2014 Western Cape School Awards Winners for Achievement in Language and Mathematics (Grades 3, 6 and 9) & Minister Debbie Schäfer’s speech

Debbie Schäfer,

Western Cape Education Minister:

It is with great pleasure that I am here tonight to celebrate the achievements of schools that have produced excellent results and improvements in our Grade 3, 6 and 9 language and mathematics systemic tests in 2014.

These tests are important to the Western Cape as they inform our language and mathematics interventions, and improve the management of education and learner performance.

They also give us the opportunity to assess where our learners’ abilities lie and if we are improving the quality of education in the province.

Literacy and numeracy are among the most important skills that our schools teach. No child should leave school without having mastered these skills. In fact, no child should proceed to Grade 4 without having mastered basic literacy.  This is something we are going to focus on hugely in the next few years.  If the basics are not laid at an early age, the problems persist throughout the system and become a problem for every teacher after that.

Literacy and numeracy skills are crucial to a person’s ability to develop fully as an individual, to live a satisfying and rewarding life and to participate fully in our society. Ensuring that all young people acquire these skills is one of the greatest contributions that you as teachers can make.

Parents play a vital role in literacy and numeracy.  Earlier this year the WCED kicked off the 2015 literacy and numeracy campaign to encourage parents to help their children develop reading, writing and maths skills at home.  I have also come to realise the importance of language in understanding maths too.  Because of the fact that subjects are taught in English from Grade 4 for learners who learn in an African language until Grade 3, it is vital that the learners learn to speak English very well as an additional language in the foundation phase.

The support of parents who are engaged in their child’s learning has a significant positive impact on a child’s educational achievement, especially in literacy and numeracy.  I saw this this morning at Wallacedene Primary, of which more later.

Our learners will be able to achieve more if their parents take an active interest in their education, by supporting and encouraging them and creating high but achievable expectations.

While the 2014 tests have resulted in some pleasing improvements, there is still considerable work that needs to be done to ensure continued improvement.

We are currently refining our language and mathematics strategies to help improve our support to schools. The 2014 results will help us to define where the problem areas lie and which content areas need to supported.

There is a lot that needs to be done to ensure that we further improve on these results this year, and it will involve all roleplayers for this to be achieved, including the participation of parents in encouraging their children to read, write and calculate every day.

I would like to congratulate the schools that are here tonight that have either performed excellently or improved on their results.

This year just over 247 000 learners’ from1 528 public and independent schools in the Western Cape wrote the 2014 WCED Systemic Language and Mathematics tests for Grades 3, 6 and 9.

We are pleased to see that 6 323 learners from 106 independent schools also participated in the tests. Independent schools were first invited to participate in the Grade 6 and 9 testing in 2010, and Grade 3 testing in 2011. The number of independent schools writing has therefore increased from 41 in 2010 to 106 in 2014.

Tonight I would like to welcome Hershel Girls School, Micklefield School and Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt. This morning I met with the Deputy Chairperson of the Bundestag, Ms Ulla Schmidt, so it is particularly appropriate to welcome the Deutsche Schule this evening.

Tonight, I am proud to honour some of our schools that have improved significantly within one year!

One of these schools is Wallacedene Primary School. This morning I had the privilege of visiting the school and meeting their wonderful principal, Ms Mbude.

The school produced improved results in language in Grade 3 achieving an 11.5 increase from 21.2% in 2013 to 32.7% in 2014.

In Grade 6, the school improved its mathematics results from 9.4% in 2013 to 46.4% in 2014. This is a substantial improvement of 46.4%.

In 2013, the school achieved 4.4% in language results and improved on this by 57.5% in 2014 achieving an incredible 61.9%.

When I asked Ms Mbude how she managed to achieve this, she had it down to the following points:

  • The Grade 6 learners attend extra English classes weekdays from 7am-8am assisted by a teacher and an NGO Teach, Love, Care Network (TLC)
  • Currently these extra classes are taught to Grade 6 learners and will be expanded to Grade 5’s in 2016.
  • The teachers have encouraged the parents to take an active role in the school and the parents assist in insuring that their children attend the extra lessons
  • The teachers make learning English fun and help to remove the fear that comes with learning another language
  • The teachers encourage reading and writing and this is evident in the beautiful letters that 2014 Grade 6’s have written thanking the Ms Mbude and Lorna from TLC for the extra classes

This is a remarkable improvement in just one year and we must congratulate you on your dedication and commitment to education in our province.

If we continue to have the right positive attitude, work together as teams, to plan suitably and implement those plans properly, we can improve language and mathematics results in this province.

This Government is committed to improving the language and mathematics levels of our learners and is the only province in the country to conduct standardised testing of this nature.

If we achieve this objective, we will improve the quality of the whole system, improving learner performance and retention in all grades and ultimately better outcomes in the National Senior Certificate.

I believe that we can make education BETTER TOGETHER if we all fulfil the roles that we are supposed to play.

I would like to end off by thanking all our principals and SGB members present. We appreciate and value your leadership and management of our schools.

Our educators and curriculum advisors have also done us very proud and we congratulate them for their learner’s achievements.

Congratulations again and thank you to all of you.