There was a wonderful turnout at the second Learning Community Workshop of 2017! We would like to acknowledge the presence and contribution of you all:

·         TREE

·         Sikhule Sonke

·         Masibumbane

·         The Learning Initiative

·         LETCEE

·         Smartstart

·         Grow

·         True North

·         Cotlands

We received apologies from ITEC, Khululeka, NAG and VPUU.

Important warning about tablet dates

It is critically important for all assessors to check the time and date of the tablet they are using for assessing children. If this is incorrect, the children’s age will be calculated incorrectly which will impact the ELOM data. Please will all organisations remember to keep tablets charged at all times, as running the battery to empty will reset the tablet’s date, and check and change the tablet dates if they are incorrect.

 The ELOM in action

The focus of the second LC workshop was on “ELOM results: what do they mean?” Over the past six months, the ELOM has been used by many LC members and in the Lesotho Early Learning and Development Standards age validation study. The workshop looked at how LC members are using the ELOM at present, explained the ELOM descriptive report form, and explored how ELOM results could be used in their organisations.   We were also interested to learn about any difficulties using the ELOM and how to problem solve around this. It was of great value to hear from organisations at different stages of outcomes measure usage.

Four organisations who had submitted data and received descriptive reports explained how they are using this information to inform their staff training and programme emphases.

1.      Grow reported assessing 49 children. They found finding an appropriate quiet space in which to assess a challenge in their centres. The poor gross motor skills of children in the programme was the most surprising result of their data, and they are actively looking at creative solutions to develop these skills despite the cramped conditions in their centres. The other finding related to the prevalence of corporal punishment as the main discipline tool used in the centres, and its impact on the emotional health/development of the children. Using the ELOM gave them the confidence to tackle these areas in their annual teachers’ conference, and to focus on upskilling teachers in creativity, empathy, soft skills and alternative discipline techniques. They plan to do a further assessment towards the end of the year.

2.     Smartstart reported assessing 69 children in May.  They found the ELOM process helpful and feedback succinct and useful. Their chief finding learning was that they need to focus on improving the activities around cognition and executive functioning and needed to ensure that fine motor activities were taking place.  Going forward they will be testing a larger sample and comparing children receiving 2 days vs 5 days of their playgroup programme. They asked for a detailed blog post on how to read your ELOM report and what it means.  

3.     Cotlands assessed 52 children in three provinces (KZN, WC and Gauteng) in April. They had similar challenges finding a quiet space for assessments and said that they have underestimated the time and logistics involved. They introduced a handover process between playgroup facilitators and assessors where the facilitator sat in for the first few minutes, which really helped the children at the beginning of their assessment. Their findings pointed to low fine motor skills amongst their children which they are now focusing on in their training and the development of additional resources. They also reported a major learning in terms of it not being the programme’s design issue, but rather that of its implementation.

4.     The Learning Initiative is a therapeutic intervention using occupational and speech therapists.  Their first round ELOM results in 2016 showed no measurable impact on child outcomes. In 2017 they have explored how to identify and target the most at risk children using the Early Screening Inventory, as this is where this intervention can make the most difference. They will be reassessing children in October.

Other organisations reported on their early efforts to integrate the ELOM into their routine monitoring activities.

·       LETCEE has not formally used the ELOM but their assessor has been practising and improving in speed and confidence.  The crying child was seen as having itchy eyes by most of the 20 children tested.  There were also interesting perceptual issues on the spatial vocabulary item where children asked why the cat was on the wall (picture of a tiger).

·        Masibumbane has tested 38 children in their centres and will upload additional data soon.

·       TREE had begun their planned pilot assessment of 36 children in their playgroups but this had been cut short by community protests.  They found children to be generally receptive but that some became bored by the end.

·       Sikhule Sonke, whose children were assessed last year, are still fine tuning a tracking system and data gathering tool to ensure good implementation before they will assess children.

·       Khululeka (written report) had waited until they had a second trained assessor and will now undertake their pilot assessment with a view to an evaluation in 2018. They are focusing on practitioners who have received the High Scope orientation programme.

·       True North raised the issues that their intervention focuses on a whole school approach and they need to decide when it would be useful to assess child outcomes.