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Media Release

12 February, 2002

WCED completes assessment of underage Grade One applications

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Minister of Education.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has received a total of 5736 applications from parents wishing to enrol children turning six this year in Grade One in the province.

The WCED completed the process of assessing the applications on Monday (11 February 2002), and distributed the results to the department's seven education districts throughout the province this afternoon (Tuesday, 12 February 2002).

The WCED's Education Management and Development Centres in each district will distribute the results to schools tomorrow (Wednesday, 13 February 2002).

Schools will then advise parents on the availability of places for learners turning six this year in Grade One, who have been found to be school ready.

Of the 5736 children assessed, 2145 (38%) were found to be school ready. A total of 2422 children were found not to be school ready. Applications for 1169 children could not be assessed because the required information provided was incomplete.

Our school psychologists and associated staff in Specialised Education Support in the WCED have worked around the clock to process these applications since the start of the term.

Obviously, the children who could be accommodated as a result of these tests should have started school three weeks ago. However, we are dealing with unusual circumstances.

This process was as a result of a decision late last year by the national Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, that parents could enrol children who would turn six this year in Grade One, subject to certain conditions.

The national Department of Education only amended the regulation in the Government Gazette of December 11, 2001, to allow for a relaxation of the age requirement in 2002. The ruling will be reviewed on a national level during the course of this year.

I thank parents for their understanding. I also thank our teachers, Specialised Education Support staff and all those who have sought to ensure that this process has been as thorough as possible, for all their hard work.

We have done everything possible to ensure that those underage children we can accommodate are indeed ready for their first year of school. Everything possible must now be done to enable these children to catch up with their classmates.

Unfortunately, the department is not in a position to provide additional resources to accommodate underage learners, although school governing bodies could give this issue further consideration.

The WCED distributed a screening test to schools in January to assess the school readiness of children turning six this year who were being considered for enrolment in Grade One this year.

Teachers completed the screening tests at schools. The WCED's Specialised Education Support staff assessed the test results in Cape Town.

The main conditions that have applied in the Western Cape have been that children turning six who are being considered for admission to Grade One must be school ready, and that there must be space available for them in the schools being applied to.

The decision to lower the age of admission to Grade One followed a court case which successfully challenged the existing ruling that only children turning seven could be enrolled in Grade One.

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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