The experiences of foundation phase teachers regarding reading literacy interventions at an underperforming school in Gauteng province
South Africa’s education system has been characterized by various curriculum changes since 1997 given that basic education is a priority of this government and policies have specifically been aimed at improving the overall standard of education in the country. Despite these curriculum changes, the findings of tests such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 2006 revealed that South African learners had obtained the lowest overall reading literacy average out of 45 participating educational systems and the South African Consortium for Measuring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) highlighted that the majority of children in South Africa’s primary schools are not even reading at the minimal required level. In view of the publicised results of PIRLS 2006 and SAQMEQ 2008, several reading literacy interventions, known as the Foundations for Learning (FFL), Annual National Assessments (ANA) and Gauteng Province Literacy and Mathematics Strategy (GPLMS) have been launched in the past few years to improve literacy and numeracy results in the country. Notwithstanding, the increasing prevalence of low reading literacy results in South Africa raised questions about the effectiveness of interventions intended to improve reading results (in: GDE, Gauteng Primary Literacy Strategy, 2010–2014, Government Printer, Pretoria, 2010). Given the background of this study, the primary aim was to establish the essence of the participant FP teachers’ lived experiences regarding the implementation of interventions for reading literacy such as FFL, ANA and GPLMS in order to theorise about the effectiveness of these interventions. The secondary purpose was to add to the body of knowledge concerning FFL, ANA and GPLMS implemented as interventions to improve reading literacy results in South Africa. To achieve these purposes, a phenomenological case study was conducted at one of the 832 identified underperforming schools in Gauteng with eleven Foundation Phase teachers. Three methods were used to collect data namely focus group interviews, non face to face interviews and artefacts. The focus group interviews were held in grade context whilst interview forms were given to each of the eleven participants and they were requested to complete it comprehensively in the absence of the researcher. Data from all interviews were corroborated through selected artefacts which were mentioned during the interviews or discovered by the researcher throughout the study. The key findings of this study show that the participants perceived FFL, ANA and GPLMS as mandatory interventions for reading literacy that are unwanted and repetitious. Most importantly the participants deemed ANA as unreliable and unfair whilst FFL and GPLMS were deemed unsuitable for the diverse needs of the learners at this school. In view of the findings, this study concluded that there is limited value in providing mandatory interventions to teachers with the intent of improving the reading literacy results of learners with diverse needs that are contextually bound.