Newsletter 167 - NEEDU - Schools That Work II - Recommendations relating to Schools


Every child deserves a high-quality education, regardless of his or her family’s income or background. There is a need, therefore, to think beyond what is known as the traditional means of education and find a new vision for academics in our education system. This new vision must encompass several forward thinking, innovative strategies aimed at meeting the needs of all learners in all schools.


Seven recommendations have been made towards making this vision a reality. These recommendations are organised according to different layers of the system, namely schools, district offices and provincial/national offices.



Our analysis leads us to the conclusion that it is the collective work of teachers, learners, parents, and different structures in the community that will ultimately lead to all children “accessing and benefitting from a high quality education” as envisioned by the National Development Plan (NDP, p. 264). Although many suggestions can be made to ensure that “schools provide all learners with an excellent education” (NDP, 2011: 264), we make the following three school-level recommendations, which can be actioned by the members of the school management teams led by the Principals:




RECOMMENDATION 1—INTRA-AND INTER-SCHOOL NETWORKING: Sharing successes should be an integral part of the work of an improving school. There are aspects in every teacher’s work and every school’s work which reflect the best practice which others can learn from.

  • It is recommended that sharing of good practices should begin with teachers having regular professional conversations about curriculum delivery among themselves within their department, across departments (interdisciplinary discussions), and across different phases within a school, as well as across schools within a circuit, district, province and across provinces.
  • Develop a climate of openness and sharing within school and across schools— sharing practice within school and beyond;
  • Develop networking systems within school and between schools; and
  • Link schools and teachers to address specific training needs and develop networking opportunities.
  • It is recommended that high schools do baseline assessments in Mathematics and the language of learning and teaching in Grade 8 at the beginning of the year. These baseline assessments should be analysed in terms of curriculum coverage and learners’ skills knowledge. The high schools can then begin to address these shortfalls within their school. These results can also be fed back to the feeder primary schools, particularly if there are noticeable trends—in terms of content and skills gaps—in learners from the same primary schools.


RECOMMENDATION 2—TEACHER COLLABORATION AND EMPOWERMENT: Schools need to foster a collaborative culture among teachers that puts the students' learning first, and turns a teacher's best practice into a school wide best practice. Many districts do not have the capacity to provide regular support to all teachers in every school. It is for this reason that school-based teacher support and empowerment becomes crucial.  SMTs need to:

  •  Provide time and space for teachers to be part of a community that provides a sounding board for ideas and best practices without feeling pressure to hide their failures or vulnerabilities.
  • Make sure that conditions for teacher collaboration—including a feeling of trust, a mutual or common goal, shared participation, and shared accountability —prevail. This would encourage teachers to confess their inadequacies among their peers knowing that they have a support system within their school.


RECOMMENDATION 3—SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANNING: If school improvement planning is to make an impact on the standards achieved by learners, then effective planning processes must be at the heart of the school and drive its development. Schools must produce an annual School Improvement Plan (SIP), informed by school self-evaluation, as required, in terms of the national Policy on Whole School Evaluation (WSE). Towards the end of the school improvement planning cycle, schools must begin auditing activities to find out what impact has been made by the improvement strategies implemented during the year. The school improvement planning process needs to address the following important questions:

  • How well are we doing? This stage requires the school to conduct self evaluation to get answers to this question.
  •  How well should we be doing? In this stage, the whole school targets are determined. The schools should set targets from top-down—setting targets that bring them into line with other similar schools, as well as from bottom-up, whereby schools set targets for individual learners. The school target is arrived at by identifying the borderline learners who will bridge the gap between the bottom up target, and the top-down target.
  • What will we do to make it happen? To achieve the set targets, the school should identify a range of improvement strategies to be implemented at whole school and classroom-level. These should be summarised in the SIP, providing a focus for practical action throughout the school. This report provides 30 strategies (referred to as “best practices”) that topperforming schools in this study implemented to meet their targets. These practices are listed in Appendix A. It is important to focus on a few indicators of improvement in the SIP rather than to include a large number of unfocused and unmanageable activities. The indicators should be specific and measurable.
  • Are we there yet? Schools should review their progress towards meeting their targets. The SIP should be reviewed and action plans adjusted every year. Staff development should be prioritised to ensure that improvement strategies are effectively implemented. Performance data will need to be regularly collected and analysed to check progress in relation to the targets which have been set.


This report describes the key drivers of curriculum delivery and best practices that inform them. These best practices are detailed in the report and are summarised in Appendix A. In addressing the question “How well are we doing?” it is recommended that schools follow four steps listed below to think critically about the best practices that could be used to increase learner achievement based on the needs of each specific school through a permanent cycle of inquiry and action:


· STEP 1: Read and discuss each best practice and think about how it applies to your school, and discuss what you believe to be most appropriate for your particular circumstances. The best practices presented in this report are neither the only route to improvement nor are they meant to be a definitive answer to school improvement. A school may decide to have separate teams, composed of staff and other relevant stakeholders, work on each of the six themes around which the best practices are presented in Part II in this report.

· STEP 2: Decide whether you would endorse the best practices for your school or develop alternatives that are more appropriate for your school. Indicate the best practices that you have endorsed or modified by completing the last column in Appendix A.

· STEP 3: Once you have settled on a set of best practices that are appropriate for your school, ascertain how close you think your school is to the ideal as expressed by each best practice (either as presented in this report or as modified by your school). This will entail collecting, analysing and discussing concrete evidence where your school is in relation to the best practice. What evidence does your school have to support a conclusion about how your school can be described in relation to the best practice or your alternative version?

· STEP 4: Determine your school’s priorities for improvement. The priorities identified must inform your school improvement plan.