Media Release
Minister of Education Donald Grant
Western Cape

14 November, 2011

WCED launches pilot study into learners' school readiness

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

Improving the literacy and numeracy skills of our learners is a fundamental priority of this Government.

Currently, the Western Cape leads the rest of the country in the use of extensive independent testing for Grade 3, 6 and 9 learners. The tests are systemic in nature and are designed to provide the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) with a diagnostic assessment of the provincial education system so that the WCED can be best informed as how to plan their literacy and numeracy strategy in the years ahead and to determine where in the system remedial action may be required.

After an analysis of last year's Grade 3 literacy and numeracy results, it became evident that learners younger than the average age for Grade 3 tend to perform worse than some of their peers. The results suggest that many of the younger learners may not have been school ready when they entered
Grade 1.

The younger learners typically started school when they were five years old and turned six during Grade 1. While parents may enroll their children at this age, the compulsory school-going age is six turning seven in Grade 1.

Ultimately, children develop differently at different speeds. This means that, while some learners in a particular grade may cope at the required levels, others may struggle to keep up with their peers or are emotionally immature.

After considering the literacy and numeracy test results and the repeater rate in Grade 1 the Department decided to launch a pilot that would identify learning and developmental needs of learners before they enter Grade 1. In essence, the pilot study tests whether five-year-old learners in Grade R are ready for school.

The Department is currently conducting the pilot study at 59 community-based pre-schools and 111 public schools with Grade R classes.

The survey will provide a holistic assessment of Grade R learners born in 2006.

It is intended that the study will inform the Department about what measures that need to be taken in order to improve the school readiness of each learner well in advance.

Those conducting the survey include learning support teachers and advisors, curriculum specialists for early childhood development and Foundation Phase advisors.

The specialists are conducting the study in venues in which the children feel comfortable and safe. The specialists will interpret the answers to establish whether the child has mastered the skills needed for learning, and then share these findings with parents. They will explain the assessment to parents and will advise them on whether or not their children have the learning skills needed for Grade 1.

The specialists will then advise parents to keep their children in Grade R if they find that the children lack the basic skills for learning. They will also explain the kind of support that parents can give to enable a child to master these skills. Parents will receive the outcomes of the assessments by 24 November.

Once this is completed, the Department intends to track the progress of the learners who repeat Grade R and those who do not, the levels of parental involvement, what teachers do to address identified gaps and what the Department has done to support these teachers.

The Department will study the impact of these measures on the number of children referred to specialised education support after Grade 3 and the impact in general on literacy and numeracy results.

The pilot study will provide guidance on whether or not to expand the assessments to other schools and how to do so. If successful, we believe it will help improve learner literacy and numeracy performance by ensuring that learners are educated at the appropriate levels according to their age and emotional maturity.

For enquiries, contact Bronagh Casey:  072 724 1422 or

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2011 Western Cape Education Department