Quality early childhood education has gained substantial recognition in South Africa but inequalities and deficits remain evident despite progressive policy and effort by a range of role players. School readiness is a particular area of concern. Researchers agree that school dropout can be prevented by promoting children’s cognitive and linguistic skills in the Grade R year by providing good learning opportunities. In this regard, existing research indicates that perceptual-motor skills may have a positive impact on school readiness, especially in resource-constrained contexts. Against this background, I conducted a study on the effect of an intervention focused on perceptual-motor skills, on the school readiness of Grade R learners in a resource-constrained community.
In constructing a conceptual framework I integrated the perspectives of cognitive constructivist theory (Piaget, 1953), social constructivist theory (Vygotsky, 1978), information-processing theory (Shraw & McCrudden, 2013) and De Jager’s (2012) model of cognitive development. I followed a mixed methods approach and was guided by a pragmatist epistemology. I employed a single case experimental design. Pre-intervention and post-intervention assessments were conducted with 58 Grade R learners, from two quintile 2 public primary schools in South Africa, in order to compare their levels of school readiness before and following the implementation of the perceptual-motor intervention programme. I purposefully selected the participants (Grade R learners and their two teachers). For quantitative data collection I implemented the (i) School Readiness Diagnostic Assessment test (SRDA) (Van den Berg, 2014) and the (ii) Aptitude Test for School Beginners (ASB) (Olivier & Swart, 1988), while collecting qualitative data through semi-structured interviews, observations, field notes and a research diary.
The perceptual-motor intervention programme was developed based on the results I obtained pre-intervention, with a specific focus on addressing the needs identified during this phase of the study. Pre-intervention results obtained on the ASB, namely indicate that the Grade R learners from both schools were not school ready, even though the Grade R learners tested ready for school on the overall SRDA score, the averages on the sub-tests and three of the seven sub-tests tested below the expected developmental level for school readiness.
Post-intervention test scores indicate that the perceptual-motor intervention had a positive effect on not only the general school readiness levels of the learners, but also on individual perceptual-motor domains. With regard to the ASB, the mean difference between the two schools for the post-intervention scores indicates a statistically significant difference for the experimental group. In terms of the overall average SRDA scores (average of the seven domain averages), post-intervention scores indicate a higher average post-score for the experimental group than for the control school. Even though the difference is not statistically significant, learners demonstrated progress on the SRDA test battery following the intervention. Throughout the study, the quantitative data was supported by the qualitative data. The purpose of the qualitative part of the study was to explore Grade R teachers’ understanding of school readiness, perceptual-motor development, and resources that could support the school readiness of learners in resource-constrained settings. After implementation of the perceptual-motor intervention programme, an increase in the levels of school readiness of the participating Grade R learners thus indicates that the intervention programme was successful.