The Committee was briefed by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on the norms and standards which applied to the funding of schools in the province.
The classification of Western Cape schools in terms of the South African Schools Act was 1 200 Section 21 (former Model C) schools, and 244 non-Section 21 schools. Nationally, there was a 60:40 split between non-fee and fee-paying learners, which was almost identical to the Western Cape ratio of 59.3% non-fee paying, and 40.7% fee-paying.
Although the national and provincial norms and standards for the allocations to non-fee paying schools were identical, at R1 466 per learner this year, the Western Cape would be allocating R1 631 per learner in 2021/22, compared to the national figure of R1 547. At fee-paying national quintile (NQ) 4 schools, the WCED would be allocating R822 per learner this year, but this would drop to R818 per learner in 2021/22. The allocation at NQ 5 schools would also drop from the current R336 per learner to R282, compared to the national figures of R735 this year, and R254 in 2021/22.
There were 366 no-fee schools in metro areas, and 510 in the rural areas. There were 408 fee-paying schools in the metro areas, and 160 in the rural areas. The WCED would be allocating R1.146 billion to non-fee paying schools, and R210.2 million to fee-paying schools. There were 65 schools in the NQ4 and NQ5 category, with a total of 57 000 learners, who qualified for top-up funding, which amounted to R4.5 million. Despite the impact of Covid-19, the norms and standards allocations would not be adjusted, but the WCED would fund the schools’ initial sanitation needs.
Members’ main concerns were the capacity of the schools and the Department to deal with the challenges which would arise when the schools reopened. They were particularly worried about the poor economic environment, exacerbated by Covid-19, and its detrimental effect on school finances and the ability of learners’ families to meet their commitments at fee-paying schools.
Norms and Standards: Funding for Schools.
Ms Erna Veldman, CFO, Western Cape Education Department (WCED), said the national quintile (NQ) classification of public ordinary schools (POS) in the province ranged from Levels 1 to 5. The classification in terms of school fees was:
- No-fee schools -- 642 (compulsory in NQ 1 – 3 schools), and 234 voluntary in NQ 4 – 5 schools. and
- Fee-charging schools -- 568 Section 21 (former Model C) schools.
The classification of Western Cape schools in terms of the South African Schools Act was 1 200 Section 21 schools, and 244 non-Section 21 schools. Nationally, there was a 60:40 split between non-fee and fee-paying learners, which was almost identical to the Western Cape ratio of 59.3% non-fee paying, and 40.7% fee-paying.
Although the national and provincial norms and standards for the allocations to non-fee paying schools were identical, at R1 466 per learner, this year, the Western Cape would be allocating R1 631 per learner in 2021/22, compared to the national figure of R1 547. At fee-paying NQ 4 schools, the WCED would be allocating R822 per learner this year, but this would drop to R818 per learner in 2021/22. The allocation at NQ 5 schools would also drop from the current R336 per learner to R282, compared to the national figures of R735 this year, and R254 in 2021/22.
Giving a breakdown of the number of schools per district, Ms Veldman said there were 366 no-fee schools in metro areas, and 510 in the rural areas. There were 408 fee-paying schools in the metro areas, and 160 in the rural areas. The WCED would be allocating R1.146 billion to non-fee paying schools, and R210.2 million to fee-paying schools. There were 65 schools in the NQ4 and NQ5 category, with a total of 57 000 learners, who qualified for top-up funding, which amounted to R4.5 million.
Moving on to the COVID impact, Ms Veldman advised the Committee the norms and standards (N&S) allocation would not be adjusted, but the WCED would fund the initial COVID-19 sanitation needs of schools. She reiterated that schools must plan for an ongoing budget for hygiene and safety costs from N&S funding, or their own sources. Fee-charging schools had reduced the levels of fee collection as a result of bridging capital.
Schools with school governing board (SGB) posts should apply through the Employer Relief Scheme for COVID-19 benefits with the Dept of Employment and Labour. The WCED was working closely with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) on COVID-19 related matters
Mr F Christians (ACDP) asked what the Department would do to some of the schools he visited which fell into the quintile 4 category, but because of economic circumstances were no longer in that category as the demography had changed in that area? Some of these schools did not have money, and their principals had indicated that they could not even fundraise because of the gun shooting in the area. What would the Department do in such cases, while also being sensitive to the developments of 2020 which had also worsened the situation?
Ms Veldman responded that the Department acknowledged this situation, and had implemented an appeals process that looked at a plethora of aspects. When the quintile system was launched, it had looked at the poverty status of the community and poverty distribution, but now with the appeals system in place, schools were expected to provide an appeals application to the Department if they felt they were in the wrong quintile. After receiving the application, the Department would look into several aspects, such as whether the school had provided its context and profile of learners attending the school, the school fees’ collection rate, the number of exemptions they had granted, and the context of the surroundings. The appeals application should also be accompanied by a financial statement. The Department would then analyse all those factors, taking into account the geographical layer of the school, its financial status, the fee collection rate and its expenditure profile, to see if the costs aligned with their standard of living so that the Department could make an informed decision. If the application was unsuccessful, the “regret” response would be accompanied by an advice note on how best the school could deal with their financial position. Schools could appeal more than once, as the process was not a single opportunity. In recent times, the Department had received a total of 51 applications, of which 14 had been approved and their school fees’ status had been changed. The other 37 had been advised of alternative approaches on how to improve their current financial management, as the DHET did not have an unlimited pool of funding.
Mr R Allen (DA) asked, if a parent was denied fees exemption, what the appeal process would be - what were the actual steps that needed to be taken?
Ms Veldman said the parents could appeal to the Department, because what happens was that schools would apply, based on a given formula, and when the parent submits a written appeal to the Department, it would look at it reasonably and would write to the school to tell them whether it had accepted the appeal or not.
Mr K Sayed (ANC) asked how public schools in Western Cape were expected to fund reasonable accommodation, particularly those which seek to accommodate learners who experience barriers to learning, as this did not seem clear in 2020-21 allocation to schools. It was policy that schools providing moderate levels of support to learners experiencing barriers to learning needed to be provided with inclusive education. He asked if this allocation existed, and where it was referenced in the WCED.
Ms Veldman responded that the Department would calculate the funding, based on the learners enrolled at the school. The type of service it delivers followed a funding model given to public schools. Special schools were funded differently, depending on the disability. In the system, the Department had resource centres around schools, and if a school approached the DHET with these challenges with learners, they could approach a resource centre to provide help from the specialist there. She added that the schools also had extra classes, with special class teachers dealing with these learners.
Mr M Kama (ANC) referred to the statement that the Department would be making no adjustments to the allocation for Covid19, but would be funding the schools’ initial sanitation needs, and wanted to know if this decision had been arrived at with an understanding that schools would be able to finance their hygiene and safety costs beyond this initial funding. He also asked if the Department had identified those teachers over 60 years of age, and those with underlying conditions, and what was being done to ensure their safety.
Ms Veldman said they were currently busy delivering the sanitation needs, and had completed doing so in some areas. They were considering doing this beyond current crisis, but the Department had a limited pool of funds. They would approach the National Treasurer with that in mind, but in the meantime they had supplied enough for schools to carry on.
She said the WCED had information on the elderly teachers, and those with underlying health issues, and had a particular approach to deal with that issue.
Mr Allen and Mr Kama asked if the Department ever conducted a review in the Western Cape of the number of schools in the different quintiles. Who was responsible for classifying schools into quintiles? Was it the Provincial Minister, or the National Minister?
Mr Christians said that over the years they had been made to believe that if one wanted to change a quintile, one would have to go to the National Minister, and not the Provincial Minister. He asked if that changed, and what the competency of the Provincial Minister now was.
Ms Veldman responded that the Department looked annually at its distribution table to see if it could shift schools within quintiles, based on allocations provided to the province. This was what had been happening over the years, but because the circumstances of schools could change drastically, the appeals process was the only way the Department could change their status.
She said it was the Provincial Minister (the Member of the Executive Committee) who was responsible for classifying schools into quintiles. This was laid out in terms of SA Schools Act, and it was the MEC's prerogative to determine which schools should not pay fees. However, the National Minister was in charge of the national quintile.
Mr Allen referred to the top-up that some schools received that so that they could reach the minimum R1 446 per learner threshold. He asked if that meant no learner in the Western Cape should be attending a school that did not receive the minimum amount. He also asked whether fees had ever been listed as a reason for a learner dropping off school.
Ms Veldman said no learners were allowed to attend a school where the funding was below the no-fee threshold.
She said there were several cases were fees had been listed as the reason for a learner to drop out, but the Department made frantic efforts to avoid such a situation from happening.
Mr Sayed asked why there was no budget adjustment for the Covid19 situation. Did schools have enough money to fund their hygiene needs? Had the Department engaged with the Provincial Treasury to see whether something could be done to address the increased requirements?
Ms Veldman responded that the WCED had reprioritised a substantial amount to assist schools with Covid-19 consumables, and the schools were expected to reprioritise as well. The Department was also engaging with the Treasury to give them more money so that they could make sure schools got protective clothing.
The Chairperson asked if they were any schools in quintile 1 and quintile 2 who were in arrears with the municipality. There had been a 5% budget cut earlier in the year, and with the current Covid-19 contingency, how would this impact on the norms and standards, if at all
Ms Veldman said arrears were an annual occurrence, and were due to a myriad of reasons. It could be that schools did not have the financial ability to pay, and the DHET therefore assisted the schools to deal with the arrears.
The 5% cut had been a national issue, and it had not materialised in the Western Cape, as the province had not experienced a decrease. However, they had received the infrastructure grant which that National Treasury had said could be used for Covid19 procurement purposes, as there was no infrastructure being implemented at schools.
The Committee resolved to ask for a list of no-fee schools that had not been approved by the Department, and for details of the process which schools on that list should follow. It was also resolved that they request a list of the schools that were in arrears with the municipality, district by district.
Consideration of minutes
The Committee adopted the draft meeting minutes of 12 May, as well as the Committee’s draft programme.
The meeting was adjourned.
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