Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

12 October, 2011

Thousands of Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners begin writing the annual provincial literacy and numeracy tests.

Statement by Minister Donald Grant, Minister of Education, Western Cape

I am pleased to announce the successful start of the annual Literacy and Numeracy testing in the Western Cape.

The Western Cape government firmly believes in the importance of systemic testing in the management of education and the improvement of learner outcomes. That is why this province leads the rest of the country in the use of extensive independent testing for Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners.

This year over 240 000 Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners will be taking part in these tests in the next 10 days.

This is the second year in a row that all three Grades will be tested.

In 2010, Grade 9 testing was introduced for the very first time as a pilot which covered the Language of Learning and Teaching (English and Afrikaans) and Mathematics. Following the success of this pilot, 81 936 Grade 9 learners will be tested this year.

79 109 Grade 3 learners and 78 288 Grade 6 will also be writing in 2011.

We are very excited that 4 630 learners from independent schools, compared to 2 201 in 2010 will also take part in this year's testing. Independent schools were invited to participate in the Grade 6 and 9 testing for the first time last year. This year, Grade 3 learners will be writing as well. The number of independent schools writing has increased from 41 in 2010 to 77 in 2011.

The systemic tests are administered by outside service providers, which guarantee the independence of the tests and improves their credibility. Approximately 800 test administrators including supervisors have been recruited, trained and allocated to schools.

The importance of the testing cannot be underestimated.

The tests are systemic in nature and are designed to provide diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system so that the Western Cape Education Department can be best informed as how to plan their literacy and numeracy strategy in the years ahead.

The results reveal which schools are in need of assistance in improving their literacy and numeracy skills and what kind of remedial action is required to improve their results.

Teachers themselves do not get to see the papers, but are given a descriptive analysis of their results so that they know where their weaknesses lie, as well as exemplars to use as a benchmark during the year.

Principals are briefed on the results and targeted assistance and support is offered to schools that have not shown improvement. Community meetings are also held to inform parents about how they can help improve the literacy and numeracy skills of their children.

This strategy is proving to be successful, especially at the Grade 3 level, and in the field of numeracy. For example, in 2010, Grade 3 learners achieved a pass percentage of 48.3% in numeracy, compared to 35% in 2008. We believe this is a result of the many interventions we have made at schools, particularly at poorer schools.

However, while we have seen marked improvements compared to previous years, it is still clear that we have a long way to go before we reach the levels we aspire to.

But on the basis of this testing we have repeatedly stated that one of our core focuses is to continue to improve literacy and numeracy performance in schools.

An important element of the strategy this year was the provision of textbooks to learners, particularly in the Foundation Phase. For instance, in 2011, the WCED broke new ground by ensuring that for the first time ever, all learners in Grades 2-7 have a mathematics textbook. Next year, the first Grade 1 maths textbook will also be introduced.

But critical to any improvements in performance are the educators themselves. Therefore, as part of our strategy, we have organized and developed, throughout the year, several workshops and conferences focusing on the improved teaching of literacy and numeracy to our learners.

In 2011 the Western Cape Government implemented recommendations made by Prof. Servaas van der Berg and his team from CPUT and the University of Stellenbosch. Central to these recommendations is an increased focus on the role of Foundation Phase curriculum advisors (CAs) in regularly observing classroom practice for extended periods, specifically to observe levels of cognitive demand, pacing and time on task. Since the release of the report, Foundation Phase CAs has undergone training in effective monitoring of classroom practice.

While we are hopeful that many of these interventions will result in improved and numeracy performance in 2011, international experience also shows that after such spikes performance, such as the one experienced in Grade 3 numeracy, often evens out or slows down.

But ultimately, through the continued combined efforts of learners, educators and parents, as well as support from the WCED, we are confident that we will ensure over time that all the learners of this province will be numerate and literate at the appropriate level for their grade.

For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey:  072 724 1422 or

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