Department of Education Capacity in District Offices: briefing

Basic Education

29 August 2006
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


29 August 2006

Chairperson: Prof S Mayatula (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Education presentation
Capacity Assessment Tasks

The Committee met with the Department of Education to receive a briefing on the capacity assessment process in education and research findings. Uniformity had to be established in the role of district and circuit offices. The role and functions of District Offices had to be clarified. Principals would be encouraged to teach in addition to management duties. An Education Institute would be created to provide high-level research and programme development. Financial resources had been allocated to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

Members asked questions about the lack of understanding of responsibilities at the district level, the need to improve the role of Inspectors, the awarding of bonuses to principals, indicators to determine poverty at the school level, reduction of salaries in cases of demotion, the need for clear political objectives in restructuring and the need for further public debate.

Department of Education presentation

Mr Firoz Patel (Deputy-Director-General-Systems and Planning) provided an account of the capacity assessment process and findings of research on district offices and managers. A gap currently existed between policies and implementation. Districts were defined differently in various provinces. Proper systems and structures were needed to introduce changes. The role and functions of District Offices had to be clarified and adequate resources provided. District officials had to be well versed in education matters. Circuit Managers would be the interface between schools and the district offices. Attendance at schools had to be monitored. Recommendations to enhance capacity were explained. District offices would have to implement policy. Ward committees should be included in the process.

He continued that principals would be encouraged to teach in addition to their management duties. An Education Institute would be established to focus on high-level research and programme development. A post-provisioning model for school-based support staff was needed. A National Education Evaluation Unit would be established in 2008. Research was conducted on the skills gap amongst senior management. The current remuneration system had been assessed. R6.9 billion had been allocated in 2004 by the National Treasury to improve teaching conditions, recruitment and human resource systems. R 2.7 billion was used in the 2004/5 financial year to pay outstanding salary amounts. Two agreements had been signed in 2006 namely Improved Career Pathing and Accelerated Salary Progression for Educators and Revised School Grading Norms. The agreements aim to enhance the quality of teaching and learning. Good teachers and principals should be retained.

Mr B Mthembu (ANC) commended the Department for identifying key challenges. A recent oversight trip had revealed a constant state of flux in provincial education departments characterised by perpetual restructuring exercises. Chief Directors at the District level were not aware of their responsibilities. A legislative framework would help to consolidate the process. Norms and standards for support staff was a welcome development. The inherited legacy of circuit inspectors caused a legitimacy problem for current Circuit Managers. The recruitment strategy had to be overhauled to ensure meaningful appointments. Principals had to have human resource management training.

Ms M Matsomela (ANC) noted that teachers complained of receiving salary advice slips late. District Managers tended to operate as “policemen”. Principals adopted an authoritarian attitude towards staff. Principals received a 1% performance bonus despite poor school results. Teachers should have a say in the appointment of principals. Principals should understand the curriculum on offer and have extensive teaching experience.

Mr A Mpontshane (IFP) declared that the district level was the weak link in the education system. Legitimacy and authority had to be restored to the circuit managers. Clarity was sought on the qualification requirements for Circuit Managers. Principals could produce poor results and still be promoted to the circuit manager level. The classification of poverty-stricken schools had to be explained.

Mr G Boinamo (DA) asked whether newly-appointed District Managers received operational manuals. The demotion of principals should be accompanied by a salary reduction.

Mr I Vadi (ANC) stated that clear political objectives were needed to guide the process. The current system should be standardised or completely overhauled. District offices should not be provided with excessive power. The Department of Public Service and Administration should not be driving the process. District managers should facilitate administrative support to schools and control the application of the curriculum. Inspectors tended to fulfil a number of different roles thereby complicating the process. Normal quality management time was disrupted by labour issues, disputes and disciplinary problems. Core functions had to be clearly defined. He proposed that a debate on the process was urgently needed. Further interaction with the Department was recommended.

Mr Patel responded that provincial departments had been requested to upgrade Human Resource managers. R80 million had been divided amongst the provinces to enhance capacity and systems. Inspectors had to display greater levels of control over schools to improve service delivery. Circuit managers had to possess sufficient levels of knowledge and understanding of the education system. A 1% bonus had been provided to principals in order to allow the creation of a measurement system. Public engagement was necessary to construct a worthwhile performance structure. Monitoring and evaluation of schools was required to create equality of opportunity for learners. Indicators to measure poverty at schools were in place. Levels of poverty in surrounding communities would be taken into consideration. A database would be compiled to assist in the determination of poverty and concomitant resource allocation.

He continued that the reduction in salaries for demoted principals would be monitored. Principals would be strenuously encouraged to teach classes. A new approach to the functions of inspectors had to be inculcated. One circuit manager would be appointed to approximately 12 schools. An overhaul of the system was required as opposed to reform. Clear objectives would be formulated by April 2007 to foster meaningful debate. A decision would be taken on whether legislation would be needed to guide the process. The Department of Education had driven the capacity assessment exercise in education. The Department of Public Service and Administration had focused on the assessment of capacity in the state. The Head of the provincial Department had the power of appointment of principals. Reports would be forwarded from district offices to the Head of the provincial Department to assist the decision-making process.

The Chairperson stated that a follow-up meeting would be arranged in the near future to further discuss the issues.

The meeting was adjourned. 


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