As part of Noel Pearson’s Welfare Reform Trial in Cape York, MultiLit provided a range of interventions and programs in association with Cape York Partnerships, funded by the Commonwealth Government over the years 2008-2010. The aim of the project was to ‘bridge the gap’ in Indigenous literacy levels so that Indigenous students are, on average, achieving at, or at least close to, grade level in terms of their reading skills. Following two successful MultiLit pilot projects in the remote Cape York community of Coen, in 2008 MultiLit commenced working in the communities of Mossman Gorge and Hope Vale as well as continuing to work in Coen. In 2009, the western Cape community of Aurukun joined the project.
The project provided a MultiLit Tutorial Centre within each school at the four sites, embedded MultiLit instructional practices across the school by providing professional development to teaching staff within each school, provided intensive training for Education Queensland staff who were redeployed in the Tutorial Centres and provided an after school community Reading Club as part of the MultiLit Tutorial Centre. In Coen, support for transition to school programs in terms of pre-reading and language development was also provided in the community preschool.
The MultiLit Tutorial Centres provided intensive instruction (using the Reading Tutor Program) in reading and related skills to 12 students from Years 3-7 in a morning program (for three hours). In an afternoon session, a further 8 low-progress students from Years 1-2 were accommodated for a one hour intensive session of the MiniLit Program. Overall, 20 students (at any one time) accessed the MultiLit Tutorial Centre for each two-term program at each site.
Embedding MultiLit practices within school classrooms helped to address the needs of those not included in the intensive MultiLit Tutorial Centre program and supported students who had ‘graduated’ from the intensive MultiLit program as they consolidated their gains. This was achieved by training EQ teachers to deliver MultiLit’s programs and similarly effective instructional programs in regular classrooms.
The MultiLit Tutorial Centres also provided a focus for and supervision of an after-school ‘Reading Club’ for four afternoons per week for one hour each day. The aim of this program was to help create a love of books and reading, providing a community environment where parents were offered assistance in helping their children to read at home.
Results to date have been encouraging and final analyses are continuing. As an example, in one site, students who were more than 4 years behind in reading at the commencement of their MultiLit program made gains of nearly two years in reading accuracy in less than two school terms of instruction. When these students were followed up five months later (having received no further specific instruction in MultiLit) these gains had improved by a further 7 months of reading age. These students had started to ‘make up lost time in literacy’.
MultiLit had a team of instructors and consultants on the Cape, as well as a project management team in Sydney. The Project Directors were Professor Kevin Wheldall and Dr Robyn Wheldall, supported by Dr Alison Madelaine and Dr Saskia Kohnen.