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Newsletters


2017-07-28
Newsletter 113 NEEDU - State of South African Education System


The state of our education system - NEEDU

Nick Taylor |

03 May 2013

"This is an extract from the National Report submitted in 2013. The full report is available under the resources tab." 

A brief history of NEEDU

As the name indicates, NEEDU is designed as an evaluation and development institution which is independent of that part of the civil service responsible for the administration of schools. The need for a facility of this kind was first formally articulated in a resolution passed at the Polokwane conference of the ANC in December 2007. This was followed by the appointment by Minister of Education Naledi pandor of a Committee to investigate the matter. The Ministerial Committee recommended the establishment of NEEDU (DOE, 2009a), and the institution was set up shortly after Minister Angie Motshekga was appointed following the general election of 2009.

The Ministerial Committee recommended that NEEDU should provide the Minister of Education with an authoritative, analytical and accurate account on the state of schools in South Africa and, in particular, on the status of teaching and learning. The present document is the first such report to the Minister of Basic Education.

 Conclusion

The purpose of monitoring teaching practices and learning outcomes on the part of the SMT is to identify strengths and weaknesses in the school in order to make best use of the former and minimise the latter. In ‘atomised' schools (Elmore, 2008) there is little or no contact between teachers on matters of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. Teachers work in isolation behind closed classroom doors. Under these circumstances there is little room for improvement. Teachers using ineffective practices cannot learn anything new, while any potential for the best teachers to share what they do is lost. A primary function of the SMT is to facilitate the cross pollination of ideas and practices within the school, and all instructional leadership practices should be directed to this aim.

The school visits undertaken in 2012 as part of the present evaluation reflect the frustration expressed by respondents at the lack of returns to most attempts to build teacher capacity. There is clearly a slippage between qualifications and competence. Yet, the teacher subject knowledge capacitation model has become firmly lodged in South African educational commonsense, and the same old remedies continue to be applied: afternoon workshops, and add-on programmes by distance and short courses by the universities and NGOs. provincial departments of education are beginning to establish their own programmes and training capacities and two of these in particular - the LNI of the WCED and Gauteng's GPLMS - require major evaluations to determine their impact.

Finally, in far too many schools, teachers and leaders alike look outside the school - to the district, province, or non-government partners - for help. But a promising but under-utilised source of assistance lies within the school itself. Outside parties can provide no more than occasional support to teachers, whereas their peers within the school are constantly available, at break, between lessons or in the afternoons. Moreover, intra-institutional assistance is likely to be far more effective, since it is offered within a direct understanding of the contextual conditions that pertain in the school, and can be offered continuously throughout the year. This is a resource that deserves to be far more widely used. We argue further below.

Recommendations

In Section 3 above, we distinguished between two major classes of problems besetting teaching and learning: ‘won't' and ‘can't' problems. The former require institutional solutions; the latter require capacitation solutions. The school improvement research literature is unequivocal that institutional functionality must be fixed before capacitation strategies can ‘take'. This is partly why INSET initiatives have delivered such disappointing results so far. Consequently, we begin below with the first priority, which is achieving institutional functionality.

7.1 Achieving institutional functionality

Learning cannot occur without time being devoted to it. While the problem of poor time-keeping in schools is not as serious as it once was, too much time is lost in about one-third of the 133 schools visited in 2012. This applies to the urban primary schools of this study. The main problem is learners coming late in the mornings. Much time is also lost between lessons, at the end of breaks and even during lessons. More efficient use of time not only provides for more opportunity to learn, but becoming aware of time, and of productivity, is an important disciplinary mechanism for learning. Most important of all, young citizens growing up under conditions of institutional inefficiency and a loose approach to time management are likely to internalize these bad habits.

In such schools principals must work with their SMTs and SGBs to tighten up on punctuality and the efficient use of time. This means attending to late arrivals in the morning, minimizing days lost to extra-curricular activities, and having a zero tolerance policy with respect to teachers not teaching when they should be. A culture of good time use, in the interests of learning, must begin to permeate the school. The question of sick leave abuse must be addressed.

Recommendation 1a

Principals are responsible for maintaining efficient time management practices in their schools. Circuit Managers are responsible for ensuring that principals do their jobs in this regard. Circuit Managers must work with principals in schools in which time is not optimally used for teaching and learning. Principals must be assisted to exert firm leadership and sound time keeping practices throughout the school. CMs and principals must be equipped with training in basic hR procedures. Each province needs a strong hR school strategy, including leave management, and a provincial level capacity to deal with problematic cases.

Recommendation 1b

The DBE should undertake an investigation into the regulations regarding sick leave, and amend the system so as to circumvent abuse.

7.2 Instructional leadership

7.2.1 building the school management team

It is the responsibility of the principal to lead curriculum delivery. While tasks and responsibilities should be formally distributed to members of the SMT and teachers, the principal must direct the overall strategy. high degrees of responsibility should be delegated to the SMT, and to individual Dps, HODs and senior teachers, but overall accountability for the processes and outcomes of learning rests with the principal. The slogan ‘Leading for learning' is appropriate as a guiding light for school leaders. It is the function of the district office, and of Circuit Managers in particular, to ensure that a set of roles and responsibilities is developed and assigned in each school. This assignment should be signed off and monitored by the CM.

Recommendation 2

A division of labour must be established within the school, with important tasks defined, planned and allocated to senior members of staff. The SMT must meet regularly to monitor progress against explicit learning goals, identify problems and plan activities. The tasks that require the establishment and maintenance of systems are: design and maintenance of appropriate language policy, curriculum planning, construction of school norms for tracking and strengthening reading and writing, procuring and managing LTSM, moderation of assessment, analysis of test results, and teacher professional development. Each of these is discussed in more detail below.

7.2.2 Language

Language is the medium through which all learning occurs and if learners and teachers are not proficient in the language of teaching and learning, then learning will be severely inhibited. As can be expected under the conditions of high inward population migration to the districts evaluated in 2012, the language ecology of many schools visited was found to be very complex.

Three factors are mainly responsible for this situation. First, in many schools the home languages of learners may number anything between 1 and 11. Consequently, whichever language is chosen as the LOLT in the FP, significant minorities and not uncommonly majorities, are schooled in a language that is not their home language. Second, rapid dialectisation of African languages, including Afrikaans, makes written communication - through textbooks, curriculum documents and ANA test papers - difficult. The problem of terminology in mathematics is a third complicating factor.

There are three main strategies for dealing with this complex and thorny issue.

1) Leave the situation as it is.

If the situation remains as it is at present, we can expect schools to do one of two things:

a) Decide to stick with one or other home language as LOLT in the FP, because

i) They believe mother tongue instruction is educationally superior; or because

ii) The teachers in the school are not proficient enough in any other LOLT.

b) Opt for English or Afrikaans as LOLT, because i) parents want it for their children

ii) Schools want to emulate nearby schools, so as not to lose learners and teachers to such schools, or because

iii) Schools wish to smooth the transition to the IP.

Under these circumstances, there will probably be a slow but steady drift towards English (or Afrikaans) as the de facto LOLT, especially in urban areas, but increasingly in rural schools too.

2) Standardise the African languages and commission sets of graded readers in all official languages.

This is a longer-term strategy, which will not prevent the choices of schools in the shorter term.

3) Make English the LOLT in the FP. This will pre-empt unregulated drift.

All of these options have their drawbacks. Paradoxically, in the high-flux situation we have at present, option 1 might be the most judicious for the moment.

Recommendation 3A

The DBE needs to commission the writing of graded sets of reading materials for use in the FP for the nine official African languages. The question of language standardisation must be taken into account in this process.

Recommendation 3B

Additional language-trained subject advisors in each of the main languages spoken in each district are required to provide leadership, advice and training to schools, teachers and parents. Their main task must be to assist SGBs to make wise language choices for LOLT and FAL, and to develop programmes for improving the proficiency of teachers and learners in their chosen LOLT. It is important that the language choices of parents are respected.

While most schools struggle with language issues, few have investigated programmes dedicated to this goal. It is recommended that provinces investigate such programmes and issue a list of preferred programmes. The most effective of these could be implemented in selected schools, led by Subject Advisors.

Recommendation 3C

Schools must make a special effort to improve the proficiency of learners and teachers in both LOLT and FAL. One option is to recruit first language speakers to teach language classes for both LOLT and FAL, wherever feasible.

Recommendation 3D

The planned introduction of an African language, other than Afrikaans, for all learners is a positive policy in the interests of nation building. The current shortage of African language teachers indicates that implementation should occur with caution, and only when teachers are available.

7.2.3 Reading

Reading is the process through which learners learn to engage meaningfully with what they learn. This is the most important skill to be learnt in the FP. Every learner should be reading independently by the end of Grade 1. This requires that teachers pay attention to each learner, assessing reading throughout the year and giving particular attention to those experiencing difficulties. In Grades 2 and 3, teachers should continuously raise their expectations of learners, getting them to read progressively more complex texts and to respond to increasingly challenging comprehension exercises. particular attention must be given to developing inferential and interpretive reasoning. Learners must be led to engage with ‘Why' and ‘how' questions.

The reading fluency of the six top learners in schools visited in 2012 was disappointing. Most learners tested were found to be reading well below the ‘average' benchmark for their grade. Similarly, the reading comprehension of the learners, tested by asking five simple questions related to a short text, was found to be poor. Both scores also varied widely within and across schools, and SAs must work with the SMTs to achieve greater consistency of reading instruction.

Low teacher expectations, based on a limited understanding of the literacy potential of 6-9 year old children, is a major inhibiting factor. Teachers seem satisfied to achieve low levels of text decoding, rather than treating decoding skills as the foundation from which to launch the main goal of developing increasingly sophisticated comprehension powers.

Recommendation 4

National norms should be set for reading proficiency, led by the DBE. Fluency and comprehension levels should be defined by grade level. District and provincial curriculum officials should coordinate their implementation at the district level, together with the involvement of teachers. National norms for reading in South African languages are not currently available, and should be developed during 2013. A suggested starting point is provided in Table 74, reproduced here:

Grade

Level of learner

Reading a story: number of words per minute

By the end of Term 2

By the end of Term 4

1

Top

N/A

100

Middle

N/A

50

Bottom

N/A

15

2

Top

125

140

Middle

70

90

Bottom

20

30

3

Top

145

160

Middle

95

100

Bottom

35

50

Since 2013 is the final year of CAPS training, training workshops in the use of these norms, and the others we discuss below, should commence in 2014, funded through the Skills Levy.

Recommendation 5

Members of the SMT should monitor learner reading systematically against the norms established above. Learners throughout the school should be assessed annually, and the progress of weaker readers tracked at least quarterly. SMT members should do this by getting learners to read a story from an unfamiliar book, and to count how many words are read per minute. Comprehension should also be tested, and this aspect must constitute a component of every written test.

Recommendation 6

The LNI of the WCED and GPLMS of the GDE should be the subject of rigorous evaluations to assess their impact. Such studies should combine quantitative techniques capable of measuring the extent of impact of the programme on student learning, with a qualitative component which seeks to understand which aspects of the intervention are most effective in improving the teaching of reading and writing. In view of the fact that the findings of such a study are in the national interest, it is recommended that the evaluation be commissioned and directed by the DBE, or the Minister's office.

7.2.4 Writing

Writing is central in shaping the way we think, reason, and learn. While writing helps us remember and understand ideas, some tasks, like writing summaries, descriptions of events, expressive pieces or analytical essays, require a deeper level of processing than answering multiple choice, cloze or short answer questions. Research studies have found that the degree to which information is reformulated or manipulated through writing has an impact on how well the information is integrated, learned, and retained. This finding indicates that extended writing (of paragraph length or longer) is more effective than shorter forms of writing (words or sentences) in developing the higher cognitive functions of inference, interpretation and analysis. Learner writing is one of the most neglected areas in South African primary schools.

Recommendation 7

National norms for writing in the LOLT have been suggested in the CApS. These should be adapted by the DBE and provinces for the LOLT and the FAL during 2013, in terms of the quantity and quality of independent writing to be undertaken in learners' exercise books. This is another process that should involve subject advisors and HODs. An example of such a set of norms for writing in the LOLT is shown in Table 8.

Table 8: Suggested norms for writing in LOLT, Grades 1-3

Grade

By the end of Term 2

By the end of Term 4

CAPS Requirements

Suggested number

CAPS Requirements

Suggested number

GRADE 1

Writing sentences

At least 5 exercises of sentence writing by the end of the semester

Paragraph - three sentences

At least one exercise per week throughout the second semester

GRADE 2

Paragraph - 4 to 6sentences

At least one exercise per week in the first semester

Story - 1 to 2 paragraphs(10 sentences)

At least one exercise per week for the last semes- ter

GRADE 3

Story - 2 paragraphs(10 sentences)

At least one exercise per week

Story - 2 paragraphs(12 or more sentences)

At least one exercise per week for the last semester

Source: Curriculum and Assessment policy Statement, English home Language, Foundation phase, Grades R-3

In the same way, norms should be set for writing in mathematics. An example is given in Table 9, which summarises the CApS requirements for the various topics and their number ranges to be explored in mathematics writing in classes in the FP.

Table 9: Suggested norms for mathematics writing by topic, Grades 1-3

Topic

End of term

Grade 1

Grade 2

Grade 3

Addition and subtraction

2

Add to 10Subtract from 10

Answers up to 50

Answers up to 400

4

Add to 20Subtract from 20

Answers up to 99

Answers up to 999

Multiplication

2

Up to 10

1 to 10, by 2 and 5

1 to 10 by 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 to 50

4

Up to 20

1 to 10, by 2, 5, 3, 4

1 to 10 by 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 to 100

Division

2

N/A

Up to 30, may includeremainders

Divide nos up to 50 by 2,3, 4, 5, 10

4

N/A

Up to 50, may includeremainders

Divide nos up to 99 by 2,3, 4, 5, 10

Problem solving

2

Answers up to 10

Answers up to 50

Answers up to 400

4

Answers up to 20

Answers up to 99

Answers up to 999

Fractions

2

N/A

Halves, quarters, thirds and fifths

Sixths and eighths

4

N/A

Source: Curriculum and Assessment policy Statement, Mathematics, Foundation phase, Grades R-3

Recommendation 8

School leaders should monitor learner writing throughout the school, according to norms such as those shown above. This is best done by examining learner books quarterly. In particular, a systematic programme of extended writing should be developed for each grade. It is not enough merely to look at learner books and stamp and sign them: the quality of writing in both language and mathematics must be systematically assessed.

In language and the content subjects (life skills, EMS, etc.) learners should write on four days a week at least. Teachers should set exercises that require learners to write sentences, paragraphs and extended paragraphs. They should be asked to describe events, express their feelings, and analyse current events. These are the exercises that develop higher cognitive capacity, and they should be set at least once a week.

In mathematics, learners should also write at least four times a week. At least once a week they should undertake ‘word problems'.

7.2.5 books

Developing a systematic understanding of any subject is not possible without being able to read a range of materials. Learning to read is a continuous process that occurs throughout one's life. As the learner's reading fluency and comprehension powers develop, so she needs to read books which provide her with an expanding vocabulary, an increasingly complex array of grammatical structures, and a wider range of genres (stories, biography, non-fiction, poetry). Graded sets of readers are designed to provide these essential reading resources in a structured manner. It is important that schools acquire a number of such sets of readers and carefully manage them to serve succeeding generations of learners. The DBE workbooks are a very important supplement to school resources but, on their own, are insufficient to sustain reading and writing at the required levels.

Recommendation 9

The DBE workbook programme should be continued. The books should be assessed against the curriculum and amended where necessary. Teacher guides should be developed. Learners should work systematically through the DBE workbooks during the course of the year, and assisting teachers to do so is another instructional leadership task for the SMT.

Recommendation 10

Increased allocations from the provincial budget must be found to better equip schools with increased quantities of reading material in the FP. Subject advisors should research this field and identify suitable sets of graded readers in the various LOLTs and FALs offered in the district. The DBE and provinces could issue lists of preferred readers.

principals should ensure that readers are procured in greater quantities and effectively deployed in FP language classes. Children should be reading at least one book a week throughout the FP, which means that classes should have at least 30-40 different readers available, as part of one or more graded sets. All schools should work towards this ideal. An effective book retrieval system must be established in each school to manage these resources cost-effectively.

Procurement of a textbook and/or workbook for mathematics for each grade in the FP is also strongly recommended. Many teachers provide sets of worksheets in the absence of text/workbooks. This is not recommended, as worksheets developed by teachers are generally not as systematically designed as books, and often contain large gaps and inconsistent progression in the development of concepts and skills.

7.2.6 Assessment

The ANA tests are having a positive effect on planning and monitoring instruction, both within schools and as a systemic tool. The DBE guidelines (DBE, 2011c) on how to do this are useful, but most schools seem unaware of their existence, and most who know about them seem not to understand how to use them.

Recommendation 11A

Regarding the use of the ANA tests to assist teachers, the province and district should use the 2012

ANA scores to help schools undertake useful item analyses of assessment exercises. SMT members should be directed to moderate test and examination papers to ensure they are at the right standard specified by the curriculum. All test results (ANA, common tests set by the province or district, and SBA) should be used at the school level to identify teachers and learners who are having problems with particular topics, and to identify topics that are commonly found to be difficult. It is important to look at the results for each question in the test (item analysis), in order to understand how effectively teachers and learners are progressing on the topic in question.

Recommendation 11B

Regarding the use of ANA for systemic assessment purposes, it is important that the exercise enjoys the highest levels of confidence among teachers, academics and the general public. According to Bruns et al (2011) a key to the success of the Brazilian national testing programme has been the high level of credibility enjoyed by the results among stakeholders. Therefore, before attempting to make claims about changes in test scores over time, the system needs to achieve tighter standardisation of administration and data collation, and give careful attention to the psychometric comparability of succeeding tests. It is recommended that an external agency be commissioned to undertake these tasks, with the participation of DBE officials.

7.2.7 Professional development

Poor subject knowledge on the part of teachers continues to be a critical problem. At the same time, decades of training by provincial education departments, universities and NGOs have produced disappointing results. Regarding the quality of pRESET, little is known, a gap which is best remedied through a discussion among university providers and the Department of higher Education and Training. promising new models of INSET, based on intensive residentially based subject content training, accompanied by in-school support, require further investigation. This task should be budgeted for and coordinated by the DBE.

In the meantime, the most important task of school leaders is to facilitate professional development within the school. District level officials cannot begin to provide sufficient support to teachers, given the large number of schools they administer and the logistical obstacles they face in getting to schools. Rather, they should focus on assisting school-level personnel - heads of department, deputy principals and principals - to undertake the support of their own teachers.

Any school can improve the average level of its own capacity by sharing the knowledge held by the best teachers. For example, during the investigation of Grade 2 reading across the country, evaluators found that one of the teachers in each pair observed exhibited more appropriate pacing and level of cognitive engagement in her class than the other. Such a situation is ideal for internal staff development, where the two teachers, together with others at the same grade level, learn from each other through lesson observation, team teaching and mentoring.

Recommendation 12

The DBE should commission a study to investigate models for effective teacher capacitation, including INSET. In particular, the LNI and GPLMS should be subjected to rigorous evaluations to assess their impact.

At school level, SMTs should structure and lead systematic learning opportunities for teachers. In the Foundation phase these should be focused on the development of reading and writing norms, discussion of difficult topic areas, and the exploration of different pedagogical techniques for particular topics, especially the teaching of reading and number concept.

The task of provincial and district officials is to develop the capacity among school leaders to maintain an effective system of in-school professional development. programmes to develop reading, literacy and English proficiency are urgently needed.

7.3 Professionalising the civil service

There are two practices that pre-empt appointment and promotion of personnel on the basis of competence and expertise. The first is seniority, the second, patronage. Seniority is a practice commonly found in all bureaucracies. It defines level of competence in terms of years of service. While this might be valid in some situations, we know it is not a reliable method for ascertaining educator competence in South Africa.

There is general acceptance that significant parts of the South African state and civil service are affected by patronage as a mechanism for the appointment and promotion of staff. In general, lines of patronage run along established networks and a host of informal associations: families, churches, political parties, trade unions, old school tie, sport, criminal associations, the list is endless. Bribery and other forms of corruption often serve to grease the networks.

It is not surprising that seniority and patronage play such a significant part in employment and promotion in all spheres of society and in the public sector in particular. In the absence of other selection criteria, seniority is an easy way out and patronage a constant temptation. What then might an alternative system look like? And with respect to the current report, what criteria should be used to select teachers and officials and to promote them, so that the skills needed to run this large and complex system are more appropriately developed and deployed?

The National planning Commission has characterized present conditions in the South African civil service as symptomatic of those prevalent in societies in decline (NPC, 2011). More optimistically, these conditions are also typical of those preceding periods of renewal, as happened in England in the nineteenth century. Following the Crimean War - a military and administrative debacle for England - the Northcote-Trevelyan committee was established to investigate ways of making the civil service more efficient.

In their report of 1854 Northcote and Trevelyan diagnosed the problem as arising from the tendency for the well-born to use their influence to place those sons who were not suited to competition in the ‘open professions' in the civil service. Under this system of patronage, the service came to be dominated by the ‘the unambitious, and the indolent or incapable', and both internal efficiency and public estimation suffered. Northcote and Trevelyan proposed the use of a different principal for employment and promotion:

The general principle, then, which we advocate is, that the public service should be carried on by the admission into its lower ranks of a carefully selected body of young men, who should be employed from the first upon work suited to their capacities and their education, and should be made constantly to feel that their promotion and future prospects depend entirely on the industry and ability with which they discharge their duties, ....that with superior powers they may rationally hope to attain to the highest prizes in the Service, while if they prove decidedly incompetent, or incurably indolent, they must expect to be removed from it.

Northcote and Trevelyan, 1854

The mechanism for effecting this principal was the civil service exam, a system used in China, on and off, for over 2 000 years (Franke, 1960). Apart from the obvious gender bias revealed in the above quote and the discrimination against the disabled in the following one, the English reforms had a socially egalitarian ideal; the exam was to be:

open to ... all persons, of a given age, subject only, as before suggested, to the necessity of their giving satisfactory references to persons able to speak to their moral conduct and character, and of producing medical certificates to the effect that they have no bodily infirmity likely to incapacitate them for the public service. ... It is only by throwing the examinations entirely open that we can hope to attract the proper class of candidates

Northcote and Trevelyan, 1854

If South Africa were to adopt such a mechanism to control entry into and promotion within the school sector, the criteria for structuring assessment will be found in the subject, pedagogical and curriculum knowledge described in Section 3 above. The task of translating such knowledge and competence requirements into a set of assessment tools is a technical task beyond the scope of the present report, although we will return to this issue in broad outline in the recommendations below. But first, let us complete the motivation for such a mechanism.

Historical precedent tells us that an assessment of expertise as a precondition for entry into defined jobs in the civil service is a mechanism to combat seniority and patronage and promote efficiency. Its introduction is inevitably met with resistance from within for the obvious reason that the many incumbents who have been beneficiaries of patronage will be threatened by such a change.

For this reason, many attempts to reform the public sector are met with failure. Success depends on strong political will exercised over a sufficient period of time to entrench the new ways of doing things. The Northcote-Trevelyan proposals that took the best part of three decades to become embedded in much of the English civil service is such an example. This is inevitably an evolutionary process, which should not affect the current status of incumbents, except insofar as they seek further promotion.

However, once such a mechanism is applied it will cause prospective new teachers, existing teachers working for promotion, and the providers of teacher education programmes to focus their attention on the knowledge and skills required to effectively undertake teaching and the many leadership and administrative roles necessary to maintaining schooling. It will begin to infuse the system with an expert-focused ethic. Knowledge, competence and expertise, not connections, will ensure progress and prestige.

We have presented evidence that the current system of education skills production is itself very diverse, with large parts of it inefficient and widely distrusted. A new system of selection and promotion is likely to stimulate the production and consumption of a new set of educational  programmes, directed towards the requirements of school subjects, including efficient institutional leadership. Offering such programmes for delivery via the internet, for example, will attract and promote the smartest and most highly motivated people.

We turn now to a consideration of what this might mean in practice. We suggest that implementation of a programme of screening prospective employees for their expertise begins with four key positions: phase- or Subject heads at school level (generally known as heads of Dept or HODs) and principals, and district-level Subject Advisors (SAs) and Circuit Managers (CMs).

School HoDs and Subject Advisors

Given the intellectual demands of the curriculum, and the need to assist schools to establish and maintain effective instructional leadership practices, we recommend that the principle of competency tests be applied throughout the system, beginning with school level heads of department (HODs). We have argued that HODs are in a far better position than district officials to provide substantive ongoing support to teachers who are struggling with the knowledge and pedagogic demands of the curriculum. HODs are the only teachers that are in a position to offer sustained assistance frequently, and at the depth required, to effect substantive changes in classroom practice.

Since HODs occupy such a key position in the school, it is important to select them according to the expertise required to do the job effectively. First among these is subject knowledge, a prerequisite but not sufficient condition for understanding classroom practice. This is a quality evidently lacking in many South African teachers, as we have shown. A language teacher who is unable to respond to interpretive comprehension questions herself, or a mathematics teacher who has a weak grasp of the concept of ratio, cannot be promoted to hOD, since the hOD must be in a position to assist teachers to understand these functions, and to convey them in the classroom.

A second essential attribute of an hOD is that she must have been a successful teacher, as shown by better than average learner outcomes of classes she has taught. Another skill required by HODs is a practical knowledge of the curriculum. For example, are they able to extract the kind of rubrics shown in Table 8 and Table 9 from CApS? An elementary knowledge of psychometric principles and procedures would be a recommendation.

Subject Advisors should be appointed from the ranks of highly successful HODs, Dps and principals. They should be able to demonstrate very superior subject and pedagogical knowledge.

Recommendation 13

The DBE, in conjunction with experts from the tertiary sector, should establish during 2013 the competencies required to exercise the functions of hOD and SA. These will include sound subject knowledge and proven teaching expertise at the entry level, movint to and understanding the principles of assessment and the ability to apply basic psychometric techniques in the analysis of assessment data. This is a task already in progress under the auspices of the human Resources Commission, and the DBE should engage with the hRC to ensure that a comprehensive system of most use to schooling is designed. In future, all new HODs must be appointed using these guidelines, and a rigorous assessment of the competencies required for the position should be instituted. This will establish the baseline competency for higher promotion posts, to principal then CM or SA at district level.

Circuit managers and principals

Principals make an enormous difference to school performance. They establish authority in both the behavioural and curricular domains, set up systems for instructional leadership, and assure the quality of all school functions. They too need to be selected with an eye firmly on the knowledge and competencies required for this key position.

Recommendation 14

The DBE, in conjunction with experts from the tertiary sector, should revisit the norms it uses to appoint principals. Once the norms have been revised according to the requirements of the job, including a good understanding and track record in effective instructional leadership practices, all future appointments should be made according to these criteria. The requirements must include having been a successful hOD or deputy principal. In addition, prospective principals must be competent in HR management, including conflict resolution and the principles of industrial relations, understanding relevant legal frameworks and departmental regulations being proficient in the capture and use of data using SA-SAMS, understand the financial requirements of the PFMA, and be held in high esteem by their peers. The same applies to circuit managers, whose first requirement must be that they were excellent principals.

Acknowledgements

The District Reports, in turn, were derived from 133 School Reports written by: Arackal George, Azwindini Masia, Ben Lubisi, Bhekisisa Mvelase, Bongi Maria Nkabinde, Caashief Lombard, Christopher Deliwe, Claudette Coollen, Darryl Boswell, Elise Lecuona, Getrude Marajh, Gugulethu Bophela, Jeanette Marchant, Jennifer Roberts, June Engelbrecht, Kim Draper, Lindile Mtongana, Margaret Mayers, Mark potterton, Nancy Mdabula, Nick Taylor, Nompumelelo Mtshali, Rose Magwai, Selvin Daniels, Shaeda Dadabhay, Sibusiso Sithole, Suliman Saloojee, vithagan Rajagopaul, Yousuf Gabru