Westerford High: A Western Cape public school that’s pricey but maintains a 100% pass rate

Matric pupils from the Class of 2021 jump for joy after receiving their results. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Westerford High School in Cape Town has maintained a consistent 100% pass rate for years, which has positioned the 69-year-old academic institution as one of the country’s top schools.

Westerford High School in Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most expensive public schools, and costs about R44,991 in annual school fees. After the results of its matriculants in the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) exams, Westerford was pronounced the top school in the Western Cape. The high school’s 2020 matric cohort received a 100% pass rate and achieved a bachelor pass rate of 99.4%. The school reported a 100% pass rate for 2021.

Principal Mark Smith, in office since 2019, attributes the school’s continued success in the NSC exams to passionate learners and teachers.

“There are quality schools all over SA, so I think for starters it’s important not to be arrogant in thinking that we have a formula that’s different from anyone else. I believe the bulk of what we do is replicated in all the good schools that are in SA,” says Smith.

“That being said, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. Westerford has always had a very strong system; the teachers are passionate, and have always known the level of commitment that is required of them.”

Smith says that, although the institution takes “academic work very seriously”, it also “expects maturity” from its pupils – to arrive in class on time and to be involved in a variety of cultural activities and sport.

Westerford educators allow and encourage students to engage and ask questions, adds Smith.

“We are not an institution for rote learning, nor a cram school. Westerford is an interactive school,” he says.

Ayanda Tshuma cries with joy after receiving her matric results from Westerford High School in Rondebosch, Cape Town, on 21 January 2022. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Westerford High School receives about 2,500 applications for 180 Grade 8 spots each year, according to Smith. “We simply can’t take everybody.” However, Smith says he looks for “the sparkle factor” – a unique quality that a prospective student can add to the school.

“We take in learners from more than 60 different schools, and we have teachers who care for the pupils and want to ensure that each learner realises their potential from Grade 8 through to matric,” says Smith, who explains that the school tries to make sure that all Grade 8 learners coming in have a fair grounding.

Despite the school’s track record with excellent matric results, Smith says Westerford does not necessarily aim for a top position each year. “It’s not all about the matric results. It’s about the [high school] journey, and what you add to that journey – the memories,” says Smith.

Echoing Smith’s remarks, 2021 matric learner at Westerford Chad Tucker says the school’s teachers are “extremely dedicated” to the learners and their academic results.

“They work alongside pupils to help them reach their full potential, leading to excellent academic development. A major factor in Westerford’s matric academic success is the way in which content is taught from Grade 8 upwards, which fully prepares students for their matric year. The school has a hard-working atmosphere, which students feed off to push themselves academically,” says Tucker. DM168

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All Comments 5

  • Why doesn’t government evaluate all the differences between this and a poor performing public school to determine which factors possibly play into its success.
    The blame is always put on the pupils and poor home conditions but there are hundreds of examples where public school pupils have bucked that trend.
    Start working scientifically on the issue.

  • When I was in school in the 1970’s Westerford was the top performing schools in Cape Town, but it was always understood that only the top academic students where admitted and pupils who where not achieving where ‘encouraged’ to move to other schools. I need to believe this is no longer the case. By the way most top public schools in Joburg have fees in excess of R40k per anum

    • “it was always understood that only the top academic students where admitted and pupils who where not achieving where ‘encouraged’ to move to other schools”

      For the record, why do you think this is bad practice?

      There is substantial literature in the educational realm that suggests that underachievers unnecessarily impact all other students, and so a contract between student, parents and school is important.

      If the student and parents cannot fulfil the contract then I think the school is justified in terminating the contract, for the best outcome of all students.

      A school on its own is not a welfare system.

  • Another cape public school achieved a class average of 78% and many students with average over 90%

    Forty years ago two or three kids in a class of 125 would achieve 90+ in 1 or 2 subjects. The modern kids today must be REALLY smart! Or is there something in the water supply? Or, is 90% today the equivalent of 75% a few decades ago?

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