In 2015, Innovation Edge commissioned the development of South Africa’s first population level pre-school child assessment tool.

The project’s key requirements were that the tool should fairly assess children from across the cultural and socio-economic spectrum, be inexpensive in terms of equipment and administration costs, and should be administered in about 45 minutes. Rather than professional evaluators, well-trained persons with a background in ECD would be appropriate assessors.

Aimed at supporting government, funders, programme developers, ECD providers and monitoring and evaluation specialists, the tool would measure children’s development prior to entering Grade R, and help to assess early learning programme effectiveness. It would also serve as a measure for tracking children’s progress towards agreed Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS).

And so, with the help of an enthusiastic and experienced team, the development of the first Early Learning Outcomes Measure (ELOM) for South Africa began.

The ELOM team conducted extensive research over the following two years. This included  consultations with local and international experts and educators, piloting, and then field-testing on a random sample of 1500 South African children aged 50-69 months drawn from five of our major language groups in three different provinces.



Development of content validated ELDS, pilot item selection, and piloting.


Age validation study in three provinces across five school quintiles and in five languages.


Psychometric analysis, standards, norms and finalisation of the ELOM.

The result is a psychometrically sound, NELDS and National Curriculum Framework aligned, age validated instrument.

Our Team

Linda Biersteker

Linda is a developmental psychologist who was based at the Early Learning Resource Unit since its inception. She is one of South Africa’s leading  Early Childhood Development specialists. Her major contributions have been to South African ECD policy, programming and curriculum, and to improvement in policy and ECD service delivery in Africa.

Andrew Dawes

Andrew is a clinical and developmental psychologist. He is Associate Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cape Town and a Research Associate with the Young Lives study in the Department of International Development at Oxford University. His expertise includes the study of the impact of poverty on child development, and M&E of ECD and child protection programmes.

Elizabeth Girdwood

Elizabeth holds a Masters degree, specialising in the Economics of Education. She has worked with the London-based Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and London’s Partnership for Child Development based at Imperial College. She contributed to the first impact evaluation of Grade R with RESEP, and has consulted extensively on costing and improvement of ECD services in South Africa.

Matthew Snelling

Matthew is a monitoring and evaluation specialist and director of Alacrity Development. He is appointed to the Assessment Standards Committee of UMALUSI and provides M&E consultation (among others) to the Western Cape Impact Bond Innovation Fund. Matthew has expertise in research methodology and advanced statistical methods and in organisational psychology.

Our Funder

The core funder of the ELOM is Innovation Edge.

They take a hands-on approach to supporting unconventional ideas that aim to transform early life experiences for children, aged 0 to 6, living in poverty.

Their experience has shown that truly transformative solutions to large-scale problems are created when very different people are brought together to make unusual connections to each other and to ideas. They act as a catalytic connector and provide financial, strategic and active support to individuals, nonprofit and for profit organisations from any field of expertise, to affect meaningful change for young children. Since the establishment of Innovation Edge in mid 2014, they have built an exciting portfolio of investments, and have demonstrated their ability to take ideas from source to scale.

Innovation Edge also secured additional funding for the ongoing development of the ELOM from the Anglo American Chairman’s Fund Trust and ApexHi Charitable Trust respectively.