Summer literacy programme gets funding boost for South Island

Blogging at least twice a week as part of a University of Auckland digital literacy programme has completely eliminated the summer literacy slump for the children involved.

Original Summer Learning Journey programme leader Dr Rachel Williamson-Dean with two summer students from St Pius X Catholic School in Glen Innes.

Now in its seventh cycle, the Summer Learning Journey (SLJ), devised by a team of educational researchers in the University’s Woolf Fisher Research Centre, addresses the widespread and dramatic drop in reading and writing achievement many schoolchildren struggle with after the six-week summer holidays.

And thanks to the support of the Hugo Charitable Trust, the programme team can now continue working with teachers, parents and the local community in key areas of the South Island by offering the free digital literacy programme in low-decile school settings.

The Trust is funding the programme in two clusters of schools in the South Island, the Toki Pounamu cluster in Greymouth and the Uru Mānuka cluster in Hornby, Christchurch. Philanthropic support is through the University’s Campaign For All Our Futures, which has a strong focus on improving the educational achievement of all young New Zealanders.

Hugo Charitable Trust donations manager, Julia Hunter, says the Trust is thrilled to be a part of this innovative project. “We fund a range of medical research and education programmes, as well as helping those with physical or mental health care needs, and supporting social programmes all across New Zealand, and this particular programme caught our eye as we could see the impact immediately."

Original programme leader Dr Rachel Williamson-Dean and her colleagues designed the Summer Learning Journey to improve reading and writing for Year 4-8 students across New Zealand.

She says it’s a great way to ensure students return to school ‘match fit’. “Without it, some children return to school having lost up to a year of literacy learning."

Summer Learning Journey participants from Pt England School in Tamaki after successfully completing the programme.

The programme gives students opportunities to read, write and share their knowledge on a digital platform with their classmates, families and teachers. Their work is then assessed by a group of qualified teachers, educators and teacher trainees from the University of Auckland who work over the summer to read the students' blogs and provide feedback.

The programme is designed to be flexible and the activities can be completed in any order, and from any location, over the six-week break. Each year there are different themes like ‘A Journey through time’ or ‘People who have changed the world.’

The SLJ offers students 60 different activities which vary from creative writing to expressing opinions. Students are also encouraged to think laterally, take pictures and create videos, making it both fun and educational.

The clusters of participating schools all belong to the Manaiakalani Community of Learning, a group that has adopted a strong digital focus for both teaching and learning. All students and teachers use digital devices (iPads and Chromebooks) as their primary teaching and learning tools.

Teachers say they can identify students who have blogged, compared to those who haven’t, when they come back to school in Term 1 of the following year. The Summer Learning Journey currently operates in 50 schools across New Zealand, with participants generating 31,000 blogs and comments over the past three years.

Maryanne Green, the eldest daughter of the late Hugh Green (1931 – 2012), an Irish philanthropist and businessman, founded the Hugo Charitable Trust in 2017 to continue Hugh’s philanthropic legacy.

Born in Ireland to a poor family, Hugh left school without formal qualifications at only 12 and started working at a cattleyard, before moving to New Zealand and securing his future through interests as diverse as construction, oil exploration and farming.

Not having the opportunity of a good education himself, he saw its value and went on to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the National University of Ireland in 2006, among other accolades.

“Hugh loved both Ireland and New Zealand equally and he believed passionately that education was the key to a better New Zealand,” says Ms Green.

Hugo Charitable Trust

  • The Hugo Charitable Trust was established by Maryanne Green on 1 June 2017. Since then, the Trust has donated just over $8 million to a wide range of charities and causes.
  • Its areas of focus are wide-ranging and include medical research, education, help to those with physical or mental health care needs, and support for social programmes. 

For All Our Futures

  • New Zealand’s most ambitious fundraising campaign, For All Our Futures was launched in September 2016 with the aim of raising $300 million to put towards programmes, research, and scholarships to help the University of Auckland contribute to some of the biggest questions facing society today.
  • Questions posed include: Can we accelerate learning through digital innovation? Can we dramatically improve cancer survival rates? Can we have clear rivers and seas and can we prepare young New Zealanders to be global citizens and influencers?
  • Donors, trusts and foundations, alumni, staff, and friends of the University have contributed towards the campaign, indicating the areas they wish to support. The majority of the gifts have been made for a specific purpose, from funding significant chairs of study, to supporting scholarship initiatives.
  • The campaign closes on 31 October and the final total will be announced on 21 November 2019. 

Media contact

Julianne Evans | Media adviser
Mob: 027 562 5868