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Media Release

18 May, 2007

Grade 3 literacy & numeracy results

The reading, writing and comprehension skills of Grade 3 learners in the Western Cape have improved significantly, but they are still struggling with mathematics.

These are the key findings of the latest study of Grade 3 performance by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), undertaken in October and November last year.

A total of 82 879 learners at 1 086 schools took part in the study which looked at the extent to which learners meet the requirements of the national curriculum for Grade 3 in literacy and numeracy.

The study was the third in a series of studies of Grade 3 learners, conducted in 2002, 2004 and 2006. The WCED surveys the performance of Grade 6 learners in alternate years.

This research forms part of our strategy to improve literacy and numeracy in our schools. The results are enabling us to identify challenges and ways in which to meet these challenges. In the long term, we will only improve the throughput rate in our schools if we build a solid foundation in literacy and numeracy in primary schools.

The pass rate for Grade 3 learners in literacy has improved from 39.5% in 2004 to 47.7% in 2006, an increase of 8.2%. This is an improvement of 12.2% over the three testing periods.

While the overall performance is not yet satisfactory, the improvement is encouraging, and shows that special interventions to improve results can work. However, 47.7% is still too low, and we will continue to implement our literacy and numeracy strategy to ensure continued improvement.

We are less happy with the results of the numeracy study, which reflects a decline of 6.5% from 37.3% to 31%.

While the results suggest that our schools paid more attention to literacy than numeracy, we cannot jump to conclusions. We need to look at a range of factors with schools to understand the trends involved.

It seems clear that the drop in numeracy can be attributed to teachers' knowledge of the learning area as well as the various and most appropriate methodologies to teach numeracy more effectively. This will obviously form the basis of our continuing interventions in this regard.

Schools in poor areas continue to struggle, although there are many examples of schools that have improved results, mainly in literacy. Some have improved results in both literacy and numeracy.

We are studying examples of success closely, to find out what they did to improve results, despite poor circumstances. These examples of improvement in schools in poor communities indicate that effective teaching and learning depends not only on available resources, but more importantly, on school management and leadership.

Brian Schreuder, our Deputy Director-General for Education Planning and Development, and literacy and numeracy specialists are currently visiting communities in every district in the province to discuss the results of the Grade 3 study.

We are engaging mainly with schools that achieved poor results, or that improved marginally, to see what we can do to ensure further progress. We are also commending schools that have performed well consistently or that have improved significantly.

The WCED introduced a literacy and numeracy strategy in July last year that seeks to strengthen and coordinate existing strategies more effectively, and to introduce new approaches.

New approaches have included appointing 510 teaching assistants in 163 primary schools to support teachers in Grades 1 to 3 in poor areas.

We introduced teaching assistants as a pilot in 2006 and we have continued the pilot in 2007. Indications are that they are making a difference.

We have a team of 100 specialists who are working intensively with schools to implement the strategy across the Western Cape. Their key focus is to support teachers in the classroom to help strengthen teaching and learning practices.

Key elements of the strategy include teacher support and development; changes to classroom practice; a renewed focus on early childhood development; family and community literacy and numeracy; research; monitoring and support, coordination and attention to sustainability; and learning and teaching support material.

A key message is the importance of family and community literacy. We want everybody to take ownership of this issue, to build skills in reading, writing, comprehension and mathematics in every family and community.

There are simple things that every family can do to improve reading, writing and arithmetic at home, and we will be talking more about this in the months ahead. We are also building strategic partnerships to work on this issue in every sector.

We encourage parents to discuss the results with the school that their children are attending, and to work with the school on improving the literacy and numeracy of every child.

We still have a lot to do. The good news is that our strategy is slowly starting to be successful. We look forward to working with our schools and all concerned to improve the quality of learning outcomes, and to make a difference in the lives of the children of this province.

Issued by:
Paddy Attwell
Director: Communication
Western Cape Education Department
Tel: 021 467 2531
Fax: 021 461 3694
Email: pattwell@pgwc.gov.za

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2007 WCED