A Better Start - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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Our children are our future Our children are our future

But obesity, learning and mental health are challenges for some children.

A Better Start is the National Science Challenge working to help them.

 

The $34M National Science Challenge “A Better Start- E Tipu e Rea” was successfully launched by Minister Joyce in Auckland on February 19th. The Challenge’s mission is to find better ways to predict, prevent and treat obesity, learning and mental health problems in children and teenagers. Many of the University’s senior academics will be involved in the learning and literacy stream of this challenge including: Prof Gail Gillon (Challenge Co-Director), Prof Angus Macfarlane (Science leadership team, and Leader Vision Mātauranga Māori), Distinguished Prof Niki Davis (School of Education Studies and Leadership), Prof Phillip Schluter (School of Health Sciences),  Associate Prof Una Cunningham, Associate Professor Brigid McNeill, Prof John Everatt (School of Teacher Education) as well as Adjunct Professor Bill Tunmer and Adjunct Associate Professor Sonia Macfarlane. The College’s Kaiarahi Maori, Liz Brown, and Kaiarahi Pasifika, Tufulasi Taleni, are also supporting the Challenge. The Challenge is hosted by the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland and further details can be found on the Challenge website.

Announcements

Winter Update

Our August Newsletter is available here.

Literacy and Learning Symposium - 26th and 27th October, 2017

The University of Canterbury, in collaboration with A Better Start National Science Challenge presents the 2017 Literacy and Learning Symposium. This year’s symposium brings together international and national researchers across fields of literacy, education, language learning, psychology, public health and speech language therapy, to highlight the exciting interdisciplinary developments in facilitating young children’s literacy success and healthy wellbeing. International speakers include Professor Laura Justice from Ohio State University and Professor Ilsa Schwartz from University of Tennessee. 

Call for Posters - Abstracts are being accepted for an interactive poster session. Submissions should align with research in the areas of language development, literacy, learning, healthy wellbeing in children, bilingualism, parent/community engagement or digital technologies in education. More information

A Better Start team welcomes new Pasifika PhD student

Kai-arahi Pasifika Leali’ie’e Tufulasi Taleni, and members of the University of Canterbury College of Education, Health and Human Development Pasifika Advisory Group welcomed Saili Aukuso

24 February

Team members from A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’s Literacy and Learning strand were delighted to welcome their newest PhD student to the team, Saili Aukuso. Kai-arahi Pasifika Leali’ie’e Tufulasi Taleni, and members of the University of Canterbury College of Education, Health and Human Development Pasifika Advisory Group welcomed Saili. Saili said “It is very humbling to be receiving this award on behalf of the Pasifika community in Christchurch. Professionally I see this opportunity as an extension of my previous research on Bilingualism and the best practices attached to it. This opportunity means a lot to me personally for the fact that it is a highlight of my career as a teacher.  While I have only just started, this award has proven for me and others like myself that we can make a solid contribution in any area of specialty.”

How to Reach and Teach children with literacy problems

a child writing

17 May

One in three children is not meeting the National Standard for reading in their first year at school, according to the Education Ministry. One in four is not meeting the standard for writing. Professor Gail Gillon from the University of Canterbury is part of a multi-disciplinary research project called A Better Start, which has been granted $34m to focus on the literacy, obesity and mental health of children in low-income communities. Professor Gillon leads the literacy part of the research and says it's all about finding a different way to reach and teach children who are at risk of literacy problems in the crucial first year of school. Listen now

Source: Radio NZ

Taking a holistic approach in supporting children's early literacy

Professor Gail Gillon

6 May

RadioLive's Mark Sainsbury talks with Professor Gail Gillon from Canterbury University about illiteracy and how a slow start at school can affect you for life. The challenge for A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea is to identify critical health, education and mental health issues that, if prevented or resolved, would have a major positive impact on the vulnerable children’s lives. Professor Gillon said "The overall mission is to give a better start to life for all our children". Listen now

Source: RadioLive

New 10 year project to improve health and education outcomes for kiwi kids

New 10 year project to improve health and education outcomes for kiwi kids

25 February
Professor Gail Gillon and Professor Angus Hikairo MacFarlane are part of A Better Start's Direction and Research team. Professor Gillon said "The overall mission is to give a better start to life for all our children".
Tony Green from CTV News interviewed them to find out more. Watch now

Source: CTV

 

 

UC academics take up challenge to help NZ children

22 February
University of Canterbury academics are taking leading roles in the new government science challenge. UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gail Gillon is co-directing the government initiative and is also a principal researcher in the Challenge, which aims to improve the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life by reducing obesity and improving learning skills and mental health in New Zealand children and teenagers.

The challenge for A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea is to identify critical health, education and mental health issues that, if prevented or resolved, would have a major positive impact on the vulnerable children’s lives, she says. The Challenge has identified that childhood obesity, early literacy and behavioural problems are critical areas, respond to research-based intervention and can lead to vastly improved outcomes for the individuals and society. Read more

(From left to right) A Better Start's Science Leadership Team is Professor Wayne Cutfield of the Liggins Institute (obesity), Professor Gail Gillon of the University of Canterbury (literacy), Professor Sally Merry of the University of Auckland (mental health), Professor Barry Taylor of the University of Otago (big data) and Professor Angus Macfarlane of the University of Canterbury (Maori research).