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Literacy project is last word in success

Second-class students Jessica Weldridge, Tony Lien and Rachel Kelly, all eight years old, at Our Lady Immaculate Junior National School in Darndale, Dublin, during the launch of the literacy project yesterday. CONOR HEALY

THE pupils' own words -- with much-expanded vocabulary -- best describe the success of a literacy initiative at a school in a disadvantaged community.

A new approach to teaching reading has brought outstanding results at Our Lady Immaculate Junior National School, Darndale, on Dublin's northside.

In only two years, the proportion of first and second-class pupils performing among the best for their age has jumped from zero to 20pc.

At the same time, the number of children scoring among the lower ranks fell by three-quarters.

The pupils have also made statistically significant gains in both writing and spelling, reaching the national norms in spelling.

The pilot 'Write to Read' project involved a dedicated 90 minutes a day devoted to literacy, which included a daily writing workshop allowing pupils to explore their creative sides.

In a departure from more usual practice, teachers do not rely on standard textbooks and introduce pupils to a rich array of reading material.

Teachers reported that children were choosing to read and write inside and outside school.

A key element of the project was encouraging parents to become more involved with reading with their children at home.

The initiative was the brainchild of Dr Eithne Kennedy, a lecturer in literacy at St Patrick's teacher training college in Drumcondra.

Now she plans to roll it out in eight additional schools and 12 community organisations in Dublin, although some extra funding is needed from the Department of Education. So far, there is no indication the funding is in place.

Dr Kennedy said she also hoped private organisations would get involved in supporting the initiative, through measures such as funding for books.

The Darndale project received significant support from the Oblate Fathers.

Principal Breda Murray said that over the year, each child involved was reading upwards of 50 books.

Irish Independent