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Chapter 1

ACTS, REGULATIONS, POLICIES, GUIDELINES AND RESOLUTIONS

1.2 SCHOOL POLICY AND THE EFFECTIVE (BEST PRACTICE) SCHOOL

1.2.1Legislative and Policy Framework

ACTS

  • 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]

 

GUIDELINES

  • 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.