WCED on: 2020 NSC Results, Supplementary Exams; School readiness, Transport & Textbook delivery
11 March 2021
Chairperson: Ms L Botha (DA)
Video: Standing Committee on Education, 11 March 2021, 09:00
The Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Education received a briefing from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on school readiness for 2021 and the National Senior Certificate results for 2020, including other matters related to learner transport and wellness.
The Department reported that 54 785 full-time candidates had registered for the 2020 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. With the 51 633 who wrote, the turnout rate was 94.2%. The overall pass rate had decreased from 82.3% in 2019 to 79.9% in 2020. The province had the highest mathematics and physical sciences pass rates of 71.6% and 76.2%, respectively. The overall pass rate in the 13 ELSEN schools had increased from 92.1% in 2019 to 93.8% in 2020, and 42.9% of their candidates had passed with access to a Bachelor’s Degree programme. 60 of the 449 schools (13.4%) in the Western Cape had achieved a 100% pass rate. 89 schools had maintained a pass rate of 95% and above for the past five years, indicating an ability to sustain excellent learner performance and functionality at these schools.
The plans to enhance academic improvement was focused on five thrusts: improving the pedagogical content knowledge and assessment practices; a differentiated learner support intervention targeting the marginalised and talented; institutionalising effective curriculum management by school management teams, enhancing learner participation and performance in subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths, and integrating information communication technology (ICT) into teaching and learning.
The Department described its involvement in wellness and dealing with Covid-19, and said that the districts had requested all schools, teachers and learners to complete questionnaires to determine the support needed. In addition, a survey was conducted to determine which learners had experienced the loss of family members or friends. Learners were supported face-to-face or virtually. The face-to-face sessions were conducted by either psychologists or social workers, individually or in groups, as well as by school counsellors at schools. Telephonic support was offered to all learners and psycho-socio support, where it was needed, was offered by social workers and psychologists to identified individuals or groups.
The Department stated that 20 applications had been received for new learner transport routes for a total of 1 410 learners from the beginning of the 2021 school year. All of these applications had been processed. 19 of the 20 new routes were currently operational and one was being processed for approval, whereafter it would be operationalised. Applications to transport an additional 6 012 learners on existing routes were approved and processed in readiness for the 2021 school year. Concerning delivery of textbooks, 671 schools had ordered a total of 386 548 textbooks, using the central procurement option within the WCED. The total cost of textbooks ordered amounted to R49 million. 100% of the textbooks ordered were delivered to the schools.
Members wanted to know the number of learners that had entered Grade 1 in 2021 and if there was a system to monitor the progress of these learners in these grades to ensure they were not lost in the system. They asked to what extent the Department was giving support to learners who might be victims of the pandemic in terms of parental support and results; wanted to find out about steps that had been taken to ascertain that students who had not written exams were not lost, seeing that 94% had written the examinations; and asked how many new schools were needed seeing that 17 000 learners were entering the Western Cape for the first time. The Members also wanted to know if the 6 000 unplaced learners would finally be placed, and if additional posts and mobile classes would be provided, because there haf been complaints in Mitchells Plain about learners not placed; what the reasons were for the decline in the pass rate and number of students taking maths and physics, and if there were interventions in place to ensure students took these subjects; and if all transport companies contracted to the Department had received their payments according to their contracts.
NSC 2020 results
Ms Tina Singh, Chief Director: Assessment and Examinations, Western Cape Education Department (WCED), took the Committee through the National Senior Certificate (NSC) 2020 results. The 2020 NSC examinations were written at 512 examinations centres. Examinations were monitored across all districts daily and reports were submitted to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Umalusi. 48 ex-WCED officials served as monitors.
The WCED used an invigilator system of 50% teachers and 50% community members, and appointed 2 521 community invigilators. It was compulsory for the delegates involved in the conduct, administration and management of the 2020/21 NSC, SC and Adult Education and Training (AET) Level 4 examinations to attend the training sessions.
Markers wrote competency tests in 11 subjects. Marking took place from 3 January to 22 January. Certain subjects, like agricultural management practices and agricultural technology, music, etc, were marked centrally at the DBE. All COVID protocols were observed on entry to marking centres and during marking. Specially trained school teachers were appointed to manage the COVID protocols at the marking centres.
54 785 full-time candidates registered for the 2020 NSC examinations. With the 51 633 who wrote, the turnout rate was 94.2%. The overall pass rate decreased from 82.3% in 2019, to 79.9% in 2020. The province had the highest mathematics and physical sciences pass rates of 71.6% and 76.2%, respectively. The overall pass rate in the 13 ELSEN schools, for pupils with learning disabilities, had increased from 92.1% in 2019 to 93.8% in 2020. 42.9% of their candidates passed with access to a Bachelor’s Degree programme. 60 of the 449 schools (13.4%) in the Western Cape achieved a 100% pass rate. 89 schools maintained a pass rate of 95% and above for the past five years (2016-2020), indicating the ability to sustain excellent learner performance and functionality at these schools.
Ms Singh reported that districts were supplied with their overall circuit and school performance, as well as detailed analysis of the performance in subjects at the district and school levels. Chief marker and internal moderator reports on the 2020 examination question papers were supplied to senior curriculum planners for engagement with curriculum advisors. Subject, district and school data analysis and interpretation with examination publication report, were supplied to the senior curriculum planners and curriculum assessment coordinators to be further mediated with circuit managers and subject advisors and used for planning and target setting. Districts were supplied with their district results comparison of school-based assessment (SBAs) vs examinations, as well as an electronic interactive programme of the per question analysis for each question paper.
The plans to enhance academic improvement focused on five thrusts:
-improving the pedagogical content knowledge and assessment practices;
-a differentiated learner support intervention, targeting the marginalised and talented;
-institutionalising effective curriculum management by school management teams (SMTs) at schools;
-enhancing learner participation and performance in STEAMAC (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, agriculture and coding) subjects; and
-integrating ICT into teaching and learning.
In conclusion, she said that given the turbulent context in 2020, the WCED, with the collective efforts of all officials, learners, stakeholders and parents, had managed to stem the tide. It had successfully administered the NSC in the context of the pandemic. The WCED would once again strive to ensure the class of 2021 was supported to achieve the best possible outcome.
(Graphs and tables were shown to illustrate 2020 NSC performance comparative to 2019; candidates per district and performance per district; quality of WCED NSC results; overall NSC results 2008-2020; NSC pass rate 2008-2020; WCED results 2020; and marking of the 2020 NSC examinations)
School readiness for 2021
Mr Alan Meyer, Chief Director: Education Districts, WCED, briefed the Committee on school readiness for 2021.
He said the districts had resolved 23 198 placement cases since 29 September 2020. 6 594 learners had not been placed since 8 March 2021. 17 936 first time entries into the WC from other provinces had been recorded. Mitchells Plain, Eerste River, Strand, Delft, Du Noon, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Vredenburg, Mossel Bay, Hermanus, and Grabouw had been identified as hotspot areas.
Regarding wellness and dealing with Covid-19, the districts had requested all schools, teachers and learners to complete questionnaires to determine the support needed. In addition, a survey was conducted to determine which learners experienced the loss of family members or friends. Learners were supported face-to-face or virtually. The face-to-face sessions were conducted by either psychologists or social workers, individually or in groups, as well as by school counsellors at schools. Telephonic support was offered to all learners and psycho-socio support, where it was needed, was offered by social workers and psychologists to identified individuals or groups. Virtual contacts were made with learners through WhatsApp groups or sessions and by webinars and videos that the ISLES team had availed to learners via their schools as well as other media platforms, such as the district Facebook page.
On school improvement plans (SIP), Mr Meyer said that all schools that had achieved less that 60% in the NSC exams were required to develop intervention plans. 49 schools had achieved less than 60% in the 2020 NSC examinations, and 112 schools had achieved less than 70%. The district director, head of curriculum and circuit manager did the analysis of the results of the schools. Then the head of education issued letters to the schools indicating their unfavourable pass rates. The school management teams were called in to explain their results once they had been analysed.
The SMTs presented their intervention plans in the SIP. Agreements were reached on monitoring of the intervention plans. The schools were included in the District Improvement Plan (DIP). At quarterly Exco visits to districts, the districts responded on the monitoring of the schools below 70%.
Mr Paul Swart, Chief Director: Institutional Resources Support, WCED, talked about the learning and teaching support materials and learner transport schemes. He reported that 20 applications were received for new learner transport routes for a total of 1 410 learners from the beginning of the 2021 school year. All of these applications had been processed. 19 of the 20 new routes were currently operational and one was being processed for approval, whereafter it would be operationalised. Applications to transport an additional 6 012 learners on existing routes were approved and processed in readiness for the 2021 school year. Concerning the delivery of textbooks, 671 schools ordered a total of 386 548 textbooks using the central procurement option within the WCED. The total cost of textbooks ordered amounted to R49 million. 100% of the textbooks ordered were delivered to schools.
Mr M Sayed (ANC) wanted to know the number of learners that had entered Grade 1 in 2001 and asked if there was a system to monitor the progress of these learners in these grades to ensure they were not lost in the system.
Ms Singh said that statistics on Grade 1 learners would be made available to the Committee. She indicated there was a system in place to monitor progress of the learners year after year, and it showed the pass rate per grade.
Mr G Bosman (DA) wanted to understand to what extent the Department was giving support to learners who might be victims of the pandemic in terms of parental support and results.
Mr Meyer explained that lack of parental involvement became clear in many areas, especially in the performance of the learners. He encouraged parents to be involved in the education of their children from the early grades.
Mr R Allen (DA) wanted to find out about steps that had been taken to ascertain that students who had not written exams were not lost, seeing that 94% had written the examination. He further asked how many new schools were needed, seeing that 17 000 learners were entering the Western Cape for the first time.
Ms Singh explained that 352 students did not write the full subjects. They had numerous medical cases due to Covid-19 and some were affected, while others just did not pitch up. The candidates that did not write the full subjects would write the June examinations if they were registered.
Mr Meyer said that the issue of 17 000 learners entering the province was not something new. There were many contributing factors. For instance, in rural areas many grandparents had been lost to Covid-19 and the grandchildren were coming to the province to stay with their parents who were working in the province. As a result, two schools in Mfuleni were full. The process of applying for additional posts had started.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) wanted to know if the 6 000 unplaced learners would finally be placed and if additional posts and mobile classes would be provided, because there had been complaints in Mitchells Plain about learners not being placed. He also indicated parents had not been given answers from district offices about what would happen to de-registered learners.
Mr Meyer explained it was difficult to state when the placement of unplaced learners would take place, because additional posts needed to be processed first. He asked Mr Christians to forward him details of de-registered learners so that the matter could be attended to.
Mr M Kama (ANC) wanted to know the reasons for the decline in the pass rate and the number of students taking maths and physics, and if there were interventions in place to ensure students took these subjects. Also, he asked how many requests had been received for re-marking and how the number compared to those of previous years.
Ms Singh admitted the numbers on maths and physics were not increasing year on year. More candidates were going for maths literacy. The pass rate had increased at various levels. Advocacy work still needed to be done on the importance of maths and physics.
Re-marking had closed on 10 March. Applications were still being processed. An online system was in place for students to apply.
The Chairperson wanted to understand the reasons for the pass rate dip in the Karoo and metro, and the kind of subjects that had been the cause of this failure rate.
Ms Singh said there had been a dip in both the national and provincial pass rate. Covid-19 could be one aspect, because learning was self-directed and it took place at home.
Mr Haroon Mahomed, Chief Director: Curriculum Management and Teacher Development, WCED, stated an analysis had been done on subject performance, and the matter had been discussed with the national department. Lack of performance had been identified in African languages, English and Afrikaans. There was also a decline in life sciences. Various factors were contributing. Many learners were failing technical subjects and technical maths. The national department had agreed that a review needed to be done. Various combinations of subjects by students contributed to subject performances.
Mr Christians wanted to understand why maths and science were no longer offered at Ravensmead High School in Mitchells Plain, because now learners had to go to other areas for these subjects.
Mr Meyer said it was difficult to understand the idea behind that, because the principal of that school was a strong maths person. He further indicated if a school decided to drop maths and physics, or any subject, it had to write to a committee to approve or reject its proposal. The evaluation of the committee was based on merit. For example, if a school wanted to introduce agriculture in its curriculum, the committee would look at the locality of the school.
Mr Bosman asked what the guidelines were for registering learners in school so that parents could understand what the situation was, because some schools were chasing learners away.
Mr Meyer said all the details were stated in the portal of the Department, including all the particulars that were needed, like a learner’s report and the identity documents (IDs) of parents.
Mr Kama wanted to find out what plans were in place to create space for unplaced learners, because he had found that in the Cape Winelands District, 96 Grade 8 learners were not placed, but when one engage with the schools, one discovered the number was greater than 96. Principals had been communicating with the district education office with no luck. He further wanted to know if the 48 schools that achieved less than 60% in 2019 had developed interventions and recorded improvements.
Mr Meyer said the matter of unplaced learners was a result of late applications by learners. The Department had got the information of learners who had made applications in time. It would try to place every learner in the district and province. Every district had a list of unplaced learners. Circuit managers were assisting with the registration. The Department had looked at other schools that could accommodate learners from Mbekweni.
He said 50% of the 48 schools that had achieved less than 60% had moved out of the less than 60% bracket. The Department tried to keep them in the programme for three years to ensure they continued to improve.
Mr Sayed enquired if there had been an engagement between the City of Cape Town and the DHET regarding the Mfuleni learners who were studying under a tree, a space said to be the responsibility of the Department of Higher Education.
Mr Meyer enlightened the Committee they have met the DHET, and all parties had agreed to meet community leaders regarding the occupation of the space and a facility. Learners would not be evicted from the facility until they got a proper building. The community had provided the number of learners who had occupied the facility. They were primary and high school learners. An official of the Department would be sent to look at the situation, and some students had already been registered at the Mfuleni High School. The Department had made it clear it would not pay the teachers because they were not on its payroll. It would also do verification about the learners.
The Chairperson wanted to know what the waiting time was for learners to have psycho-social support. She also asked if there were any schools that were in a water debt situation.
Mr Meyer said every school had a support team that provided psycho-social support. Every circuit had a psychologist and a social worker which the school support team could call upon for a learner.
He said there was no school that had experienced water cuts. Schools were responsible for settling their municipal accounts, but if they had a problem, they could approach the Department. Water rates had gone up and that was why some schools had experienced problems, but generally there had not been a school without water.
Mr Sayed enquired if the Department had talked with the City of Cape Town regarding water bills, because schools were being charged at domestic rates.
Ms Lesline McGlenatendolf, Chief Director: Physical Resources, WCED, explained the schools were for a long time charged at domestic rates, but now they were being charged at business rates. The Member of the Executive Council (MEC) had engaged the City of Cape Town, but it just wanted to maintain its income even though most people were using less water after the drought. The Department was on a campaign to have schools use less water and start establishing boreholes.
Mr G Brinkhuis (Al Jama-ah) wanted to find out if all the transport companies contracted to the Department had received their payments according to their contracts.
Mr Swart enlightened the Committee that at the beginning of Covid-19, they had regular meetings with the two bodies representing learner transport. The representatives of the WCED met every two months with both organisations. There were restrictions on the number of learners to be transported and a different payment structure was agreed to. However, when things changed to 100% capacity, another payment structure was devised. A way forward was discussed. The Department made an allowance for contractors transporting fewer learners. Communication was open between the two bodies and the Department.
Mr Sayed asked if the Department was looking at the possibility of having a standardised admission policy, and wanted to find out how its admission policy was monitored.
Mr Meyer said the criteria were the responsibility of the school governing bodies (SGBs). The Department monitored the admission policies of schools to ensure fairness. Circuit managers monitored the policies so that they did not exclude other people. If there was something unfair, the Department would be notified and make a follow up.
Members of the public were then given an opportunity to engage with the Department.
Mr Muaath Gabier, Progressive Professionals Forum, wanted to know how many white students were on the waiting list. He also asked why students were not relocated to suburbs where classes were too small, instead of taking them to a class of 40 or more learners. He also enquired why there was a budget surplus of R230m if there were financial constraints. The money should rather be spent on transport than on empty classrooms in the southern suburbs.
Mr Meyer said they would look at the statistics and submit a report to the Committee regarding the number of white students on the waiting list. Concerning vacant classrooms, he said because of many activities happening in some communities like Bonteheuwel, many parents did not feel comfortable about sending their children to these areas. There were possibilities the Department could start looking at.
He could not say exactly where the surplus money came from, but it could be that it had come from the compensation of employees (COE).
Ms Tsego Lapula, Weekend Argus journalist, wanted to know how many schools were planned for completion, and how many of those schools were in hotspot areas, and what the teacher-learner ratio in these hot sporty areas was.
Mt Meyer said no school would have a ratio of 1 to 40. However, there were considerations given when applications for funding of posts were made.
Ms McGlenatendolf explained that hotspots areas were targeted for new schools, but the challenge was that there was no land on which to build a school in these areas, like DuNoon. No new schools would be built in leafy suburbs. The Department could not accommodate the influx each year. It had had an influx of 20 000 for five years. It was looking at non-infrastructure solutions to provide education. 9 000 learners have been placed for 2021, and two mobile classes had been provided for 2021.
Mr Gabier remarked it appeared there was no hesitation in transporting learners, and asked why existing space was not used in empty schools like SACS, Wynberg Boys and Girls Schools, etc, instead of trying to build schools where there was no land.
Mr Meyer said they would look at the schools Mr Gabier had mentioned, but the Department would first look at the schools’ policy and pupil-teacher ratio The SGBs would have to create SGB posts. Affluent and poor schools were allocated land, but if they were not utilising all that space, they should give that piece of land back to the Department.
The Committee resolved:
-It would find out more information about the issue of maths and physics no longer offered at Florida High School in Mitchells Plain.
-It would investigate if protocol was followed in the deregistration of learners, and would ask the Department to provide assurance that 6 000 learners would be placed.
-It would get information from the Department about the teacher-learner ratio in the SIP 29 schools of 2020; and it would ask the Department to conduct assessments of schools that had cancelled maths and science;
-It would ask the Department to develop a system of collating data on the drop-out rate from grade 1 to 12; the Department to provide details of schools that achieved less than 60% since 2016, and to provide the learner population growth in each district.
-It would ask the Parliamentary research unit to conduct research on learner migration to the province and the impact of that in terms of public-private partnerships in alleviating the problem.
-The Department should provide a detailed district breakdown of the additional 6 000 learners needing learner transport.
Adoption of Minutes
The Committee considered and adopted its minutes of 17 November 2020, 27 November 2020 and 2 February 2021.
Central Karoo Oversight Report
The report was adopted with no amendments.
Draft Committee Programme
The document was adopted with minor amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
Botha, Ms L
Allen, Mr R
Bosman, Mr G
Brinkhuis, Mr G
Christians, Mr F
Kama, Mr M
Sayed, Mr MK
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