Urgent state government action is needed to tackle an "alarming trend" in children's literacy skills, an advocacy group says.
"Recently released NAPLAN data shows that, over time, the proportion of Tasmanian students starting year 7 above the expected standard for reading has been declining since 2008," the Tasmanian 100% Literacy Alliance said in an email to a range of peak and advisory bodies on Monday.
"This impacts school completion rates and educational attainment rates.
"Most importantly though, it impacts an individual's life chances.
"In 2021, nearly one in four grade 7 students (23.3 per cent), were at or below that standard.
"The inability to read at the standard expected in the respective grade level impacts all other NAPLAN literacy domains: spelling, writing, punctuation and grammar, as well as the ability to engage successfully in the wider school curriculum.
"Not only does poor literacy affect educational outcomes at an individual level, but it has widespread implications for our whole community and economy.
"Poor literacy - communication through reading, spelling and writing - impacts the type of jobs people can get and the income they can achieve, the types of industries we have and the type of investment we attract to our state."
The alliance in February presented the government with a literacy road map containing a long-term literacy plan and calling for three immediate actions.
The alliance said the state government in March announced a target that by year 7 all students would meet an expected reading standard above the national minimum, by no later than 2030.
"At the time, education minister Jeremy Rockliff acknowledged that meeting this target would require a concerted and sustained effort and that critical to the success will be ensuring we have the systems and processes to help identify as early as possible those learners who are not meeting the expected standards so that intense support can be provided where needed," the alliance said.
"As such, he also announced that the government would establish an expert advisory panel to oversee the development of a community-wide framework to achieve a literate Tasmania.
"Since these announcements in March, there is a new Minister for Education (Sarah Courtney), yet little visible progress towards implementing a plan to achieve the target.
"Expressions of Interest for the literacy advisory panel were sought in June, but the panel is yet to be announced and its terms of reference confirmed.
"It's time for action.
Ms Courtney said improving literacy outcomes for all Tasmanians was a government priority.
" ... we have committed to the aspirational goal of 100 per cent of Tasmanians being functionally literate and a target that by 2029 all year 7 students will meet an expected reading standard that is above the national minimum," she said.
"The budget delivered last week supports this target, including funding for new teachers, including 40 new literacy coaches, professional support staff, school health nurses and support for students impacted by trauma, while continuing to invest heavily in education infrastructure.
"In addition, we have also announced the establishment of an expert literacy advisory panel, to be chaired by Jenny Gale, secretary Department of Premier and Cabinet, and Professor Natalie Brown, director of the Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment.
"This literacy advisory panel will undertake a review of current literacy approaches and supports across our community and provide recommendations on how we can continue to improve."
Demographer Lisa Denny - a member of the alliance - said: "Foundational literacy skills, such as reading, spelling and writing sentences using punctuation and grammar in an informative or narrative way, are the cornerstones of being able to engage with the wider school curriculum, such as maths, the sciences and social sciences and other subjects."
"If our young Tasmanians are not able to participate successfully in high school from grade 7, they are unlikely to engage in school, complete year 12 or go on to further education and/or training.
"This contributes to our relatively lower retention rates and educational attainment rates and detrimentally impacts our economic performance and potential for productivity improvements.
"At an individual level, the opportunities to gain meaningful work with secure income will be limited for those without these foundational literacy skills."
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