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South African learners do not acquire foundational literacy and numeracy by the end of Grade 3. There is mounting evidence from the international literature of a strong link between the skills that children enter school with and their later outcomes. Recognising this evidence, Roots & Shoots aims to measure children’s early skills as they enter school, and to follow them across time to understand the link between these early skills and later schooling outcomes. By collecting data on children as they first enter school and then following these same children over time, we can determine to what extent the patterns of performance seen in Grade 3 can be traced back to trends already there on the first day of school. The first phase of the project collected data on more than 500 Grade R learners in the Western Cape. These same learners will be assessed in literacy and mathematics in Grade 1, 2, and 3. 

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The Roots & Shoots study aims to answer the following questions:

  • What are the foundational skills levels of learners when they first enter school?

  • To what extent can the patterns of performance seen in Grade 3 be traced back to trends already there on the first day of school?

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What we’ll measure

Roots & Shoots used the Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM 4&5) to assess children’s early skills at the start of Grade R. The ELOM is a tool that has been validated in South Africa and tests young children on a range of developmental outcomes including gross motor development, fine motor coordination and visual motor integration, emergent numeracy and mathematics, cognition and executive function, and emergent literacy and language. ELOM 6&7 was used to assess the same learners in Grade 1 in 2023, and the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) assessments will be used to assess the literacy and mathematics skills of the same children in Grade 2 and 3. 

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