The Flying Start Program

 

Ida McCann & Claire Hiller

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In 1994 the Tasmanian Education Department introduced the Prep Literacy Support Program. Later evaluation revealed a significant improvement in students' literacy performance and the program was extended to Year 2 in 1996 with the expanded Flying Start program. The program focused on numeracy and social skills as well as literacy and is operating for prep, Year 1 and Year 2 students.

Anecdotal evidence shows that the program has been popular among teachers; has created an enthusiasm for learning among Tasmania's youngest school children; has affected classroom climate; and has even impacted upon community attitudes towards local schools. Hand in hand has gone intensive professional development for all those involved in the program.

One of the most significant features has been that there is an additional resource teacher working alongside the classroom teacher for a critical teaching and learning period each day. While the structure of the program is fixed - involving the daily presence of the resource teacher working in co-operation with the classroom teacher - the specific details of what is taught during the daily critical teaching/learning time is a matter for negotiation between the resource and classroom teachers, based on the needs of the children.

Mrs Carol Mackel, State Manager of the Flying Start Program, stresses that the Department intends to build on all that has been achieved already through the literacy program, but encourage more focus on numeracy. Teachers will be supported in the implementation of the program by a number of personnel: the statewide program manager, seven district liaison officers, a statewide early years liaison officer, a statewide numeracy officer, a statewide social skills liaison officer and three co-ordinators of the federally funded Early Literacy Partnership Program.

Mrs Mackel believes that the success of the Early Literacy Program vindicates the more interventionist approach to early childhood education and the determination to get the foundations right through the Flying Start Program

Widening the scope of Information Technology

Clarence High School in Hobart has developed an extension program, described as voluntary participation, for Grade 9 and 10 students in the area of Information Technology. These students can pursue their passion for IT in the comfort of their own home, courtesy of the World Wide Web or during a weekly evening class. These evening classes are particularly popular, offering a concentrated, three-hour computing session with a coffee break to allow for more informal learning.

The opportunity for increased flexibility in their school day has been warmly received by the students involved. Hours they no longer spend studying IT during the school week can now be spent on areas of their own choice, such as additional music study, sports training or extra time for homework.

The extension program has also resulted in the school opening up its computing resources to teachers, parents and its feeder schools. There is access to the high school's computer network for its two feeder schools by means of a computer and a modem for each school. Parent use is due to start this term and is being organised by the Parents and Friends Association, which will provide supervision, with students providing tutoring as required.

Ida McCann and Claire Hiller, School of Education, University of Tasmania

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