School Management & Leadership
Much of this issue is devoted to the recommendations of the Final Report of the Task Team for the Review of the Implementation of the NCS. This is an important report and is likely to have a significant impact, we hope for the better, on the way in which schools and classrooms function in this country. The Minister has accepted the final report and has already provided some guidelines to schools on which of the recommendations will be implemented with immediate effect. The fact that from the start of next year pupils and teachers will no longer be required to maintain portfolios of work will bring immediate relief to schools as will the decision to limit the number of projects required for formal assessment to one per year.
One hopes that Minister Motshekga’s positive comments about the recommendations contained in the draft report of the task team established to review the implementation of the National Curriculum Statements indicate that she and her department are supportive of the recommendations contained in the document. Her support of those recommendations dealing with teacher and pupil portfolios is likely to be greeted with universal jubilation and a huge sigh of relief by principals and teachers, who have had to suffer the administrative burden associated with the keeping of portfolios. Any move away from the garbled complexity associated with Curriculum 2005 to a simpler model of textbooks, teaching and testing will be a massive step in the right direction for a school system that has been floundering. Simpler is always better, and if the Minister and her officials really want to make an impact, they need to treat the system to a big KISS. For those who don’t know, KISS is the acronym for ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’, a management approach based on the notion that simpler is better. The theory is that less complex systems are more efficient at achieving their outcomes than more complex systems are because they are easier to understand and there are fewer opportunities for things to go wrong. This is just the opposite of the implementation of Curriculum 2005 and its derivative, the National Curriculum Statement, which (although better) still involves too many complex and demanding procedures. We hope that when the Minister makes her promised statement towards the end of this month, she accepts most - if not all - of the recommendations of the task team. You can read about their recommendations on 13.
In this issue we have turned our attention to the 82 Education Districts that are in place to serve and support the teachers and principals of this country’s public schools. They have a critical responsibility in this regard and need to be held accountable for the schools in their care. But how does one measure the performance of an education district and how does one deal with districts which fail to provide the kinds of support that are so desperately needed by many of the schools that they have been established to serve?
In this edition we continue our exploration of the possible changes that the Jacob Zuma government may introduce to basic education and the implications that these may have for schools. Since the publication of our previous issue, a number of events have taken place which we believe provide greater clarity about the things the government plans to do to improve our ailing school system. These include the first budget speech of Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshega, the release of the government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) document at the end of July, and the recent Presidential Imbizo with 1 500 principals which took place in Durban on Friday 7 August. In this issue we have devoted space to each of these events in an effort to keep you, our readers, informed about possible policy changes which may affect our schools and those who lead and manage them. If we were to identify a single theme or focus which emerges, it is that the pressure on schools to perform, in terms of academic results, is going to increase. What is also clear is that it is the principals of schools who will be forced to bear the brunt of this pressure.
In this edition we have focused mostly on what members of President Zuma’s newly-installed government have been saying about Basic Education. In his State of the Nation address, the President identified Education as his government’s number one priority and made it clear that he expected the delivery of a better quality product to this country’s children. He had more to say on this theme when interviewed a few days later on SABC radio. In her first major speech as the new Minister of Education, Minister Angie Motshegha expanded further on this and added some detail of her own on what the new government expects from the education system, particularly from its principals and teachers. From what has been said, it certainly seems that the new government means business and that this is going to translate into political pressure on the system. Whether this will produce meaningful change for the better, only time can tell. It would seem, however, that these pronouncements have already had some effect with officials from the DoE and PEDs scurrying around looking to put in place action plans and programmes aimed at achieving improved pupil performance.
This issue contains a number of articles relating to the current state of public schooling in South Africa, including the first part of a two-part article on the final report of the Ministerial Committee appointed to make recommendations about the establishment of the National Education Evaluation and Development Unit (NEEDU). Included is SADTU’s comment on the report. There is also an article by Managing Editor Alan Clarke on what he learned from recent visits to schools in rural Eastern Cape and Limpopo and the difficulties that confront those schools. These perspectives confirm the huge challenges that face schooling in this country. In a second article, Alan raises the question of the need for a GET examination, given the problems that some schools face when enrolling Grade 10 pupils who are ill-equipped for the more rigorous demands of the NSC. The current use of the CTAs as assessment instruments to moderate and monitor performance at the end of the GET band is clearly not working and something needs to be put in place to promote greater academic rigour and accountability in this phase of schooling.
Most principals and people in management that I have met find staying on top of the mounds of paper that cross their desks each day one of their least favourite tasks. Unfortunately it’s a job that comes with the territory for people in senior management positions and although a good secretary or PA can make the paper load less onerous, there remain lots of bits of paper which need to be read and handled each day. If this material is not dealt with expeditiously the paper quickly mounts up and before long the surface of your desk is hidden under piles of paper you become increasingly frustrated as things you need become lost in the clutter. If you are that kind of a person help is at hand in the form of the expert advice contained in the article “Managing paper”. Read it and regain control of the monster that lurks in your in tray.
By the time you read this, the school year will be well under way and we hope that it will be a good and successful one, not only for all of our subscribers but also for education in this country. With party politics in a state of flux and government elections scheduled to take place on 22 April, the next few months - on the political front at least - should be more exciting than most. Politicians are a bit like fishermen, particularly when they are vying for our vote and we need to take what they say with a pinch of salt – the magnificent fish they promise may well turn out to be a minnow when it arrives on our plate – so don’t get too excited at promises of better deals for teachers or more money for schools. The reality is that we, like the rest of the world, are facing some major economic challenges and it is at times likes this that it is worth reflecting on the fact that a teaching post in a public school is one of the most secure jobs in troubled times. Perhaps now is a good time to promote teaching as a profession!
2008 has been a good year for School Management & Leadership. Thanks to the continuing support of our readers, our subscriber base has continued to grow steadily in all of the provinces and increasing numbers mean we are beginning to gain some support from advertisers. Our commitment has always been to provide our subscribers with 10 issues per year with a minimum of at least 12 pages of useful information and practical advice in every issue. In 2008 we did far more than we promised, providing you with the equivalent of an additional 16-page bonus issue for the year. We have provided some statistics about our subscriber profile in this issue.
Much of this issue is devoted to the document Education Roadmap: Focus on schooling system which is the product of an ANC think-tank on public schooling in this country. It is in part a document produced with an eye on the coming elections but given the party’s powerful position in the country, it also provides useful insights into how the post-election government plans to tackle some of the many challenges facing public schools. Besides providing a summary of the contents of the document, we also provide some comments on the policy proposals it makes in the “10-point programme”, the product of the “Roadmap process”. We hope you will find it helpful as you think about the way ahead for your own school and the things that can be done better.