The importance of literacy and numeracy skills is well established. These skills have a significant impact both on individuals and society as a whole. They are foundational skills, providing the base on which to learn other, more complex skills. Literacy and numeracy skills underpin workforce participation, productivity and the broader economy, and can also impact on social and health outcomes. Individuals without these skills are at risk of not being able to participate in the workforce or engage fully in social and civic life.

Literacy and numeracy skills have long been a focus for schooling and a variety of programs and practices have been implemented in NSW schools over the last three decades. However, in the face of data suggesting that we have reached a plateau in student achievement, and even a decline in performance in some areas, it is timely to revisit the importance of a sustained focus on literacy and numeracy skill acquisition for all students across all stages of schooling.

The teaching of literacy and numeracy is a core responsibility of schools. This paper summarises evidence-based practices to improve student literacy and numeracy outcomes at school, namely;

  • Intervene early and maintain the focus
  • Know what students can do and target teaching accordingly
  • Have clear and transparent learning goals
  • Focus on teacher professional learning that improves the teaching of literacy and numeracy

The paper also examines the research on the importance of literacy and numeracy skills to individuals and society more broadly, including employment outcomes, the economy, social inclusion, health and other variables.

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