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The use of the Grade one literacy baseline assessment programme of the Western Cape Education Department
Research has revealed that the academic performances of learners in South Africa are below the required level. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) launched the literacy and numeracy strategy 2006 – 2016, in response to the low literacy and numeracy levels. In addition, the WCED introduced the Grade one baseline assessment in 2006, as part of the literacy and numeracy strategy. The purpose of this study was to observe the implementation of the Grade one literacy baseline assessment programme of the WCED. This study aimed to determine what literacy barriers, if any, the learners were experiencing and to recommend literacy support strategies, in order to inform teaching practices. The learning theories of the two key Constructivist theorists, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky have therefore been explored. Purposive sampling was used for the selection of the participants for this study. The Grade one class, with English as the language of learning and teaching (LOLT), was selected due to the diverse nature of the learners, in terms of their different home languages. Thirty-seven Grade one learners participated in the study. I used a mixed methods research design in order to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Multi-method data collection strategies were employed to collect data for this study. The multi-method approach involved: document collection, observation of learners as well as an interview with the Grade one class teacher who conducted the research. The document collection included the learners’ admission forms as well as the written baseline assessment scripts of the learners. The admission forms provided biographical information of the learners in terms of gender, home languages, Grade R attendance and their ages. The collection of data assisted in identifying the literacy barriers that the Grade one learners were experiencing. An interpretivist data analysis style was employed for the qualitative data analyses and the quantitative data analysis was statistical. The results of the quantitative and qualitative data were interpreted together. The triangulation of the data enhanced the reliability of the research findings. The findings suggest that some of the learners experienced literacy barriers in terms of: receptive- and expressive language, perceptual skills and fine motor development. The educator’s perceptions in terms of the administration and usefulness of the baseline assessment have also been included. The data was summarised and the information was used to describe the literacy barriers in terms of the biographical variables and to recommend learning support strategies for literacy development.