By Debbie Schafer, Western Cape Minister of Education:
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) aims to provide quality public schooling for all our children. Whilst we have many excellent schools, there are still improvements that need to be made.
One of our greatest educational challenges is to ensure that learners in poorer communities are able to access the same quality of education as those who can afford to pay more for additional resources.
We are committed to improving education for all our children and have already implemented a wide range of initiatives to improve access to quality education in poor communities and improve performance in underperforming schools. We are also committed to partnerships with relevant stakeholders to maximise resources and relevant expertise.
We were thus very excited when a group of funder and support organisations, including the Millennium Trust, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Ark and DG Murray Trust, approached us to test a different no-fee public school model and assist with financing. Out of this was born a pilot project, which we have called Collaboration Schools.
Through the Collaboration Schools pilot, the WCED aims to test a new model of schooling that brings additional education management skills and innovation into the public school system, through non-profit partnerships that improve the quality of teaching and learning in no-fee public schools. The pilot programme will be implemented with the full agreement of governing bodies in participating schools.
These support organisations, called operating partners, will ensure intensive school-level support to teachers and principals through training, additional resources, monitoring and regular feedback. The WCED will continue to play its critical role in overseeing school performance and holding the schools and operating partners to account as part of the public education system. Support from the WCED will be integrated with that provided by the operating partner, with collaboration schools continuing to receive funding, infrastructure and services such as transport and nutrition from the WCED according to prevailing policy.
The Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, 1977 (Act 12 of 1997) allows the MEC to establish and maintain any other type of school necessary for education in the Western Cape. The Western Cape regulatory provisions provide that school governing bodies may apply to the Head of Department (HOD) to change their composition.
Schools that have chosen to participate in the pilot have agreed that the operating partners will constitute the majority of their governing body, and have been granted approval by the HOD to change their composition to effect this. This is crucial for the WCED to hold the school and operating partner accountable for their performance.
In addition, Collaboration Schools will have increased school-level responsibilities in relation to staffing. The pilot will provide schools with the ability to employ staff directly in SGB posts, including staff that would otherwise be part of the departmental post establishment of that school. The WCED will continue to fund the school’s full post establishment, but in the case of Collaboration Schools, will do so with a transfer payment to the school rather than a post provision.
All existing teachers at Collaboration Schools will remain WCED employees and no teacher in any school that chooses to become a collaboration school will be expected or forced to resign from the WCED. In addition, no teacher will be forced or expected to move to any of these schools. Only new and growth posts at Collaboration Schools will be filled with SGB employees. In new schools, therefore, the entire initial post establishment will be made up of SGB posts, whereas in well established schools, the entire initial post establishment will be made up of WCED posts.
Across all schools in the pilot there will therefore be a full spectrum of employment arrangements (between WCED and SGB employees), which will assist in assessing the significance of this feature in school performance. The post establishment will, in addition, be supplemented through donor funding of SGB posts.
It is incumbent on us as the Western Cape government to try new ways of improving the education system, and particularly to address the inequalities that still persist as a legacy of apartheid. We believe that this model can make a positive difference in providing quality education in poor communities and improving performance in underperforming schools. The purpose of the pilot is to prove it in our context.
This is a further example of our commitment to building partnerships with the private sector, the donor community and civil society in the best interests of all our children.
I am particularly excited about this project. The donors and school operating partners, recognising the transformative power of education to heal and build South Africa, wish to contribute to improving education outcomes in public schools. Schools will not only benefit financially from these donors but also on a human resource level as both donors and operating partners are committed to increasing the quality of teaching and learning in the particular school in order to substantially improve the school’s educational outcomes.
The pilot is being carried out across a range of schools from existing to new ones, from primary to secondary, and from long established to more recently established schools, to provide the most useful evidence base from which to draw conclusions from the pilot. The pilot is being launched with 5 schools in 2016, and will look to increase this number as capacity and resources allow.
The pilot will continue for a period of 5 years subject to the performance of the partners and the schools.
The initial participating schools are:
- Eersterivier Primary School
- Happy Valley Primary School
- Langa High School
- Oranjekloof Primary School
- Silikamva High School
The initial school operating partners are:
- LEAP Science and Maths School
- Mellon Educate
- 2 Oceans Education Foundation
The Collaboration Schools pilot programme seeks to:
- improve the quality of education at public schools;
- demonstrate effective models of partnerships in education;
- strengthen public school governance and accountability;
- develop educators; and
implement interventions aimed at the improvement of the quality of public education for learners from low income communities.