Penreach and Federer invest in grade R education
MBOMBELA - Penreach is the implementing partner of a Roger Federer Foundation (RFF) project, the School Readiness Initiative (SRI), in Mpumalanga.
The RFF School Readiness Initiative
(SRI) project aims at ensuring that schools are ready for children, children are ready for school and parents collaborate with teachers in preparing their children for school.
The SRI for RFF addresses the challenges in grade R early learning in disadvantaged and under-resourced schools in Mpumalanga with the Mpumalanga Department of Education, by targeting change as follows:
• Establishing professional learning communities in schools in order to encourage teachers to share knowledge and best practices in education.
• Capacitating grade R teachers to use tablets in tracking children's developmental domains, continuous assessment and a selfdevelopment course.
• Capacitating principals and all stakeholders to assist in establishing the natural playgrounds and provision of ageappropriate facilities and services to the grade R early learning.
The objectives are
1. Establishing processes of joint responsibility for early learners by
• Engaging all relevant stakeholders such as teachers, parents, school directors and government officials to offer a better grade R environment and secure a smooth transition to primary education.
• Enhancing parents’ capacity to both engage in their children’s development and preschool education at home as well as in the preschool environment and contribute actively to a smooth transition from home to primary school.
• Establishing a cooperative exchange among teachers of different levels.
2. Scaling access to age-appropriate grade R through:
• Scaling up access to stimulating grade R through the sensitisation of parents and the mobilisation of children.
• Build capacity of school managers and centre managers to create environments conducive to early learning.
3. Enhance educators’ competency in early learning through:
• Increasing quality of preschool teaching through an early-learning kiosk on a tablet.
• Capacitating grade R teachers and lower grade primary teachers to assess children’s development.
• Capacitating preprimary-year educators on the sensitisation and capacity building of parents to engage in their children’s development.
• Establishing a simple peer-to-peer mentoring group and mechanism.
There are three partners in this initiative: Molteno in Limpopo, READ in the Free State and Penreach in Mpumalanga.
School readiness means that children are developmentally on track in health, learning and psychosocial wellbeing when entering primary school.
The initiative aims to have enhanced access to quality preprimary education, so that vulnerable children at grade R age are ready for grade one. This strategy supports South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030 in providing quality structured learning for a year before the children enter Grade 1.
The Roger Federer Foundation strategy also contributes to the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.2, whose aim is to ensure that, by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early-childhood education and are ready for primary school.
The importance of the programme in Mpumalanga
• High level of teachers that are unqualified for grade R (431 out of 2 020)
• Inability of HODs and principals to manage and support grade R teachers.
• The number of schools falling within Q1 and Q2 meets the requirement of the proposed intervention.
• Large disparity between all grade R and grade one in school.
• By grade three, Mpumalanga learners still score below the international mean for literacy. It was the fourth-worst performing province in the PIRLS 2016 study. The ability to read for meaning at the end of grade three is considered an indicator of the success of foundational learning, including grade R.
• Stakeholder buy-in: Mpumalanga Educations's deputy director-general Lucy Monyane fully committed to an intervention in the province. A meeting held between DoE representatives, Penreach and RFF (May 2018) mandated by the Ms Monyane determined that DoE support of PCLDP (leadership development programme) has been significant and they wish to continue with the partnership.
Geographical coverage and reach
The programme is in Ehlanzeni District, covering 11 school circuits: Insikazi, Khulangwane, Malelane, Mgwenya, Nkomazi West, Nkululeko, Sikhulile, White Hazy 1, White Hazy 2, White River and Umjindi.
Activities are school- and communitybased
1. Tablet-based capacity-building workshop for grade R teachers.
Eighty schools participated, with
151 teachers trained in:
• Course content (course app)
• Play-based learning
• Continuous assessment indoor and outdoor.
• Caregiver engagement.
• Managing transition.
• Child-development monitoring
• Natural playground.
2. Training of grade R teachers to establish professional learning communities in their school. All teachers from 80 schools attended the workshop.
3. Management- and leadership-training workshop was conducted and 80 principals attended.
4. HOD capacity-building workshop was conducted and 80 HODs attended the training.
5. Fifteen follow-up cluster workshops were conducted. Topics covered include:
• Values and principles of teaching
• Building a team around a child
• Observing during continuous child assessment
• Supportive learning environment
• Growing and developing into a gradeone child
• Physical development of children
• Creativity and exploration
• Supporting transition
6. Classroom-based coaching and mentoring for foundation-phase teachers. A total of 312 school visits were done from January to December and 596 sessions held with teachers. The school support, coaching and mentoring focused on classroom layout and management. The change agents also helped teachers on curriculum coverage, classroom practice, assessment and use of digital devices in class activities and selfguided courses for teacher development.
One of the objectives of the intervention is to sensitise stakeholders on the importance of having age-appropriate facilities and services for children. This was achieved through capacity building of school managers and SGBs to create environments conducive to an early learning. Principals were trained on school readiness, school-development planning and budgeting.
The leadership module included topics such as people management, governance and general management principles and how to involve parents and the community in establishing a natural playground. Out of 80 schools, 28 have well-established and functional playgrounds, 23 have functional playgrounds that need some improvement and 29 schools still in progress of developing natural playgrounds.
The deputy chief education specialist for foundation phase in the Mpumalanga Department of Education, Edna Caroto, visited some of the schools and provided Penreach with a positive written report.
She commented the following, “The equipment is colourful and attractive. The learners are so excited to explore and use the playground. The equipment that has been provided fills an extremely big gap in the development of grade R learners.”