the college’s Year 9 NAPLAN results.

The college recognised that the Literacy and Numeracy Improvement Teacher roles would complement existing literacy and numeracy initiatives, providing targeted support for students in the middle years.

This is their story.

Kelly Panousieris - Principal

Braybrook College is a seven to 12 co-educational college. We are situated in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, we have approximately 1,400 students, with a large number coming from non-English speaking backgrounds and we have about 35 nationalities represented.

The literacy program at Braybrook College started around 2009-2010. We were looking at a whole school approach to literacy with the view of all teachers being teachers of literacy.

Jude - Student 

Well my literacy teacher in a matter of fact is actually my maths teacher this year, so um we sort of got a good connection as well as other students in the class. Probably helps her as well, she gets to know us a little bit more.

Rosa Tran - Mathematics Teacher

A lot of teachers who teach science, maths, humanities, we all actually take part in the literacy program.

You know I try to use what I’ve learnt in the literacy program, using some of the teaching practices in there into my maths class. Visualising is one that we use quite often, so just to be able to break down application type questions or worded problems.

I implement more classroom discussion, I find that that enhances students' understanding of the topic that I teach in maths. I also, wherever possible, integrate reciprocal teaching steps.

Jude - Student 

In literacy, probably what I most benefitted at was reciprocal teaching steps. Now that's predicting, questioning, clarifying and summarising. So what you do there is you look at the passage, you read it, and then you sort of summarise what you've written. I guess it ah benefits you since when you’re reading other passages in other subjects you really want to read it properly, because if you don't read it properly, you're probably going to get the answer wrong.

Kelly Panousieris - Principal

We went really quickly once this initiative was started last year and we had the two Improvement Teachers in place by the end of last year ready to go day one in 2019. They have met with myself, with the Numeracy Coordinator, with the Literacy Coordinator, to plan the program to have an agreed approach. 

Alex Ashley - Literacy Improvement Teacher

As a Literacy Improvement teacher I’m working with students at the lower end of the literacy spectrum in our middle school. A lot of these students have understandably put a fair bit of effort into avoiding the language demands in their subject, so my role is to kind of help them to get unstuck and to disrupt the habits that they are leaning on to hide.

A key part of working with the students at the lower end of the literacy spectrum has been taking a bit of extra time to assess their literacy skills.

I’ve constructed literacy profiles for quite a number of students that involved assessing their abilities and really breaking it down and trying to figure out what would be the most productive areas to work on.

Of course being singled out as needing the support is something that some students will of course in middle school find quite embarrassing, so it’s been a bit of a challenge in terms of how to negotiate that and build the relationship, build the rapport. One effective strategy that we’ve used so far has been to combine some withdrawal from class with students, as well as me going into classes to support them and to promote those habits.

Zoe Kendall - Numeracy Improvement Teacher

Sometimes they're afraid to speak up that they may not know something or understand something or they're afraid to make a mistake, but me working in a small group with them, they're allowed to make mistakes, they can share their ideas with me, it doesn't have to be in front of the whole class, so it builds their confidence and they get immediate response about their work which um enables them to take risks and they can move on.

Kelly Panousieris - Principal

One of the first things that the two teachers did, the Literacy and Numeracy Improvement teachers, was that they addressed staff at a staff meeting about what it is they are going to do, but also how to assist teachers to modify the work that they were providing students so that the teacher’s lessons were tailored to the student's needs.

There is a little bit of team teaching done as well, and so they would be helping staff both informally but also formally too. 

Alex Ashley - Literacy Improvement Teacher

At Braybrook College we’ve definitely found that having everybody on board and thinking about students' development with literacy has been essential to making any change.

I’ve shared the literacy profiles with all of their teachers as a kind of an online document that involves both the concrete things that the students are doing and that I’m encouraging them to do, as well as ways in which the teachers can support that for that student as well as for other similar students in the class.

You know, everyone is aware of ways in which they can support students to develop and ways in which they can make the students themselves more conscious of strategies for success.

Zoe Kendall - Numeracy Improvement Teacher

I think I’ve enabled the classroom teachers to feel confident with me being there. I think any teacher feels a little bit nervous having another teacher in the room. But I think they’ve come to realise that I’m not threatening at all and in fact I’m supporting what they’re doing in the classroom.

Alex Ashley - Literacy Improvement Teacher

Next week I’ll be taking a half hour of the humanities faculty meeting to work with teachers on how they can support kids in essay writing and to differentiate the resources and the, the um strategies that they can use both at the lower end as well as at the higher end.

Zoe Kendall - Numeracy Improvement Teacher

It's a role that's been in its infancy but I think it’s got potential to expand and perhaps we can pick up children that might be on the edge of needing a Numeracy Improvement Teacher so we can support those kids as well.

Kelly Panousieris - Principal

Even though the Middle Years Literacy and Numeracy strategy has only just commenced at Braybrook College in the last six months, we are already starting to notice a marked improvement in students' confidence, in some of their results coming through and in their ability to ask questions and seek assistance when needed.

Alex Ashley - Literacy Improvement Teacher

So far, perhaps the most heart-warming benefit I’ve seen is students coming out of their shells and leaving their coping and hiding mechanisms to take some risks in the classroom um and that’s been really great to see, that's for me that is real progress and that means they are unstuck that the learning is now happening and the practice is now happening.

Kelly Panousieris - Principal

A program such as this has not only just short-term benefits, but I think it's a program that at this school we are going to continue for a long time because it’s going to make a difference.

Find out more about Braybrook College’s literacy and numeracy support initiatives in the written case study: docx - 284.24kb  |  pdf - 314.83kb

Mordialloc College

In 2016, Mordialloc College engaged an experienced primary school teacher to develop and deliver a literacy intervention program for Year 7 and 8 students.

In 2017, the school established a Year 9 Literacy and Numeracy elective in response to student demand.

 
Audio transcript

Opening text

In 2016, Mordialloc College employed a primary school teacher, Liz Evans, to deliver a program building foundational literacy and numeracy skills for Year 7 and 8 students who needed additional support. Students supported through the program asked the school to extend that literacy and numeracy support into the middle years.

In 2017, the college introduced a Year 9 literacy and numeracy elective in response.

This is their story.

Michelle Roberts - Principal

Okay, Mordialloc College is a mid-size secondary school in the southeast. We are a very middle-class school and we have 5% EAL and 1% ATSI. We’ve got 250 students coming in next year in Year 7, which is going to take us from, now, 950 to 1100 next year.

Liz Evans - Numeracy and Literacy Intervention Specialist Teacher        

I came to Mordialloc College from the primary school sector, there was an opening for a Literacy and Numeracy intervention program. We really wanted to try and put something in place that was very valuable and was specific and targeted for the students that we have here at Mordialloc College.

We noticed that the students had access to Year 7 and Year 8 curriculum but really struggled to be successful in those classes. And they really need more practice, they needed more time to go over key concepts, and so we provided an area where they could be removed from the classes and have that extra support. 

Alice Leppin - Director of Pedagogy and Innovative Programs

When we started the literacy and numeracy intervention program, once we started to see the data coming in and… and started to recognise that students were making on average 12 to 18 months growth in only a 6-month period, that was really exciting for our teachers, and certainly we saw the value in continuing with that program.

Liz Evans - Numeracy and Literacy Intervention Specialist Teacher

So the Year 9 elective really came about from influence from the students. So the ones that had we had worked with in 7 and 8 asked the question, “What do we have when we get to Year 9?” So, “What do you offer?” And at the time, we didn’t really have anything following the same sort of structure

Alice Leppin - Director of Pedagogy and Innovative Programs

Looking at all the different datasets, enabled us to see that these students, whilst they had shown growth, there was still a need for them to have further opportunity.        

Liz Evans - Numeracy and Literacy Intervention Specialist Teacher

So we sat down and we got feedback from the students who were in the program, the parents and the teachers involved across Year 8 and Year 9. And we looked at a way that we could offer similar support, um, when they do transition into that middle years.

Michelle Roberts - Principal

We sort of put a bit of an incentive there for the students that if they actually picked it they would get their first choice in the elective system because it can be quite competitive to get some of the classes.

Alice Leppin - Director of Pedagogy and Innovative Programs

We really wanted them to be proud that they were taking the initiative to take on a subject that would assist them with all of their other subjects.

James Sadler - Year 9 Elective Teacher

We have four periods over a fortnightly cycle. Three of those periods are for literacy and one of those periods is for numeracy. So students take this on as an elective class in addition to their English and mathematics classes that they already have, and, within each class, they will be practicing basic skills.

Kynan - Student          

We get to come into class and he will be like ‘what do you want to learn today’, so we would be learning, if we want to do math, we would say ‘we want to do indices or we want to do algebra’ and he’d go back to the start and he would go through it again, and we’d go slower and slower and slower to see if we understood it and to see if we get the method.

James Sadler - Year 9 Elective Teacher

It does run in tandem to the curriculum that the mainstream classes are doing. So, what I will do is I will see where the other teachers are up to, I’ll communicate closely with them, uh, to find out what tasks they’re working on at the moment and what texts they’re using, and they will also be integrated into the classrooms.

Chloe - Student

It’s definitely helped my English most of all because I’ve become a better reader, because we’ll usually do 20 to 30 minutes of reading at the beginning of every class.

James Sadler - Year 9 Elective Teacher

Compared to a regular English class, the program is much more loosely structured and there is far less pressure overall. There’s much more of an emphasis on, you know, writing for fun, low… uh, low stakes writing so that, you know, students can develop these basic skills with confidence and not feel like they’re being judged constantly.

Chloe - Student

The most useful strategy I think we learned was like how to write a comparative paragraph, and we were given this formula, because we’re doing a comparative essay on two texts at the moment. And I knew how to write one before, but I feel like since we’ve had that lesson and we’ve been given that formula it’s helped a lot. 

Alice Leppin - Director of Pedagogy and Innovative Programs

Our NAPLAN results have improved drastically. We’ve seen a lot more growth. We’re constantly looking at the different datasets, but certainly our lowest achieving students have shown the most amount of growth.

Liz Evans - Numeracy and Literacy Intervention Specialist Teacher

The students that have had support over the last few years who are now in Year 9 and even some of the ones that are in 10 and 11, they were really, really happy with the support they got because they were able to then go into the classes and participate more, and sit essays and exams and feel confident. And also, they felt more confident in approaching their teachers for help.

Kynan - Student    

I feel like I’ve improved a lot. I understand more things ‘cause when I was in Year 7, like, it was slowly, slowly… I’d… sort of hard to understand things. But now I’m in Year 9, I’m flying through everything.

Liz Evans - Numeracy and Literacy Intervention Specialist Teacher

Academically-wise, yes, in their results, you can see it through their NAPLAN, you can see it through their teacher reports, their on-demand testing, their everything. But also, their attitude and their confidence. So they love coming to school and they love being in the elective.

Michelle Roberts - Principal

Just feeling really excited that all of the hard work of my staff is being rewarded and that, you know, that our… our emphasis on high expectations and really building that culture of achievement, is starting to pay off.          

Kynan - Student    

Just the way the school is, and how positive they are, it just puts a positivity on you.

Closing text

Between 2016 and 2018, Mordialloc College achieved significant improvement in Year 9 NAPLAN results:

  • 50 percent increase in the percentage of students with high relative growth in Reading.
  • 44 percent decrease in the percentage of students in the bottom two bands in Reading.
  • 81 percent increase in the percentage of students with high relative growth in Numeracy.
  • 61 percent decrease in the percentage of students in the bottom two bands in Numeracy.

Find out more about Mordialloc College’s literacy and numeracy initiatives in the written case study: docx - 192kb  |  pdf - 325kb

Swan Hill College

Swan Hill College implemented a whole school focus on literacy in 2013, building capability in teaching reading comprehension and academic vocabulary.

In 2016, the school used equity funding to establish a junior years reading program and literacy support program.

 
Audio transcript

Opening text

Swan Hill College adopted a whole school focus on literacy in 2013, committing time and resources to building teacher capability in reading comprehension.

In 2016, the College established dedicated reading classes for all year 7 and 8 students as part of their reading program and targeted literacy support for students with higher literacy needs.

This is their story.

Andrew Sartori - Principal

Swan Hill College is a co-ed secondary school, 7 – 12 we have got about 800 students at Swan Hill, there is a significant proportion of indigenous kids and also EAL kids at the school so at home our kids speak about 22 different languages so it’s quite a multi-cultural sort of a school

So initially using our NAPLAN data we were seeing I suppose pockets of growth with our kids depending quite often that was a little bit cohort driven and quite often we would make an improvement only to step back a little bit the year after.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

Consistently our reading growth data was not budging so what we would see is too many students showing low growth and not enough showing medium or high growth.

A colleague and myself, Julie Rovere, we went and did the Bastow Leading Literacy course and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say it sort of blew our minds and we drove the 4 hours home after every course just constantly talking about everything that we learnt. So that was a real impetus to get us to realise about what we could do and what we could do better but it also really challenged us because we thought if we didn’t really know that sort of stuff then the teachers that we were teaching with probably didn’t either.

I suppose we really felt strongly that if we were going to achieve change we needed to make sure there was consistent practice across all of our English teachers so one of the things I managed to talk to leadership about was what would be the best practice model to ensure all the teachers could grow in their knowledge of how to teach reading comprehension.

So basically the English teachers all did additional PD at our school that I developed and ran about 13 or 15 sessions a year just focusing on teacher knowledge.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

I think we needed both the reading program and the literacy program in our school because we have such diverse needs. The reading program is relevant and appropriate for everyone but allows us an opportunity to cater for those who are above the expected level as well.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

All students in Year 7 and 8 attend a reading lesson once a week and it is where there are two teachers in a classroom so it allows us to do a number of things. There is an explicit instruction about reading comprehension, there is differentiated learning because we can run reading circles with those kids sometimes whole class, sometimes the kids who are above the standard and we have opportunities for independent reading in that lesson as well.

In that context we have reading conferences where each student twice a year will sit down with the reading teacher and look at their own data and make some, develop some goals from that data. We also listen to students read aloud which doesn’t usually happen in secondary school and that gives us a good opportunity to have a conversation with them about their comprehension about what they’re reading.

So we have got students in reading operating from Foundation to Level 10 and we came to the realisation that we perhaps we weren’t catering for those students from that Foundation to Level 2 as well as what we would like and that is where the Literacy Program came in.

Carla Cox - Literacy Support Team

So the way that we determine who goes into the program is we identify the students who have fallen below the expected level. Once we have identified the levels we have about, between 3 to 6 students in a group so then we look at their timetables and when is the best spot for them to be removed from their usual class lessons. We will then pull them out three times a week, so it is quite a challenge to find the right spot for every student but we make the best fit possible, so then three times a week they will come out and spend 14 minutes with us. So that is really about the phonics, comprehension, fluency, word work.

Janene Scott - Literacy Support Team

We do lots of activities, lots of game based learning and things to engage the kids and to get them a little bit more excited about reading.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

So the literacy support program it did cost us, there was a financial commitment because it is some money to purchase the systems, the benchmark assessment systems and the Fountas and Pinnell reading program and the other issues that we had, obviously being a withdrawal program where do you run that so we had to look really closely at the classrooms we had in our school and look for spaces that could be converted to suit small group instruction.

Andrew Sartori - Principal

Now our NAPLAN data over the last three or four years has had real steady increase, which has been really pleasing to see.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

But also our PAT reading data has been really showing consistent growth in Year 7 and 8 across the last three years. 

Andrew Sartori - Principal

I think our staff really appreciate now that literacy is the cornerstone for everything across the school it’s not just ‘I am a maths teacher so I don’t have to worry about literacy’ and maths particularly have embraced that literacy side of it and do a lot of work with that. And we concentrate on that in our professional learning communities as well so that means all teachers are getting exposed to that literacy as well.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

When we look back now and look at when the improvement with growth data happened it was probably having the two teachers in the classroom. Not only did that allow us to do more things and cater for the needs of those students much better, but it actually got some incidental role modelling going on so our reading teachers are experienced teachers and so all our new teachers coming into our school they were exposed to best practice and I think that has helped make sure that there is consistency in practice not only with reading in those lessons but across the curriculum.

Shannon - Student

At the start of the year I just didn’t really want to have a bar of it and then Miss Gilby helped me a lot, just talking to me, getting my mind to reading. Just improved, just did the test and got a higher mark, I guess.

Janene Scott - Literacy Support Team

We have had some fantastic results we have seen kids that have got two or three years of growth that perhaps haven’t had any growth for years and years so they’re the, they’re the wonderful stories.

Shannon - Student

I got asked to do the MC for the Awards night. And when I got told about it, I was like, well, in my head I was like ‘I’m not the best at reading’ I like improved before the day come. We went and had rehearsals at the town hall with the mic. And um at the start I was like, you know how you’re reading something and you rush through it? That’s what I was like. And I slowed it down, and ‘cause there was some improvements I had to make before the day. And I made ‘em. I was a bit shaky on the day, but I just went out there and it all happened. I could improve on my reading, and it gave me um confidence to go and do the MC’ing.   

Janene Scott - Literacy Support Team

It is when you get a kid that all of a sudden decides that they want to read that they are doing it for them they are no longer seeing it as a chore or something that they just hate that is when it is really worthwhile I think that is the biggest win.

Lisa Gilby - Literacy Leader

Reading is pivotal, we are passionate about it ourselves, we love reading but we want to make sure that our students have every chance and reading is the key.

Closing text

Swan Hill College has achieved a 30 per cent reduction in the number of Year 9 students in the bottom 2 bands for NAPLAN reading from 2016 to 2018.

In 2018, average growth in reading for students in the literacy support program was more than three times the benchmark expected growth.

Find out more about Swan Hill College’s literacy initiatives in the written case study: docx - 305kb  |  pdf - 431kb

Tarneit P-9 College

Tarneit P-9 College implemented a student-centred coaching program to maintain consistency and a high standard of teacher practice in literacy and numeracy through a period of dramatic growth.

 
Audio transcript

Opening text

In 2015, Tarneit P-9 College implemented student-centred coaching to help build capability and consistency of teacher practice within the rapidly growing school.

This coaching model places the students’ learning journey at the centre of the coach and teacher’s work together.

This is their story.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

Tarneit Prep-9 College is a very multicultural school, we have students that come from a range of backgrounds and a range of cultures, and we are a very inclusive school.

Our greatest challenge at our school is probably been our growth. Since 2013 to today we have grown from 200 students to over 2000 students and aligned with that has also been the growth of our staff.  So we started with 20 staff and at the moment we have over 190 staff.

When we identified the need to put a coaching strategy in place we did a lot of research around the different coaching models that were out there, and we identified Diane Sweeney’s Student centred coaching strategy, the reason that we went with Diane Sweeney’s work was because it put students at the centre. It looked at the data, it also gave us an opportunity to monitor and measure the impact that the initiative was going to have across the college.

Lucy Knowles - Coach

The year I started working here that was when the Student Centred Coaching Model was being trialed and now we have a policy where everyone at Tarneit is coached. So every single staff member receives a coaching cycle.

Claire Tierney - Coach

And they can kind of elect themselves to be coached through a survey that we do at the beginning of the year and they all have the chance to respond to and say I am confident in this, I am less confident in this, I'd like some support whether I would like it now or later in the year, and we use that to help figure out who we are going to coach.

It is also sometimes done more informally people might just approach us and say look I am about to start doing this, I'd really like some support with it, are you available to come and help?

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

So our coaching model is based around the improvement model. So our coaches work with our staff to identify a focus, they unpack data, and they identify what high impact teaching strategies are going to drive the improvement of that data. Then at the end they measure and monitor the impact that they've had over a 6-8 week cycle of working with that staff member.

Lucy Knowles - Coach

We work collaboratively with the teachers so we might support them with planning, we might co-teach, we might model certain aspects of the lesson. We might observe them and give them feedback so there is lots of different ways we actually sort of get into the classroom and do coaching.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

Students should be at the centre of everything that we do. You know as a school we've put them at the centre so that it directs the initiatives, the processes, the structures that we put in place. It is about identifying where they are, at this point of need, and working with our staff to show growth and to show improvement across all academic areas.

Christelle Haikal - Teacher

I think the student centred side of it sort of makes you less anxious about opening your door, and I think it is all about improving students and that's what we are all here for. So having someone come in with their knowledge about certain curriculum areas helps us as the teachers feel like we are making more of an impact on our students' learning.

Shannon Harmer - Teacher

It is not about you as a teacher and judging the way that you teach it is basically them coming in and going how can I help you to help your students.

Christelle Haikal - Teacher

Probably for me the most helpful aspect of the coaching cycle would be that authentic relationship that you develop with the coach. You get to work with them, along-side them, you get to co-plan the lessons, then you go and teach those lessons together and then you come back and reflect on the data and then that will then drive the work that you do in that coaching cycle.

Shannon Harmer - Teacher

I like that we're constantly developing and we're moving forward with our learning, we are not becoming complacent with anything. We're constantly thinking where to next, we've done this it is really fantastic. What else can we implement? How else can we improve ourselves?

Christelle Haikal - Teacher

You get to share with your team then that spreads that good quality practice around the school and I think it's really helped me refine my own teaching practices over the years.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

When we introduced the coaching initiative, we worked quite closely with the coaches to work out what it was that they needed that was going to support them.

Lucy Knowles - Coach

As coaches we receive a lot of support from school leadership, we are all part of the curriculum and pedagogy team, we meet once a week and that team is focused on our professional learning and our professional development.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

Our coaches have worked quite closely with our parents, they have been delivering parent workshops, so each term our English Coaches and our Math Coaches run parent workshops that give the parents the strategies and the tools that they need to support their child's learning at home as well.

Lucy Knowles - Coach

I think parent involvement in student's education is really important and the more that we can get the parents in through the door and engaged I think that really has benefits for the students.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

We have seen a huge growth of our students particularly across reading, writing and mathematics. We have been able to use the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy as a platform to work with our coaches to drive that improvement.

Shannon Harmer - Teacher

The biggest thing with coaching has developed my confidence skills, it has also just sort of clarified that I am doing a good job and it's developed my knowledge and built my capacity as a teacher.

Paris Spencer - Acting Principal

The greatest benefit of our coaching model has been the relationship that we have been able to build with our staff, and the fact that we have been able to work with them to build their confidence. They're more reflective practitioners, they're more willing to trial different strategies and also it has been able to build a really supportive and collaborative culture.

I am really proud of our school, really proud of the work that our coaches do in terms of supporting the capacity of our teachers but ultimately the impact that it has had on our students, and their learning and their growth has been wonderful to see.

Closing text

Tarneit P-9 College has achieved steady improvement in both reading and numeracy since the coaching program started, including:

  • A 33% reduction in the percentage of students in the bottom 2 bands for NAPLAN Reading from Year 5 in 2014 to Year 9 in 2018.
  • A 27% reduction in the percentage of students in the bottom 2 bands for NAPLAN Numeracy from Year 5 in 2014 to Year 9 in 2018.

Find out more about Tarneit P-9 College’s student-centred coaching program in the written case study: docx - 137kb  |  pdf - 280kb