Wednesday, 21 Apr 2004

MEDIA RELEASE For immediate release Wednesday 21 April 2004 Supporting Indigenous students’ English literacy and numeracy learning Indigenous Australian children begin school with similar levels of literacy and numeracy to their non-Indigenous classmates but fall behind as they move through the early years, new research shows. A longitudinal study conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has been monitoring the growth in English literacy and numeracy achievement of a group of 152 Indigenous students in 13 schools through the early years of primary school. A report detailing the findings of the first two years of the study was released today. Indigenous students’ developing English literacy and numeracy skills were assessed at five points over the first three years of school using tasks developed for the ACER Longitudinal Literacy and Numeracy Survey (LLANS). In general, for both the English literacy and for numeracy the achievement of the Indigenous students began at a similar level to that of the main LLANS sample but by the time of the fifth assessment in the third year of school substantial gaps had emerged. ACER’s Deputy CEO Dr John Ainley said that the findings reinforce the importance of a strong start in the early years of school and measures must be taken to engage Indigenous children with learning in these vital early years. “Once at school students need to be engaged in interesting and challenging lessons to stimulate learning and hopefully reinforce attendance and desire to come to school,” he said. The study identified initial achievement, attendance, attentiveness in class, language background, region and school as factors influencing achievement. Students who attended schools from metropolitan and regional areas generally achieved at a higher level than schools from the more remote and very remote areas. As for students in general, initial achievement was found to be the strongest predictor of achievement in later years. Those who achieved the best results in the first assessment also achieved the best results in the later assessments. Students who spoke standard Australian English at home performed better on these tests than those who did not. Students who were rated as being more attentive in class and those who had higher attendance rates at school also achieved higher. There was some indication that students attending schools that had successfully identified and addressed the specific learning needs of their Indigenous students achieved higher results. The study is an initiative of ACER’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Advisory Committee and funded by the Ministerial Council for Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs and is now in its fifth year. Supporting English Literacy and Numeracy Learning for Indigenous Students in the Early Years by Tracey Frigo, Matthew Corrigan, Isabelle Adams, Paul Hughes, Maria Stephens and Davina Woods is ACER Research Monograph number 57 published by ACER Press. ****************ENDS*************