The iPIPS assessment

The iPIPS assessment uses a series of fun, interactive and adaptive assessments to assess children's cognitive development and physical development during their first few weeks of formal schooling. Their personal, social and emotional development is measured through teacher ratings. This establishes a baseline against which their progress can be monitored through their first year at school as the assessment is repeated at the end of this first year.

There are five components to the iPIPS assessments:

    1. Cognitive development

    2. Personal, social and emotional development

    3. Physical development

    4. Behaviour

    5. Contextual information

1. Cognitive development

This part of the assessment consists of a number of measures which have been shown to be good predictors of later educational achievement:

    • Handwriting - the child is asked to write his/her own name

    • Vocabulary - the child is asked to identify objects embedded within a series of pictures

    • Ideas about reading - assesses concepts about print

    • Phonological awareness - rhymes and repeats

    • Letter identification - a fixed order of mixed upper and lower case letters

    • Word recognition and reading - words, sentences and comprehension

    • Ideas about mathematics - assessment of understanding of mathematical concepts

    • Counting and ability to use numbers

    • Sums - addition and subtraction problems presented without symbols

    • Shape identification

    • Digit identification

    • Mathematical problems - including sums with symbols

    • Short term memory - recall of a sequence of highlighted buttons

The iPIPS assessment is administered using an App which functions on a smart phone or tablet alongside a picture booklet. The child is shown the picture booklet and an adult administers the assessment and collects the data using the App. The App makes the administration of the assessment and collection of data very simple and efficient. There is no need for constant internet connectivity or manual data entry on paper forms. The whole assessment takes approximately 20 minutes per child.


The children would be shown this picture and asked "Which is the biggest cat?" and "Which is the smallest cat?"

When the pictures include people, we have developed characters which are gender and culturally neutral. For example, the children would be shown the picture below and asked "Can you point to someone who is writing?".

Here is an example in two languages, Afrikaans and isiXhosa:

Each section of the assessment presents items of increasing difficulty until the child has got a few wrong and then it moves onto the next appropriate section (i.e. the assessment operates on sequences with stopping rules).

2. Personal, social and emotional development

This assessment is designed to assist with the monitoring of children's personal, social and emotional development in the first year of full time education. It is separate from the cognitive development assessment and is completed by the class teacher from their knowledge of the child gained through general day-to-day interaction and observation. It typically takes 5-10 minutes per child to complete. The teacher is asked to assess each child against 11 items. The items themselves are arranged into three sections:

    • Adjusting to the school environment

    • Personal development

    • Social and emotional development

Each item is assessed using a five-point scale, with a descriptor provided for each point on the scale. The teacher decides which descriptor provides the closest match for a particular child and clicks on the relevant statement on screen. The app records the information. The assessment is carried out a few weeks after children start school and then again at the end of the school year.

3. Physical development

This includes:

    • Height and weight

    • Fine motor skills or fine motor coordination

    • Gross motor development

This assessment of fine motor skills aims to assess dexterity and manipulation with the hands and fingers. The assessment involves drawing along a trail. iPIPS involves a quick assessment of gross coordination that is built on the Brazilian sitting and rising test (Araújo, 1999) often used for older people. For young children, it identifies those who lack flexibility and coordination.

4. Behaviour

This assessment is carried out at the end of the year by the class teacher and is based on their observations of pupils during the year. The teacher is presented with a number of statements of behavioural characteristics and decides to what extent each statement applies to the child in question. These statements are based on the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for ADHD for inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, with the wording adapted to reflect young children in the classroom setting.

5. Contextual information

Two short questionnaires, one for teachers and another for parents/carers, captures basic background information on the children and schools included in the sample, such as ages, special needs and socio-economic status. This allows policy makers to see and compare relationships between these variables and the outcomes noted above.