Pictured attending the launch of a report on the Limerick DEIS Primary Schools’ Literacy Initiative at Mary Immaculate College were L-R: Literacy Network Teachers; Jacqueline O’Connor, Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School; Suzi Tobin, Presentation Primary School; Ann Breen, St Mary’s National School; Emma Keane, Scoil Íosagáin, CBS National School and Martha O’Sullivan, Presentation Primary School, Limerick.
A recent report, entitled Promoting Communities of Effective Practice, underlines the importance of collaboration to improve the literacy achievement of children in designated disadvantaged (DEIS) schools. The launch of the report on the Limerick DEIS Primary Schools’ Literacy Initiative took place in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, on 13 January 2017, and celebrated the commitment of all educational partners to improving literacy outcomes for children in Limerick’s DEIS primary schools.
The Literacy Initiative, which has been in place since 2011, involved significant collaboration between its three partners, Limerick Education Centre, Mary Immaculate College and the Department of Education and Skills. It arose in response to a consultation by the Department of Education and Skills (DES) with local DEIS schools, drawing on the grounded knowledge of teachers and principals and on school-based data providing evidence of the need for target supports for schools to improve literacy outcomes for their students. The resulting Initiative responded, at a policy level, to the recommendations of the National Strategy for Literacy and Numeracy and integrated international and national evidenced based best practice in developing the intervention model.
According to the Director of the Limerick Education Centre “The high-quality CPD programme delivered to teachers through this Initiative was a key factor in its success in schools. While the education system alone cannot resolve the very complex issues of an educational disadvantage there can be very positive outcomes when there is collaborations and partnerships from government departments, academic institutions, and statutory bodies. This synergy was evident in the partnership formed between Limerick Education Centre, Mary Immaculate College and the Department of Education and Skills. Schools play a very important role in influencing interventions that directly impact on pupils and their ability to achieve maximum benefit from the education system”
Feedback from participating schools has been extremely positive. According to Ms Tracie Tobin, Principal of St. Michael’s Infant School, “This Initiative has resulted in the formation of centers of excellence in the teaching of literacy in all of the schools involved, which has dramatically enhanced the learning outcomes for our pupils. It has also developed and nurtured very important professional networks among the schools as well as with the Department of Education and Skills, Mary Immaculate College and Limerick Education Centre, and we look forward to continuing working together into the future to further enhance the teaching and learning in our schools.”
These sentiments were echoed by many of the participating teachers who engaged in significant professional development and collaboration across the schools since the Initiative’s implementation in 2012. According to them key outcomes of the Literacy Initiative included enhanced teacher understanding of language and literacy processes and practices, as well as increased confidence in the use of data-informed decision making. The building of capacity and communities of practice around shared goals for literacy was another noteworthy outcome as was the sharing of resources and expertise across the network. The complex nature of professional development was highlighted in the report’s finding. A multi- faceted, multi-phase approach was adopted by the Literacy Initiative to ensure that new practices and new understandings regarding literacy could be embedded across the schools. The importance of considering both local and national influences on school practice was also highlighted.
Drawing together some of the key findings from the Initiative, Professor Teresa O’Doherty, Dean of Education, MIC, observed that: “Findings from the Initiative are significant at both a local and national level. That the Initiative succeeded in promoting a greater sense of professional knowledge and collegiality is a testament to the engagement of all those involved. The work of teachers, principals, academics and other educational professionals who took part in the Initiative is praiseworthy. At a time of renewed national focus on literacy, disadvantage, professional development and educational research, much can be gleaned from the findings and outcomes of the Initiative.”
Speaking at the launch of the report Professor Eugene Wall, Acting President of Mary Immaculate College congratulated all who were involved for their commitment to the project and bringing it to fruition. “We in Mary Immaculate College are committed to making a positive difference in our community, locally, regionally, nationally and globally. One of the main goals of the college is to advance social inclusion through the medium of education and a strategy of partnership and therefore we welcome the Limerick Deis Primary School’s Literacy Initiative- Promoting Communities of Effective Practice”.
Funding for the Literacy Initiative was provided by Supporting Social Inclusion and Regeneration inLimerick (SSIRL) through its Programme Innovation and Development Fund (PIDF), while additional resources were provided by the Department of Education and Skills.
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