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More heat than light in report on Western Cape schools turnaround strategies

By Debbie Schäfer 19 November 2019

School turnaround strategies are based on a thorough understanding of the needs of every school, and providing appropriate support, says the writer. (Photo: Gallo Images / The Times / Daniel Born)

The provincial Education Minister in the Western Cape takes issue with an article published by Daily Maverick last week.

Suné Payne was probably not responsible for the headline on her article about turnaround strategies for underperforming schools in the Western Cape (Daily Maverick, 15 November).

The headline, under a Western Cape strapline, reads: “Finger-pointing, but no solutions for improving pass rates in poor schools.”

This headline is odd, given that the reply to a question in the Western Cape legislature listed 10 interventions that form part of a solution for improving the pass rate in poor schools.

The article did not deal with the substance of the reply, focusing instead on the heated exchange in the house.

The Western Cape Education Department can provide many examples of schools that have turned around, thanks to focused support.

Our turnaround strategies are based on a thorough understanding of the needs of every school, and providing appropriate support.

This applies to both primary and high schools. We have to focus on schools that need this support the most, which are inevitably in our poorest areas.

For high schools, this includes a detailed analysis of matric results, to identify areas needing attention per subject and question. This makes it possible to tailor support for very specific needs.

Every teacher receives a support package per subject. Subject advisers and senior curriculum planners visit teachers during the year to provide the necessary support.

The department organised tutoring programmes for learners at schools in the lower quintiles, in addition to providing every matric candidate with “Tips for Success” study guidelines for every subject and exemplar exam papers.

All districts implemented comprehensive support programmes for teachers and learners, focusing on schools needing the most support.

Western Cape has consistently good results while maintaining the highest retention rates in the country in Grades 10 to 12, by far, thanks to the hard work of our schools and the support they receive from districts and our head office.

The Western Cape government has taken this support further by establishing this year an independent School Evaluations Authority, tasked with supporting school improvement by identifying factors that matter most for quality education, particularly learning, leadership, governance and safety.

The reports will be published online to enhance transparency and accountability. Western Cape is the only province to have established such a body.

Daily Maverick’s claim that Western Cape has “no solutions for improving pass rates in poor schools” has misinformed its readers and does our schools and those who provide support a great disservice.

The Western Cape Education Department will be happy to share further information with your readers on our support strategies. DM

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