Newsletter 81 GPLMS in Gauteng


Improving teachers' practice in poorly performing primary schools: The trial of the GPLMS intervention in Gauteng by Francine de Clercqa - Wits University, Johannesburg - Published online: 19 Jun 2014.


  • This article concludes that the GPLMS is a major advance on previous interventions for poorly performing schools because it relies on a multi-pronged support and pressure strategy made up of prescriptive lesson plans mediated by coaches and various interactive support forums.
  •  It also fuses continuous support and gentle pressure measures to promote new teaching practices and improve learners’ results. However, three conceptual weaknesses are identified.
  • Firstly, the change strategies reflect a top-down centralised decision-making process from the MEC onto teachers from under-performing schools without serious consultation with schools, districts and unions.
  • There are many reasons for school under-performance and teachers or other parties are not given a chance to contribute to the refinement of the GPLMS intervention. This is why the latter can be perceived as yet again blaming teachers and the lack of appropriate material by downplaying the influence of other factors.
  • As a result, some teachers are likely to refuse to own the GPLMS, which is perceived as patronising and distracting from other substantial problems external to their schools.
  • Another conceptual weakness is the problematic assumption that these teachers need to practise better knowledge-in-practice, as promoted by lesson plans and coaches’ mediation.
  • It is then hoped that these teachers will follow lesson plans and their coaches’ advice and gradually acquire the necessary stored knowledge.
  • But the GPLMS continues to downplay the serious gaps in the conceptual knowledge of teachers, which has still to be addressed. Many scholars argue that the acquisition of knowledge-in-practice requires a minimum of conceptual knowledge-of-practice.
  • Most GPLMS teachers require basic subject matter and pedagogical content knowledge as well as the ability to adapt and improve lesson plans to fit in with their specific classroom context and diverse disadvantaged learners. They also need to acquire some pedagogical content knowledge to make sound judgements when faced with learners’ misunderstanding and to scaffold learners’ learning up to the complexity of the task.
  • However, these forms of knowledge are seriously overlooked by the GPLMS whose main aim is not to improve teachers so much as learners’ results.
  • Finally, by prescribing standardised lesson plans, the GPLMS adopts the problematic ‘one size fits all’ improvement strategy for poorly performing primary schools. Such intervention will likely benefit some teachers while disadvantaging others who are overwhelmed with multilingual learners, poorly equipped
  • The trial of the GPLMS intervention in Gauteng with little pre-schooling. The GPLMS is therefore likely to discriminate against the worst-performing primary learners by failing to acknowledge the different priority needs of their teachers.
  • The latter require expert support to effectively teach their ‘slow’ learners from poor socio-economic and multilingual backgrounds as well as those with learning barriers.


  1. The literature does not offer a strong distinction between mentors and coaches in education as they both involve interaction and a collaborative relationship with a teacher. However, a mentor focuses more on the person, their career and support for individual growth and maturity while a coach is job focused and performance oriented. The source of authority and influence for coaches comes from their job position while mentors usually combine their own separate work with such a relationship because of their belief in its value. This is not to say that some coaches could not act as mentors.
  2.  Knight’s (2012) study found instructional coaching to be between 6 and 12 times more expensive than traditional approaches to professional development.
  3. Initially 792 schools were selected according to their ranking on the 2010 Annual National Assessment (ANA) results of Grade 3 learners.

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