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Policy Papers and Research

An Investigation into Appropriate Ways of Implementing Institutional Development (Whole School Development)

"Although the idea of whole school development is an important one, there are numerous issues and problems which inhibit the development and efficiency of educational institutions world-wide.

Most of these problems are connected to poor methods of planning, poor staff development programmes, poor and undemocratic school management, lack of facilities, contradictions and conflicts between policy development and policy implementation strategies, poverty, etc.

In the case of South Africa, these and other institutional development issues have created a wide gap between what the country intends to achieve in terms of quantity and quality through its education policy and Curriculum 2005, and what is actually being done in schools to achieve it. This gap is especially visible in schools within highly disadvantaged communities and regions.

The findings and conclusions of this study reveal that the rate and level of School Development in relation to the Culture of Teaching and Learning and School Governance is generally very poor across Thohoyandou high schools. This is not caused by a single factor. There are several inter-related factors contributing to this situation.

Schools cannot be expected to function well and produce quality services and products under conditions such as the ones revealed above.

Low academic qualifications of most teachers, combined with factors such as high teacher-student ratio, poor classrooms, lack of school libraries, lack of staff-rooms, lack of staff development programmes, low teacher morale, students and staff indiscipline, poor skills in school governance by principals and heads of departments, poor home environment, lack of parental involvement in education and so many other factors need to be addressed seriously in order to improve the culture of teaching and l earning, school governance and whole school development in Thohoyandou and similar contexts."

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Case Study: A Whole-School Development Initiative

The Edcon Adopt-a-School Programme worked with the key stakeholders of adopted schools such as the principals and staff, the SGB, Department of Education, to improve teaching, learner performance, school infrastructure and the overall school environment. This approach ensured that learners received the best possible education and performed at their best; that educators had the right skills and capacity to impart knowledge and apply the curriculum, and also helped create school environments that were conducive to teaching and learning.

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Change Management: Best Practice in Whole School Development

This study was established to formulate a competency profile for change management based on a role analysis of School Management Teams.


1. Characteristic of the schools where change is well-managed is the presence of constructive leadership attitudes. Imaginative ways of implementing externally generated change are found. Furthermore, these schools have a relatively high incidence of internally generated change, such as fund-raising.

2. Principals are more positive about the future than educators who feel pessimistic about most of the recent changes that have taken place. The continuing prospect of rationalisation is by far the most mentioned cause of anxiety, which is understandable in a province such as the Northern Cape where educator: learner ratios are relatively low. Educators in schools of the former Cape Education Department are the most pessimistic.

3. Policy changes, particularly the abolishment of corporal punishment and greater learner diversity, are experienced by educators as increased workload, contributing to low morale. Under these circumstances school managers not only need to initiate alternative organisational systems, curriculum development and in-service training, they have to formulate strategies for improving staff performance.

4. All stakeholders, principals, educators, parents and learners, are convinced that the moral integrity of managers is their most important contribution. It is the public expression of values that provides a measure of stability during times of social and organisational change.

5. Interpersonal skills are always mentioned as a necessity. It is evident that there has been a significant shift towards a more democratic approach to school management. The principal is now part of a School Management Team, and needs to consult all stakeholders. The selected schools all had in place well-established structures and systems to facilitate decision making, that is both participatory and efficient. Participatory management competence is therefore essential.

6. The introduction of Governing Bodies is a significant innovation. Principals in the exemplary schools all co-operate closely with their Governing Body and view its contribution as crucial to the smooth functioning of the school. In certain situations School Governing Bodies have an extended role in attaining 'unpopular' objectives: for example, under-performing educators or parents not paying school-fees are reported to it. In one of the schools the Governing Body led a successful protest action against the Education Department.

7. Socio-economic inequalities continue to be a distinguishing factor between schools. A principal of a former model-C school, charging fees of R3-4,000 per annum, is in a very different position to the principal of a former House of Representatives or DET school where it is a struggle to obtain R15 in annual fees from the parents. The range of managerial competencies appropriate in one setting could be very different to those in another.

8. The current context of change requires of managers competencies in these roles: Beacon of moral integrity Driving force Manager of crises Multicultural manager Facilitator of participatory structures Pioneer of alternative organisational systems Negotiator Manager of multiple roles.

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The National Policy on Whole School Evaluation

Government Gazette Vol.433, No. 22512 of July 2001, Pretoria

wsdpolicyWhole-school evaluation is the cornerstone of the quality assurance system in schools. It enables a school and external supervisors to provide an account of the school’s current performance and to show to what extent it meets national goals and the needs of the public and communities. This approach provides the opportunity for acknowledging the achievements of a school and for identifying areas that need attention. Whole-school evaluation implies the need for all schools to look continuously for ways of improving, and the commitment of Government to provide development programmes designed to support their efforts.

For many years, there has been no national system of evaluating the performance of schools, and there is no comprehensive data on the quality of teaching and learning, or on the educational standards achieved in the system. As a result, the National Policy on Whole-school Evaluation is being introduced. This complements other quality assurance initiatives conducted under the aegis of systemic evaluation, namely: accreditation of providers, programme and service reviews and monitoring learning achievements. 

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Conceptualising whole school development: examining the approaches of non-government organisations to school development in South Africa

This study attempts to provide conceptual clarification around the concept of whole school development in South Africa. It does so through examining the approaches to school development of five non-government organisations in South Africa as well as the literature and research in the areas of school effectiveness, school improvement and educational change.

The concept of whole school development emerged in South Africa in the 1990s. It was seen as the way to develop quality schooling where individual teacher inservice programmes traditionally offered by NGOs had failed. The literature review presents two different ways of approaching school change: namely school effectiveness and school improvement. It locates the South African concept of whole school development within the international paradigm of school improvement because it has a clear commitment to understanding the process of school change.

International research suggests that there is a need for school change processes to deal with school culture and not only with changing school structures and procedure. A focus on changing culture seems to suggest an understanding of change which is normative-re-educative.

School development planning is the most common strategy for school development and this study suggests that it needs to be implemented in an holistic way. These themes are conceptualised as continua. After presenting the data from the interviews, the study then maps the work of the five organisations onto these continua.

Common themes which emerge are that all the organisations make use of school development planning to some extent: all organisations rely on well-skilled facilitators and all acknowledge the imperative to build the capacity of teachers within the school to lead their own development process through a school development committee.

The study ends by suggesting three principles of procedure which can be used in school development. These are that school development needs to focus both on structure and culture; that an organising framework is needed to help schools prioritise the issues and that a systemic way of approaching problems is useful. Some of the challenges facing whole school development, particularly around issues of replicability. sustainability and the role of the community are explored.

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