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It was very gratifying to see the work of our very own, longstanding RRF committee member, Jim Curran, being acknowledged for his significant contribution to literacy and educational standards at the school:DE La Salle High School’s principal can retire with peace of mind this summer. Strangford man Barry Sharvin will leave a thriving school behind when his career draws to an end this summer after more than three decades.
Barry has helped turned the Downpatrick boys’ secondary school around since he first joined as a maths and physics teacher in 1981, before being promoted to vice-principal in September 1999.
Jim Curran is an amazing stalwart who has supported the work of the Reading Reform Foundation for decades. He is a major contributor and longstanding contributor to the RRF forum not only for reading instruction and references to research but also with regard to social injustices linked to educational standards.An indication of the leadership style he would later fine-tune when promoted to principal, he tapped into the school’s teaching expertise.
“Our results were not good enough,” he conceded. “Our staff was always excellent but we needed to raise our expectations of what the boys could achieve. It was about raising the bar for students.
“It was a challenge convincing colleagues of a new way to go, but once our results started shooting up it gave us a great boost. Within two years we had turned it around.”
Low literacy levels were a big part of the challenge faced and Barry believed that if reading ability improved, the rest would follow.
The pupils were helped along by Jim Curran, a teacher at the forefront of his field at the time.
Trained in synthetic phonics in London, Jim brought literacy skills to De La Salle that Barry said “set it apart.”
“No one else was using phonics at the time,” he said.
“If you teach a boy to read he can succeed in geography, history and religion and all other subjects.
“It was a combination of things that made a difference, but focusing on literacy was key.”