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Rural primary school gets vast improvement in kids' learning with US programme

Children at a South Canterbury school who're not pushed to reach national standards at age five and six and getting good results later on under a learning system adopted from the US.

The school at Waihao believes it's on the right track with its learning system adopted from the US. Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp went to Waihao Downs School south of Waimate which five years ago starting using the Ron Davis programme which was originally designed for older people with dyslexia.

"My brother's dyslexic and my dad's dyslexic. And I'd seen the power of the Ron Davis correctional programme," said Jane Severinsen, Waihao Downs principal.

"We've gone from children who were anxious about reading, who often tried to get out of reading, to children who are confident. They know how to read, and they just fly."

Waihao Downs' results are flying too, Seven Sharp reported.

After four years using Ron Davis, 90 per cent of Year 4 to Year 6 children - that's ages nine to 11 - were at or above the national standard.

That's a staggering 34 per cent jump from before.

Waihao Downs isn't snubbing national standards. The school is still doing everything by the book, it's just not pushing five and six-year-olds to reach those standards.

Teacher Maggie Robertson said other countries don't start their children reading until they're seven, "and they can teach them to read in a very short period of time".

Student Spike, aged 12, is dyslexic and has been right through the Ron Davis programme.

He said before he started on it, "I kept on mucking up and not knowing what the words were and getting distracted. Now it's much easier."