Chapter 1




A public school is established with public funds by the state to perform a public function. It is therefore an organ of state and needs to be governed and managed in terms of legislation. This means that the school may only perform functions as determined by law when managing teachers, learners, parents, finances and facilities.


An entity other than a natural person (human being) established by law and recognized as a legal entity having distinct identity, legal personality, and duties and rights, is a juristic person. This actually means that one or more natural persons act as a single entity for legal purposes. An entity with juristic person status may safeguard its members from personal liability.

A school is a juristic person and is allowed by law to elect an SGB which then legally represents the school whenever it is required to do so.


Being an organ of state, a school has to formulate its own policy to ensure that it functions within the applicable legislative framework. School policy is therefore of extreme importance and needs to be formulated in terms of all the relevant laws, regulations and policies.


  1. Green Paper and White Paper
    A Green Paper is published by Government to stimulate discussion on proposals concerning the way forward with a particular matter.
    A White Paper is less open ended than a Green Paper and is published by Government to inform the public on its intentions concerning a specific matter.
    Green and White Papers are not prescriptive. However, a White Paper is normally supposed to be operationalised by means of a law, regulations and policy. In exceptional cases a White Paper can be proclaimed as policy without an act being promulgated.
  2. Bill and Act
    A Bill is a draft of a proposed Act (Law) presented to parliament and the public for discussion. Once accepted, the Bill is promulgated as an Act.
  3. Regulations and Policy
    Once an Act has been promulgated, the relevant Minister issues regulations and/or policies to govern the implementation of the Act. Regulations have more legislative power than policy. For example, while national policy is binding on public schools as organs of state, it is not necessarily binding on independent schools, whereas regulations are.
  4. Guidelines
    Guidelines are issued to assist with the interpretation and implementation of regulations and policy. They are not binding on schools, except if prescribed by regulations or policy.
  5. Resolutions
    Resolutions are decisions taken by legally constituted structures such as the ELRC and school governing bodies. Resolutions have to comply with government legislation and are therefore legally binding on the parties concerned.


Laws, regulations and policies are passed at national and provincial level. Those passed at provincial level have to comply with those at national level.

Legislation and policy at provincial level differs from that at national level in that it is aimed mainly at the operationalisation of such national legislation and policy.

It is important to note that, apart from the Provincial Legislature, only the Head of Education in a province has the competence to determine policy that is binding on schools. Heads of divisions within a provincial department, e.g. chief directors and directors, including those of district offices, have the delegated competence to issue directives aimed at the execution of policy determined at a higher level.


1.2.1Legislative and Policy Framework


  • The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) [NEPA]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
  • Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 [EEA]
  • South African Council for Educators Act 31 of 2000, Code of Professional Ethics [SACE]



  • Personnel Administration Measures [PAM]

1.2.2School Policy and the Four Acts on Basic Education in South Africa

  1. What is policy?
    • Policy comprises clearly formulated, prescriptive rules
      Policy must be stated in clear cut terms so that everybody who is part of the organisation knows exactly what to do. This does not mean that policy must be rigid, leaving no space for independent decision making by the individuals who implement the policy. However, policy must specify the space that is allowed to the implementer thereof. Example: The policy of one school could spell out in detail what is meant by discipline in the classroom, leaving the teacher no option as to how learners should behave in the classroom. The policy of another school could merely state that the learners’ behaviour should be conducive to learning and should not cause disturbance to others.
    • Policy is stated in writing
      This is an important aspect of policy as it is the only way in which misunderstanding can be avoided while consistency is ensured. Examples: When the principal of a school has to repudiate a teacher, he/she has to be able to refer to policy which had been made available to the teacher at an earlier stage, or when a principal has to make a decision concerning requests by teachers or learners, he/she has to be able to justify the decision in terms of written and approved policy.
    • Policy is determined by a competent authority
      Policy cannot be determined at any level or by any person in a system. Example: District offices can only implement policy determined by the head of education in the province. This means that if they issue instructions to schools (or subject advisors to teachers), they must in the formulation of the instruction refer to the relevant policy as determined and announced in writing by the head of education in the province.
      Even if the authority concerning the performance of a specific function is delegated to lower levels in the system, the delegates still have to perform the function in terms of the delegator’s instructions/policy as he/she remains responsible (the delegator cannot rid him-/herself from his/her responsibility by delegating the function to someone else).
  2. Policy as management instrument
    • Instrument for efficient management
    • Policy is the instrument which managers at all levels in a system must use to ensure the effective execution of their responsibility.
    • In a system, policy is always formulated within frameworks provided at a higher level.
      The Minister of Basic Education uses policy to ensure that school education is provided in terms of all relevant national legislation. At provincial level the government structures must determine policy to ensure that schools function in terms of national policy. At school level the governing body and school management must formulate policy to ensure that the school functions in terms of national and provincial policy. At subject level the head of department or subject head must ensure that the subject policy is in line with the school’s policy.
      National policy

      Provincial policy in line with national policy

      Institution/school policy in line with national and provincial policy

      Divisions e.g. learning areas/subjects/phases in line with school policy
  3. Importance of policy at school level
    • Efficient management
      Effective and efficient management is not possible without proper policy that is known to everyone concerned in the system.
    • Implementation of relevant legislation and policy
      The manager of a component (school) within a system (education) is responsible for ensuring that all relevant legislation and policy from higher levels is implemented in the functioning of the component (school).
    • Poor guidance by education departments
      Departmental officials are not always competent to provide proper guidance and assistance to schools and teachers in particular. Principals, governors and teachers must therefore ensure that they are properly informed on all relevant policies and legislation.
    • Confusing interpretations of national policy by provinces
      Policy announcements at national level are often interpreted differently at provincial level. This causes confusion and schools must be properly informed on the matters concerned to be able to interact with departmental officials in trying to find a way forward.
    • Officials putting unrealistic demands on teachers
      District officials could be tempted to give instructions to teachers based on their own or their district office’s interpretation of policy, or even on personal preferences. Such instructions can result in teachers being expected to cope with unrealistic requirements and an unrealistic workload. Teachers must then respond in terms of policy – preferably the school’s policy which must be in line with all departmental policies.
    • Teachers feeling secure/protected
      In the case of a school, the policy must define the space within which teachers can function independently. This allows the teacher to act in the interest of the child. It also enables the teacher to respond to queries from learners, parents and departmental officials, or to refer complainants to the principal of the school being able to rely on the principal’s support as his approach will be based on school policy.
  4. Criteria which school policy should comply with
    • School policy must ensure adherence to all relevant legislation and departmental policy
    • It must provide for the specific circumstances at the specific school
    • It must be clear, accurate and consistent
    • It must allow space for independent decision making by the teacher in the interest of the learner
    • It must be stated and arranged in a way that makes continuous amendment/supplementation possible
    • The policy must be stated in writing
    • Most important: a school’s policy must have been developed with participation of the teachers and even the learners and parents so that everybody involved experiences a sense of ownership with regard to the policy.
  5. Approval of policy
    The policy of a component in a system must be approved by all line functionaries and sections or persons with relating responsibilities. In the case of a school, this means that all policy developed by the school must be approved by the relevant district office while policy relating to school governance must be approved by the school governing body as well.
    As far as the district office is concerned, the school should always when submitting policy for approval, state in the covering memorandum that the submission will be considered as approved if the department does not respond within a specified period of time, the length of which being determined by the matter at issue.

1.2.3The Effective, High-Performance School

“School effectiveness should be assessed on the basis of results rather than intentions.”Fred Newman

  1.  Definition of an effective school:
    “An Effective School is a school that can, in measured student achievement terms, demonstrate the joint presence of quality and equity.  Said in another way, an Effective School is a school that can, in measured student achievement terms, demonstrate high overall levels of achievement and no gaps in the distribution of that achievement across major subsets of the student population.” (Prof. James Coleman – Equal Educational Opportunities Study)
  2.  However, to be effective, schools should have:
    • Well formulated vision and mission statements supported by well-structured aims, policies and procedures, which are clearly articulated and adhered to by both educators and learners.
    • Strong instructional leadership.
    • Positive attitudes and high expectations for success.
    • A focus on academic achievement as well as assistance and support to both learners and educators.
    • Proper administration.
    • The awareness to be accountable for the quality of education provision.
    • Regular analysis of learners’ results and utilising the results to guide future assessments, program development, instruction and innovation.
    • Integrated planning by the SMT, HOD’s, subject heads and educators to improve performance and ensuring co-ordination between goals, planning and activities.
    • A sense of engagement and belonging among educators and learners and a commitment to the school’s mission and core values.
    • Mutual respect, a secure school climate and warm relationships among educators and learners.
    • Strategies in place to motivate learners and make learning relevant, and
    • Strong support for the school from its community and positive home-school relationship.
  3. To achieve the above, school management and school policy/ies should reflect the following:
    • A concerted awareness of the importance of the study and implementation of the relevant legislation and policy documents. The South African Schools Act (SASA) clearly states in the PAM that it is the responsibility of the Principal to ensure that the school is managed satisfactorily and in compliance with applicable legislation, regulations and personnel administration measures and to ensure that the education of the learners is promoted in a proper manner and in accordance with approved policies.
    • Well formulated vision and mission statements. Schools should have well-structured aims, policies and procedures in place.
    • Proper planning by educators, and the use of an appropriate range of teaching strategies and resources. Homework is used effectively to assist learners to consolidate class work. Teaching approaches are set within a broad and balanced curriculum, which provides equal opportunities for all learners.
    • The emphasis on teamwork. School Development Plans are aligned to the vision and mission statement and reflect the school’s main priorities. Senior managers communicate well, both within the schools and to the broader school community.
    • Teamwork and shared decision-making. This enables Heads of Department to embrace the strengths of all members to the benefit of the specific Learning Area / subject. Educators understand what is expected, share good practice and help each other to make the most efficient use of their time and that of the learners.
    • The confidence of educators to initiate new ideas and experiment with varied teaching strategies. A spin off from the belief that they are responsible for initiating change and improvement is greater enthusiasm, higher motivation and more successful teaching.
    • The clarity with which the schools’ expectation of learners is spelt out. This contributes significantly to learners developing a positive attitude towards their work. Learners relate well to their educators and participate readily in all school activities, especially co-curricular activities.


1.3.1Legislative and Policy Framework


  • The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) [NEPA]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
  • South African Council for Educators Act 31 of 2000 [SACE]
  • Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 [EEA]



  • Personnel Administration Measures [PAM]

1.3.2How to develop a policy for a school (GDE resources)

Policy development at any level is a dynamic process. This is no exception at the school level where school policy – makers, implementers and stakeholders come face to face with each other. The process of policy development can be a daunting if not approached in a planned and co –ordinated manner.

At school level the School Governing Body (SGB) is responsible for developing school policy. In determining school policy, the SGB, must ensure that its provisions are aligned to the Constitution of the country, National and Provincial policy and Regulations.

A list of policies and documents required for an External Whole School Evaluation (EWE) are:

1.3.3GDE Exemplar Policies

Please note: although these Exemplars and Checklists below all originated from the Gauteng Department of Education, it is applicable for all the provinces. The documentation is in MS Word format in order for a school to change it and brand it as their own.

aAdmission Policy


The purpose of the admissions policy is to facilitate admissions to the school.

The South African Schools Act mandates the School Governing Body (SGB) to determine the admission policy of a school. The said admissions policy must be aligned to the admission policy published in terms of the National Education Policy Act, 1996.


The Gauteng Department of Education and Others vs the SGB of Rivonia Primary School court case can be referred to:

bDomestic and International Tours Policy

Also see Chapter 4.8 EXCURSIONS  and Chapter 10.7 TRANSPORT OF LEARNERS

The purpose of the policy is to provide educational, psychosocial and personal development of a learner through curricular and extracurricular activities offered by the school including school tours in order for the learner to participate actively in community life.

cLearner Attendance Policy


The primary purpose of the learner attendance policy is to:

Provide public schools with standard procedures for recording, managing and monitoring learner attendance.

Inform principals, educators, learners, parents and the SGB of their responsibilities towards promoting punctual and regular attendance at public schools.

dCode of Conduct for Learners

Also see Chapter 10.1 LEARNER MATTERS

The purpose of the policy is to set out the parameters within which learners should behave in order to protect and promote the integrity and security of each learner and all members of the school community.

eSchool Language Policy


To promote and develop all official languages.

To establish multilingualism as an approach to language in education.

To identify and determine a Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) as well as the approved language/s to be offered to learners at the school.

To ensure that no form of discrimination takes place on the basis of language.


High School Ermelo and Another vs the Mpumalanga Department of Education court case can be referred to:

fPolicy on Religion in Public Schools


The primary purpose of this religious policy is to:

  1. Ensure that there are no discriminatory practices amongst learners and staff in based on religious beliefs and orientation to a particular faith or religion.
  2. Promote tolerance and unity among learners and staff through diversity of religious practices and beliefs existing in the school community.
  3. Ensure that minority religions in a school are protected and respected and afforded the dignity and status equivalent to the majority religion in the school.
  4. Describe the nature and content of the following aspects of religion accommodated in the school:
  • Religious observances;
  • Freedom of conscience;
  • Freedom of religion;
  • Religion education;
  • Religious instruction;
  • Religious holidays; and
  • Religious festivals.
  • Closure of the school
  • Religion and admissions


  • GDE Exemplar Policy on Religion in Public Schools [Reference B3 RELIGION]
  • GDE Checklist: Policy on Religion in Public Schools [Reference B3 CHECKLIST: RELIGION]


gSchool Safety Policy


The overall purpose of the policy is to ensure that the school is safe for all and that effective measures are employed to address issues related to discipline, drugs, dangerous objects, violence, bullying, rape, assault, sexual abuse, theft and robbery.

  • GDE Exemplar School Safety Policy [Reference B3 SAFETY]
  • GDE Checklist: School Safety Policy Public Schools [Reference B3 CHECKLIST: SAFETY]

hSGB Constitution


The purpose of the constitution is to set out the parameters within which the school governing body should operate in order to promote the best interest of the school in its quest to provide quality education.

iHarassment Policy Framework

The Harassment Policy Framework is in effect a complementary instrument aimed at the prevention/restriction of harassment in the school environment.

See Chapter 12.22 Educators: Harassment

jGeneral School Policy Framework

General School Policy refers to all aspects of management in the school. This policy informs staff members regarding processes and procedures in dealing with matters at school. This ensures a safe and smooth-running school environment.  The general school policy framework is a suggestion of the contents of such a policy. Please note every school’s policy will differ.  Adapt this framework to suit the school’s needs.

  • Exemplar Index for General School Policy [Reference C GSP Index]


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