Case Study: St Columba’s Primary School, Western Australia

MultiLit in action

Based on extensive research into how children learn to read, MultiLit has been supporting educators to provide effective literacy instruction for more than 25 years. This case study demonstrates how MultiLit programs are having a significant impact: both in building teachers’ knowledge and capacity and lifting student learning outcomes.


St Columba’s Catholic Primary School in Western Australia has reported a dramatic improvement in students’ literacy achievement since partnering with MultiLit seven years ago.

When principal Allen McMahon joined the South Perth school in 2014, literacy quickly became a priority.

Despite drawing students from relatively advantaged suburbs, the school had been underperforming similar schools as well as socio-educationally disadvantaged schools in the Year 3 NAPLAN reading test.

“We looked closely at what the research was saying about learning to read, and importantly how to teach reading effectively, and that’s what led us to MultiLit,” Mr McMahon said.

“I recall travelling to Sydney where I was able to observe what was going on inside schools that were using MultiLit programs and was really impressed.

“Schools that were considered much more disadvantaged than our own and with high numbers of students whose main language spoken at home was not English, were doing far better.

“It was obvious that we needed to do more to ensure that our students became proficient readers.”

In 2016, St Columba’s introduced InitiaLit, a whole-class program for Foundation to Year 2 that systematically teaches core literacy knowledge and skills, including phonics, vocabulary, oral language and listening comprehension.

The school also used PreLit to support kinder students’ preliteracy skills, such as phonological awareness and oral language development, and the MacqLit intervention program for small groups of older low-progress readers.

The impact on student achievement has been profound.

Between 2015 and 2022, the school’s average Year 3 NAPLAN reading score improved by 13 per cent, while the writing score jumped by 10 per cent. Last year’s NAPLAN saw the school perform well above the state average in both categories.

Mr McMahon said he believed fidelity to the programs, which have been informed by years of research evidence into how children learn to read and how to best teach reading, was crucial to its success.

“All our teachers and education assistants across Foundation to Year 2 classrooms are trained and supported to teach their students the same essential content in the same systematic and structured way, ensuring consistent and high-quality instruction across the school,” he said.

“We screen students continuously to ensure they’re learning what is being taught so there’s less chance of anyone falling behind. But if they do, we know we can support them.”

Mr McMahon said teachers had wholeheartedly supported the school’s move towards structured literacy.

“There’s a lot of time pressures on educators these days but there is really no need for individual teachers to have to go off and reinvent the wheel regarding reading instruction,” he said.

“We do things this way because the evidence says it’s the most effective way and we have the proof in our students’ results.”

St Columba’s has begun opening its classrooms to visits from educators from other government and non-government schools who are keen to find out more about its success and how to implement a structured literacy approach in their own classes.

“Things are certainly moving in the right direction in WA,” Mr McMahon said.

“More teachers are undergoing professional development that has been informed by the Science of Reading and they are keen to align their instructional practice with what works for all children.

“It’s all about improving outcomes for students.”

MultiLit has seen the uptake of programs by WA schools jump substantially, with two-thirds of schools across the state employing at least one of its reading, language, intervention or spelling programs.

To find out more about MultiLit programs, resources, and professional development for educators, please visit our website or contact [email protected].

Save Your Cart
Share Your Cart