In May 2014 Cotlands launched the early learning play groups in communities where we already had a foot print. This transition was not easy and although for many it seems to happen quickly it was certainly not a decision taken in haste.
One of the important components was the monitoring and evaluation of all the aspects of the programme. Cotlands wanted to ensure they were not only providing an excellent service, but that we were impacting the children’s learning and being accountable to our partners.
Having previously used baseline and summative assessments very successfully in our ECD center in Turffontien, we decided to use the same process to determine if the content of the learning plans, which guided what concepts and skills were taught in each session was translating into learning.
So in February 2015 we did a baseline assessment on the children within two weeks of them starting in the programme, then in June we did a summative assessment to evaluate what learning had occurred in the early learning play group sessions since the baselines were conducted. The assessments were done in 4 of the provinces, on children in the 3- 4 year age cohort and specifically assessed content from the programme and not only milestone development
Considering the level of onsite monitoring and support the early learning play facilitators had received, we were confident that there would be some learning taking place but the results were much better than even we had anticipated.
In February the children in Western Cape did not have sufficient language to retell 5 facts from a story they had been told, but by June 40% of the children not only had the language but also the ability to recall five or more facts from a story they had been told.
In February 25% of the children (over all 4 provinces) were able to identify and name the primary colours, but in June 60% of the same group of children were able to identify and name the primary colours
In Kwazulu Natal only 40 % of the children could manipulate twist and turn toys in the baseline assessment, but in the Summative assessment 80% of the children confidently played with the same toys
When the early learning groups opened in January not one of the children in the Mpumalanga or Gauteng assessment group knew how to correctly hold a pencil, but by June 80% (Gauteng) and 60% (Mpumalanga) held the pencil in a correct tripod grip.
Although the assessment covered language, physical, social and emotional components we were very interested in seeing how the children did in the maths questions – it was marvelous to see that after twenty teaching weeks 48% of the children were competent in the maths questions compared to the 20% who were competent in the same questions in February.
As an organisation we know that no early childhood development opportunities are ever in vain, yet it is still rewarding to see how the children entrusted to us are gaining skills and knowledge through the early learning play group programme that will prepare them for formal schooling and lifelong learning.