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School age debate

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School age debate

by Clayton Barnes
17 Jan 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

Children younger than six years should not be enrolled at school. That is the sentiment from the Education Management and Development Council (EMDC) South Metropole. However, EMDC South Metropole's chief curriculum advisor, Mr Glen van Harte, said school governing bodies could establish a pre-Grade R classroom on the school premises providing it does not interfere with normal school operations, and without utilising the department's resources - including their staff.

He told the People's Post Mitchell's Plain the EMDC had no power or authority to stop school governing bodies (SGB's) from starting Grade 0s or accommodating children of four and five years old.

"Schools are governed and managed by the school governing body," said Van Harte.

"If the SGB decides to have a pre-Grade R classroom, we cannot prohibit them from doing it. However, if it is implemented it should be run privately, as a separate entity to the school. It should also be managed by independent adequate persons."

Van Harte said SGBs should realise state funding cannot be utilised to open a pre-Grade R classroom.

"No state funding, grants or subsidies from the department can be used to open such classrooms," he said.

"We would rather like to encourage schools to, if they have excess space and classrooms, open more Grade R classrooms as there is a dire need for more."

When asked whether the EMDC would support schools which opt to open Grade 0 classrooms, Van Harte said, "I'm concerned about that".

"The age difference would be very vast," he said. "I also don't think schools would be manageable. Schools would then have to get in educators for those children who are highly competent with high supervision skills."

Van Harte added that all schools were aware of the department's stance regarding Grade 0 and said, "Those who abuse state funding to support four and five-year -olds on their premises will have to answer for their doings."

Mrs Colleen Daniels-Horsewell, spokeswoman for educare groups in Mitchell's Plain and Strandfontein, welcomed the department's decision.

She said the department called a meeting with all school principles and the educare forums after the People's Post Mitchell's Plain reported on the issue earlier this year ("At loggerheads over Grade 0 classes", July 18).

The meeting, which was held on October 9 in the Portland Indoor Sports Centre, was closed to the media.

Daniels-Horsewell said, "Principles at the meeting realised having young children on their premises could be potentially dangerous.

"It was then decided that no school will accept children under the age of six years."

She said she hopes all the principals "stick to their word" and follow the guidelines set by the department.

For more information on where to enroll toddlers under the age of five years contact Daniels-Horsewell on 021 393 1065 during office hours.

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