Dr Jennifer Buckingham publishes Churchill report on literacy practices

MultiLit congratulates Dr Jennifer Buckingham OAM on the publication of her report into literacy policy and practice in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which was completed as part of a Churchill Fellowship.

Dr Buckingham, Director of Strategy and Senior Research Fellow at MultiLit, spent two months in the United Kingdom and Ireland in early 2023, where she visited more than a dozen schools and interviewed more than 100 principals, teachers, education officials, and academics as part of the research project.

Dr Jennifer Buckingham Headshot - Crop

The report provides a comparative analysis of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, their literacy policies and practices, how they arise from and interact with the social and historical context, and their impact on student results.

There are widely differing levels of literacy achievements in the five countries included in the study, despite a shared language and geographical proximity. Ireland and Northern Ireland have had high achievement in international literacy assessments for almost two decades and England’s results are improving.

The factors identified as contributing to solid literacy results were structured evidence-based literacy teaching including systematic phonics instruction, a rigorous curriculum, high-quality initial teacher education, and a culture that values literacy and education.

The report aims to provide an understanding of how Australia can improve the literacy achievement of its students.

“It was a true privilege to have been able to undertake this work and I thank the Winston Churchill Trust and MultiLit, particularly Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall AM, Dr Robyn Wheldall, and Iain Rothwell, for their support,” Dr Buckingham said.

“There is a growing awareness of the importance of evidence-based literacy instruction in Australia.

“In many of the systems around the country, policies are being introduced that support the use of the most effective teaching methods. But, with work still to be done, there’s a lot we can learn from other high-performing jurisdictions.”

Dr Buckingham has been at the forefront of the national debate on education for more than 20 years.

Her report, An investigation of literacy instruction and policy in the United Kingdom and Ireland, can be read here.

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