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Assessing and monitoring primary school children in South Africa

Researchers: Professor Peter Tymms | Dr Christine Merrell ...

Project overview

This project will focus on developing an assessment tool for children starting primary school in South Africa. This tool will be designed to monitor pupils’ progress through primary school, as well as the performance of teachers, schools and school systems. It will also be useful for teachers in helping them plan approaches for individual children.

Standardised assessment tools are already used in the UK and many other countries. One example is iPIPS, a tool which has been developed by the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring in the UK. Researchers at the same Centre will now develop this tool further with the Centre for Evaluation and Assessment in Pretoria, so that it can be used in primary schools in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The new tool will provide much needed information about children starting school, and the progress they make during their first year. It will also give the province an opportunity to benchmark itself against other countries and regions, using high-quality data. The project will establish a way of working which can be used to expand the project to other provinces of South Africa and sub-Saharan African countries.

The project will be unique in using international comparative data to answer the following questions:

  • What do children in the Western Cape know and what can they do when they start school?
  • How does this vary by gender, language and affluence?
  • How do children’s abilities and progress during the first year of primary school compare with similar children in other regions and countries?
  • What implications do these analyses have for policies in the Western Cape?
  • How much can differences in later international surveys be explained by differences in the early years?

Latest on this project


  • Professor Peter Tymms
    Durham University
  • Dr Christine Merrell
    Durham University
  • Professor Sarah Howie
    University of Pretoria

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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