Does Grade R matter?

By Drum Digital
04 August 2014

Does your child really need Grade R? We recently asked this question to our SuperMom Facebook community and as varied as the answers were, each was well-motivated and made us realise we needed some expert comment on this contentious issue.

Leigh Dunn, a teacher at Formosa Primary School in Plettenberg Bay, says Grade R is extremely important for a child’s development. However, he adds, the government hasn’t yet made it compulsory. Dunn specialises in teaching special-needs children and was one of the star teachers nominated in last year’s Teachers for Change project run by Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM in conjunction with iSchoolAfrica.

“Early childhood development is a focal point in education in our country at the moment,” explains Dunn. “Research and assessments by the government have proven that a child going into Grade 1 from Grade R fares much better than a child who comes from home, and that’s why the government is so focused on it.”

SuperMom Elmarie Riaan says on our Facebook page that she took her son out of Grade R and starting teaching him at home. “I don’t think children are all the same and they will develop in their own time. There are 12 more years left of school; give children of six a bit of time to play as well.”

However, Dunn insists Grade R attendance has now become so important the government is considering phasing in another preschool grade, namely Grade RR. “Children usually enter Grade R at age five, turning six. A child’s brain develops optimally up until the age of six – it’s when they are most open to learning. So this is a great thing, and in fact you’ll find that in European countries children go to school as young as age four, which is what might be next for our education system too.”

But moms such as Dina Dadswell say their kids are doing just fine without having attended Grade R. And a lot of moms in our Facebook community agree, saying that with other school fees already putting considerable strain on their finances Grade R is simply an expense they can’t afford.

Dunn says if parents need financial assistance they can apply for government grants but these only apply from Grade 1 and don’t include Grade R because it isn’t yet compulsory. However, he adds that any government school will have Grade R and that schools are subsidised for these grades as with other grades, which means parents wouldn’t have to buy textbooks and children will receive them at school.

“In the long run it’s worth investing this year in your child. It will build their confidence before the big day at Grade 1 and it means they will be going in better prepared than a child who has been kept at home,” says Dunn.

And some of our SuperMoms, such as Illse Hector, agree, “Grade R is very important! It prepares your child for Grade 1 and in the long run you will realise your child performs better. Grade R was a lifesaver with my two kids because they were well-prepared for school.”

-Dalena Theron

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