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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Better Start Literacy Approach – teaching, learning and assessment approaches

During 2019 and 2020, the Ministry funded a trial of the Better Start Literacy Approach (BSLA) as part of the Innovative Foundation Learning Approach. The BSLA trial showed that professional support for teachers improves literacy outcomes for a diverse range of learners. 

BSLA has been developed by the University of Canterbury Child Wellbeing Research Institute and College of Education, and successfully trialled in Canterbury and Auckland. The trial included teacher support, online assessment, and whānau engagement. Leaders and teachers involved in the trial saw a noticeable improvement in children’s vocabulary and in their oral, writing, and reading skills.

Education Gazette: Behind the Better Start Literacy Approach – Professor Gail Gillon

In order to support educators to use the enhanced Ready to Read Phonics Plus books, the Ministry is providing professional support for literacy specialists and, initially, new entrant and year 1 teachers. The professional support includes the use of Ready to Read Phonics Plus books and supporting approaches for word decoding and developing comprehension ability.

BSLA for children with complex communication and learning needs

The Better Start Literacy Approach (BSLA) supports all new entrant/year 1 children including those with complex communication and learning needs.

Listen to Dr Sally Clendon’s overview of adaptations to BSLA assessment tasks and teaching activities to ensure the literacy learning needs of children with complex communication needs are met.

Vimeo: BSLA adaptations for learners with complex communication needs


Dr Clendon is a leading international expert in literacy development for children with complex communication needs. She has joined the BSLA team and works alongside UC Professors Gail Gillon and Brigid McNeill. Her role within the BSLA team is to provide leadership in how teachers and literacy specialists can adapt BSLA.

How professional support works

BSLA provides in-class support for teachers by literacy specialists.  

The University of Canterbury will support literacy specialists to work with three new entrant and year 1 teachers each. This support will be extended to year 2 and 3 teachers over time. The literacy specialists will provide in-class support to the teachers. The professional support training will enable the literacy specialists to coach and support more teachers in their locality. This model supports the development of expertise across the sector and reduces reliance on external experts.  

Professional support is being provided in a phased approach, focusing on literacy specialists and new entrant and year 1 teachers initially. Cohort 1 is underway in terms 1 and 2 of 2021. Cohort 2 will happen in terms 3 and 4, 2021. Applications for cohort 2 will open in term 2, 2021.

Over time, more literacy specialists will build expertise in the early literacy approach and will provide professional support to more teachers. 

The professional support will build knowledge and skills about what to teach (the scope) and when to teach each step (the sequence).  

Literacy specialists and teachers who complete the professional support will receive University of Canterbury micro-credentials. 

Schools and teachers who are not part of the initial professional development will be supported through online resources including diagnostic tools, videos, registers of literacy specialists to connect with, and the ability to register interest in participating in the professional support or working with literacy specialists.

Better Start Literacy Approach | Te Ara Reo Matatini
BSLA is an integrated literacy approach for year 0/1 children developed and facilitated by the University of Canterbury. BSLA promotes understanding of the link between spoken and written language forms, using the Ready to Read Phonics Plus books to develop word recognition and language comprehension. 

Better Start Literacy Approach micro-credentials
Information about micro-credentials for schools or specialists wishing to implement BSLA in their school or cluster. The Ministry provides funding support for both the teacher and the literacy specialists' (facilitators) micro-credentials. 

Applying for Better Start Literacy Approach professional support
Information about applying for Ministry of Education funded BSLA professional support.

Questions and answers about BSLA professional support 

Which schools can apply for Ministry funded BSLA professional support?

Any school may apply but priority will be given to low decile schools, Kāhui Ako and cluster applications, and schools participating in the School Entry Kete development.

What level of teaching experience is required to qualify for professional support?

BSLA professional support is for teachers with all levels of experience, including new teachers.

Do teachers get release days to engage in the BSLA professional support?

Schools receiving Ministry support are entitled to two release days for each classroom teacher. This will be administered by the University of Canterbury directly to schools.

Will teachers/literacy specialists have to enrol with the University of Canterbury?

Yes. Teachers and literacy specialists will enrol directly with the University of Canterbury. If your application for Ministry support is successful, the Ministry will inform the University to cover your costs. 

You may enrol in advance as the University will not invoice you until you know if your application for Ministry funding support is successful. You can withdraw your enrolment at no cost if your application is unsuccessful.

What happens if your application is unsuccessful?

You will be able to apply again in subsequent cohorts. There will be another cohort in 2021. This will be advertised through the PLD website.  

Can schools’ access BSLA without Ministry support?

Yes. Schools have the option to pay for literacy specialists and teachers to gain the BSLA microcredential. More information is available on the University of Canterbury’s website.

Will there be information we can share with our whānau and community about BSLA?

Yes. The University of Canterbury will develop regular newsletters for whānau. In addition to this, the microcredentials include content and guidelines that schools can share in whānau workshops.

Updated on: 04 Apr 2022