Marie Clay Research Centre launched

09 March 2016

Marie clay scholarship
Dame Marie Clay

Faculty staff, students and guests who shared an admiration for the work of Dame Marie Clay gathered at Epsom Campus last week for the launch of the Marie Clay Research Centre—LEAD in Early Literacy.

The Centre was created to continue the legacy of Dame Marie Clay, distinguished researcher and developmental psychologist, and the first woman professor at the University of Auckland. Reading Recovery, which she started, is now on its 33rd year in New Zealand and 30th year in the United States, and often overshadows her significant theoretical and practical contributions to children’s learning and development in their early years, as well as teachers’ continued professional learning.

Dean of the Faculty Professor Graeme Aitken and five colleagues who had previously worked with Professor Clay shared personal testimonials about the visionary educator’s enduring influence on the community of researchers and practitioners in oral language and literacy, including Māori and Pasifika languages.

Professor Janet Gaffney, leader of the newly created Centre’s leadership team, said that the core purposes of the Centre are embodied in the acronym LEAD – to promote Leadership, Equity, Achievement and Diversity in early literacy.

The Centre will become a place where research and practice come together to create unprecedented opportunities for children’s learning around four main objectives:

• Early language/s and literacy learning

• Learning equity through valuing culturally and linguistically diverse whānau/fono/families

• Teaching innovation

• Teacher leadership in literacy

According to Professor Gaffney, the idea of establishing the Marie Clay Research Centre began as a collective dream following the death of Professor Clay in 2007. After nearly a decade of preparation - including seeking valuable advice from Professor Cynthia Kiro,Te Tumu, and Associate Dean Pasifika, Dr. Tanya Samu of the Faculty of Education and Social Work and hours of collaborative work amongst educators within and outside of the faculty—the dream has finally become a reality.

“I see myself as a ‘curator’ caring for the legacy and contributions, the integrity of future work conducted under Marie Clay’s name. I realise that there is a higher level of integrity or quality assurance that comes from being a curator of a named Centre because whatever comes out of the Centre carries her name.”

“I’m comforted by the fact that we will be creating a collegial centre in which the shared expertise of all partners will contribute to the vision and to the work,” Professor Gaffney said.


Bringing international literacy expertise together

Professor Gaffney said that the structure for leading and managing the Centre is evolving.

The Centre has an Executive Advisory Committee of five members who are all internationally renowned educational researchers:

The Executive Advisory Committee will work “in a consultative way to provide an aerial view and evaluation of the Centre’s work and make recommendations”, Professor Gaffney said.

The Centre will have a Leadership Team of three members, including Professor Gaffney and two others who will be appointed to this shared role by the end of 2016 or in early 2017.

A Partnership Board, which includes the Associate Dean Research of the Faculty of Education and Social Work; Head of Curriculum and Pedagogy; National Director of Reading Recovery; Representative of the Marie Clay Literacy Trust; Dr. Rae Si’ilata, Lecturer in Bi-Literacy; Cath Rau, Chairperson, Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust; and Heather Bell, Principal of Rosebank School. Other members will be announced soon.

Dame Marie Clay has been famously quoted for these words, which form the title of one of her award-winning speeches, “Simply by sailing in a new direction you could enlarge the world”. The launch of the Marie Clay Research Centre looks to “stir the waters” once again.