By Mick Jensen
A locally funded programme aimed at lifting literacy levels in the district has made big strides since its introduction in 2014.
The BOOST literacy programme, now in its fifth year, aims to jump-start students with literacy issues by tackling problems at an early stage.
Students receive two hours per week of tuition in areas such as reading, spelling, writing, hand writing and memory work.
Tuition is given by a network of volunteers, who work with four students each over two mornings during term time.
The BOOST project is co-ordinated by the Ashburton Learning Centre and has expanded from three pilot schools, Allenton, Tinwald and Netherby, to 13 schools across the district.
Volunteer numbers have also grown from 14 to 41 and students on the programme total 148, up from the initial intake of 36.
BOOST co-ordinator Judith Sommerville said the programme was running very successfully.
Volunteer tutors followed the Steps Programme, which was designed to support the New Zealand curriculum, and, on average, students stayed on it for a year, some for two years, she said.
Volunteers came from a wide range of backgrounds, that included professionals, retirees and others able to spare a few hours each week.
Mrs Sommerville said she hoped to expand the programme to a further five schools and, to do that, she needed more volunteer tutors.
Tutors receive initial training support and also meet once a term for further training.
The BOOST programme is funded by Advance Ashburton and the Mackenzie Charitable Foundation.
Advance Ashburton board member Elizabeth Ashford said it was “wonderful” to see literacy levels boosted in the district.
Advance Ashburton board members were passionate about supporting the literacy programme, keen to continue to fund it and eager to see it expand further.