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Mercy Mission

Reading Recovery Teacher Leader

I am one of seven Reading Recovery Teacher Leaders working in the Republic of Ireland. Reading Recovery is an early intervention programme for children who are falling behind with reading and writing after one year in primary school. It involves a daily one-to-one lesson with a highly trained teacher for a period of between 15 and 20 weeks. At the end of that time, most children have accelerated their learning and caught up with their classmates. My job is to train teachers in the programme and to provide on-going professional development for them as long as they are working as Reading Recovery Teachers. There are three Sisters of Mercy working as teacher leaders. It is thanks to the work of Sisters Olive McConville (Northern Province) and Carmel Molloy (Western Province) that Reading Recovery became available in the Republic of Ireland.

The Northern Province spans both parts of this country. Reading Recovery was widely available in the schools in the six counties but not in the republic. Sr. Olive arranged to have Sr. Elizabeth Connolly trained as a Teacher Leader in London and then persuaded the Department of Education and Science (DES) to pilot the project in the Monaghan Area. The results in Monaghan were outstanding. Well over 90% of children entering the programme reached the average level of their classmates in 20 weeks. Meantime in the Western Province Sr. Carmel Molloy was arranging to have me trained in London. While I was in London the DES asked if I would work in the most disadvantaged schools in Ireland. This meant going to work in Dublin rather than in the west. So in 2002 I trained twelve teachers from Dublin’s inner city. The teachers themselves and the DES were astounded at the results. Schools which had lost hope in their lowest achievers began to see what was possible. During these first couple of years there was a lot of collaboration with some high-ranking inspectors in the DES. They in turn, made the Minister for Education and those involved in Social Inclusion aware of the success of the programme. At that time the Social Inclusion Section of the DES was preparing a programme to deliver equality of opportunity in Education (DEIS). As part of the preparation for the implementation of DEIS the Department of Education and Science decided to train three more Reading Recovery teacher leaders so that the programme would be available in all of the major cities.

Sr. Freda Kenny was among those who were trained. She replaced me in Dublin and I was transferred to Galway. Thanks to the perseverance of Srs. Olive and Carmel the DES had a chance to see how good an investment Reading Recovery would be.
Since then two more Teacher Leaders have been trained by the DES and two more will be trained next year. There are now Reading Recovery Centres in Monaghan, Marino Dublin, Dublin West, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick and Galway.

My work in Reading Recovery has brought me to schools in the most deprived areas in the country. Every day I see children, who come from homes where survival rather than education is a priority, becoming competent readers and writers. I think Catherine McAuley would be delighted to be involved in this work. Reading Recovery brings about huge changes in children, teachers and schools. Everybody reports on how these lowest achieving children become so confident and willing to participate in class activities, once they have been in Reading Recovery. The programme has given new hope and encouragement to teachers working in disadvantaged areas and has raised their expectations of what can be achieved. When schools see how well the Reading Recovery children do they want to raise standards in the whole school and they do. Catherine McAuley saw education as a way out of poverty and Reading Recovery is making a huge contribution to this.

Helen Diviney rsm

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