March 13, 2013, 10:30 p.m.
A Warrawong primary school has been held up as a shining example of the success of a government program designed to lift literacy and numeracy skills in disadvantaged schools.
St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School achieved a remarkable turnaround in the reading capabilities of its students over five years after receiving funds from the federal government's National Partnerships scheme.
The latest NAPLAN test results, published yesterday on the government's MySchool website, showed 43 per cent of the school's year 5 students were "at or below the national minimum standard" in reading before the program started in 2008.
Now, not a single year 5 child at the school falls into that category.
Numeracy results have also improved, with the proportion of students at the lowest standard dropping from 34 per cent to 14 per cent.
Wollongong Catholic schools officer Anne-Maree Creenaune said the funds had allowed teachers at the school to target reading over three years.
"The money allowed ... every teacher to complete a course called Focus on Reading, and they've learnt how to really monitor their students' progress," she said.
The school has also been able to employ a speech pathologist and co-ordinator for gifted students, develop individual plans for struggling students and hold parent engagement evenings to ensure the whole community was aware of the focus on reading.
"This has really changed the attitude of the whole school community, because kids now believe they can succeed and learn ... [and] it means the postcode these kids come from isn't going to determine their educational success," Ms Creenaune said.
To coincide with the MySchool website update, Education Minister Peter Garrett yesterday released figures showing National Partnerships schools across the country had improved student results at a greater rate than other schools.
He said this proved the need for the government's proposed education reforms, which would implement a new funding system based on last year's Gonski report.
Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos also said the results proved the Gonski reforms were needed.
"This new data shows the transformational change under way in many schools across the country - through measures like smaller class sizes and the introduction of specialist literacy and numeracy teachers," he said.
"So many of the initiatives already bearing fruit ... would be lost if we don't secure agreement on Gonski in the coming weeks."
Parents can access the latest NAPLAN test results at myschool.edu.au.