Equal Education has written to Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schafer seeking clarity on the new public school model, termed ‘Collaboration Schools' by the MEC, to be trialled in 5 Cape Town public schools from 2016. The new arrangement, which the MEC says is modelled on the UK's Academy system, privatises various funding, management and governance functions and responsibilities. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) will appoint operating agencies to run the schools. EE has therefore called upon the MEC to take the public into her confidence and fully explain the details of the new model.
Certain things are already known from a news report in The Cape Argus and interview with MEC Schafer by Eyewitness News. Firstly, parents will not be the majority members on these schools' governing bodies as is the case in all public schools. Instead the as yet undisclosed donors and/or operating agencies contracted to run the schools will have the majority on the SGB. In addition, the teachers' contracts in (some of) these pilot schools will be directly with the school, not with the provincial department of education as is the case in public schools. (Some former model-C schools do employ additional teachers directly.)
And a lot is not yet known. Aside from the two media reports, the WCED has not released any additional information explaining this pilot. After we expressed concerns on Twitter we decided to wait two days to give the WCED a chance to clarify the matter publicly, but since this has not happened we decided to write to the MEC and to publish the questions sent to her, as we believe these are questions that others may want to ask too.
The questions appear below. They are aimed at clarifying the nature and purport of the proposed pilot. The questions aim to ascertain the process in reaching the decision to attempt this model; how the schools will be funded; how the schools will operate and be governed; how admissions will work, particularly if any selection criteria will be applied to learners; how teacher posts will be created and administered; and finally how the pilot will be monitored and evaluated. For example, we have asked about the donations, which the MEC has foregrounded in the publicity around this new model. Will they be significant, or will, in fact, the vast majority of funding, especially when land and buildings are factored in, continue to come from government?
Although this is a pilot of five schools, we feel it is important to understand its merits and to have a public discussion, because at stake is what is meant, and what could be meant, when we speak about 'innovation' in our public schools, and indeed what is meant by public education. Some obvious innovations are not even attempted. Financial incentives to get the best teachers into township schools do not exist. A fund to enable poorer learners to attend fee-charging schools (along the lines of the NSFAS fund at tertiary level) does not exist. Attempts to integrate our communities and our schools have not been seriously worked on at the policy level.
EE will always welcome innovation and the investment of additional funding, public and private, into our schools. But the only way to know whether this particular innovation has the potential to raise educational quality and benefit poor communities, or do damage through a privatisation drive which even if well-intentioned may be coopted by a market-fundamentalist ideology and vested interests, is the detail that is currently not in the public domain.
We look forward to receiving a comprehensive response, and reading a public statement, from the WCED.
Questions Sent To WCED:
The “collaboration” model
1. When was the decision to implement this pilot project taken and what process was followed in coming to this decision?
2. Who are the donors in the “collaboration” model pilot project, and who are the “operating partners”?
3. What process was followed in order to appoint and contract with the relevant funders and operating partners? Did this process include any public participation?
4. Which schools are included in the pilot project? How were these schools selected for the project?
5. What is the relationship between the WCED, the schools, the donors and the operating partners in the “collaboration” model?
6. Have agreements between the donors, operating agencies, schools and any other relevant parties been concluded, and will these be made public?
Funding and Fees
7. What contributions will the donors make to the schools involved in the pilot project? More specifically:
a. How much is being donated by each donor?
b. How much is being donated to each school?
c. Will donations only be monetary, or does the model envisage other inputs?
8. Will the operating agencies, the funders, the schools, or any other party derive any profit or other financial benefit from the pilot project, or will all funds be retained for development and educational purposes in the school.
9. Will the schools have larger budgets than other public schools? If so, how will these budgets be formulated and to what extent will the schools be funded through the funding partners rather than the state?
10. In respect of the schools being piloted in the “collaboration” model, who will own the land on which the schools are placed, and who will own the schools themselves?
11. Will the piloted schools charge any fees, or will they remain no-fee schools?
Management of schools
12. What will the role of the operating partners be in the management of the school?
13. To what extent have the funders and/or operating partners displayed successful track records in management of schools?
14. How will the composition and election of SGB members at the “collaboration” model schools differ from other public school SGBs? The MEC mentioned in a radio discussion on 16 November 2015 that the operating partners will have a majority say on the SGBs at the collaboration schools. On what basis is this being done?
15. Does the model envision any change in the admission policies of the existing schools in which the project is being piloted? If so, in what ways will the policies be altered to accommodate the “collaboration” model?
16. What will be the admission policies in relation to the new schools that form part of the pilot project?
17. Will there be entrance tests or reliance on past academic reports or transcripts of any kind as part of the admissions process in the “collaboration” model?
18. What will the impact of the “collaboration” model be on existing teachers at the schools involved in the pilot project?
19. Does the pilot project envision the appointment of additional teachers at the schools?
a. In respect of existing schools, would these teachers be employed by the Department of Education
b. In respect of new schools, please explain how the posts for SGB employed educators have or will be filled. Were these posts publicly advertised and who decided on the appointments of the new school’s teachers? Who will these teachers be accountable to?
Monitoring and Evaluation
20. How will the successes and failures of the schools be monitored, evaluated, and reported to the Department, the funders, the operating agencies, the schools, and the public?
21. In evaluating the success of the model, what will be used as key indicators, and who will be responsible for this process?
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Tshepo Motsepe (General Secretary) at 021 387 0022 / 0718865637
Yoliswa Dwane (Chairperson) at 021 387 0022 / 0767062338