Applications for school enrolment are now open. We are very aware that this is often a time filled with much anxiety and therefore, we at IESA would like to share some new tips together with information drawn from a past article written by our Senior Information and Support Officer, Caroline Taylor. We hope that this will guide you as you make your applications for 2021.
Unabridged Versus Abridged
One of the latest issues to be aware of is that some schools are asking for unabridged Birth Certificates rather than the abridged one. This has resulted in many parents feeling anxious at the prospect of having to queue at Home Affairs. To note is that the process for ID documents are separate from the applications for birth certificates, and this means the process need not be a long one. Depending on the year your child was born, you may be able to get your certificates immediately. Applications for older children, however, may take up to three weeks. In the case where application takes longer, check with the school whether a copy of the receipt will suffice in the interim.
What do parents need to take into consideration when making this important step, and what guidelines does the school policy offer?
According to the SA Schools Act, children must be in Grade 1 by the time they reach the age of 7, and this age group will receive preference. Admission to Grade 1 may be granted to a child reaching the age of 6 by June 30th, and into Grade R on reaching the age of 5. It is the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their child is enrolled in good time. It is, however, important to consider the child’s readiness or maturity, as this can make the difference in terms of their ability to cope with the formal learning & teaching arrangement in a school setting and to be able to progress and develop with ease. Often children are seen to struggle in later grades because their early learning skills were not sufficiently developed when they started school, and research strongly supports the importance of early play and “pre-school” learning.
What if your child is not ready for Grade R or Grade 1?
In some of our communities there tends to be a high proportion of children not “ready” when starting Grade 1 due to under-resourced pre-school facilities, a lack of family finances and other socio-economic challenges. In other instances, because of learning barriers that the child is experiencing, parents and their health professionals may agree that the learner is not ready to progress into Grade R or Grade 1.
In 2010, the WCED piloted a screening and intervention programme to address this and also introduced the possibility of a second year of Grade R for a child, where supporting evidence shows they need another year to mature.
Parents of children who are reaching the age of 7 towards the end of the year – and will, therefore, be amongst the youngest new applicants – may apply for exemption from entering Grade 1 until the following year. A specific form is required for this and must also be completed by the current pre-school educator. All application forms need to be accompanied by the child’s birth certificate and immunization card (or written proof or immunization).
What about children who have a specific special need or diagnosed condition that might result in them needing extra support in school?
The SA Schools Act requires that ordinary public schools make provision for learners with special needs as far as is possible, and enables parents to apply to a neighbourhood school of their choice as they would for any other child. The Inclusive Education policy attempts to bring more substance to this provision and our education department endorses the provision of support for teaching and learning so that children receive what they need. Much depends, however, on the attitudes, resources, and commitment of the individual school.
A number of schools across our different provinces are in the process of becoming Full-Service or Inclusive schools and parents may wish to inquire if there is such a school in their area. We recommend that parents make an appointment with the school principal if they wish to discuss what support a school can offer to their child if he or she has a specific need.
Can parents make Special School Application?
Application for special school placement is reserved for young children needing intensive support and therapies and can only be made by health practitioners via the relevant Education District Office. This process is further supported by the National Education Department’s Screening, Identification, Assessment & Support strategy (SIAS). This encourages the gathering and recording of information on a child in order to assess and put into place the support they need. Many schools still lack training in the use of SIAS but hopefully, this will be made available to them in the near future. Meanwhile, health professionals, therapists, and parents can help with this process by providing a short report that can be inserted into a child’s learner profile which schools are required to keep for each child.
This can mean that if your child has been placed on a special school waiting list prior to their Grade R or Grade 1 year, it can be a lengthy process. Therefore, while waiting, parents must still make application to mainstream schooling for their child. The process of support in mainstream schooling, as explained in the previous paragraph, would then need to be negotiated with the school.
At IESA, we do our best to share the latest information to empower each of our parents and stakeholders. We would like you to share and spread this information if you have found it useful.
For more information and any queries, please feel free to visit our website or contact our offices on 021 762 6664.