The Western Cape Education Department is currently holding a series of public hearings on proposed changes to the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act.
The amendments included changes to definitions in the Act, and to the roles of heads of departments, district directors, principals, deputy principals, circuit managers and subject advisors.
However, the amendment which has arguably drawn the most attention is the proposal to allow the sale of liquor at schools under certain conditions, and for the provision of intervention facilities and alternatives to expulsion.
The department had previously said the barring of liquor sales had had unintended consequences, such as parents not attending school functions, school fund-raising functions failing, and rural schools being unable to host community functions.
The intervention facilities, meanwhile, would be to allow learners who had been recommended for expulsion to undergo specialised therapeutic programmes for up to 12 months, subject to parental consent, and thereafter return to school.
In addition to criticisms, the bill has been slammed by teacher unions and opposition parties who claim that the amendments are an attempt by the Western Cape executive to run the education system like an “independent state”.
In an open-letter, general secretary of Equal Education, Tshepo Motsepe called the plans to introduce privately-run public schools in the form of so-called collaboration and donor-funded systems “undemocratic”.
The biggest proposed changes are detailed below.
Under the new rules, there will not be a general power for any school to allow the sale or consumption of alcohol at a school function.
However, schools that wish to, will be permitted to apply in writing to the head of department, who can authorise a governing body or principal (in the case of a staff function) to permit the sale or consumption of alcohol.
Schools Evaluation Authority
The bill establishes an evaluation authority to be known as the Western Cape Schools Evaluation Authority (SEA).
The SEA will independently evaluate schools and develop school evaluation reports which will trigger Departmental support and developmental actions.
This information will be available publicly to parents and communities. The aim is that, through working with the Organisational Development Team, we will have finalised the key job descriptions, job gradings, standard operating procedures and performance review processes over the next two months.
The bill allows for the establishment of intervention facilities for learners who have been found guilty of serious misconduct, as an alternative to expulsion.
Following expulsion learners are typically just accommodated in another school. Establishing an intervention facility as an alternative, will enable the learner to receive various therapeutic programmes and intervention strategies, specific to their situation, whilst still receiving an education.
The bill makes provision for collaboration schools and the declaration of existing schools as collaboration schools by the Provincial Minister.
Further provisions have been made to allow for these contributors to be directly involved in matters pertaining to the governance of these schools and for the funding of posts for educators and non-educators appointed directly by the governing bodies of these schools.
Under the new bill, a public school must obtain the prior written consent of a parent authorising the learner to attend a school activity outside of the school premises.
The one situation this will not apply is during ‘routine sporting activities’.
Below is the full Amendment Bill as featured on the Western Cape’s Provincial Parliament site on 26 June 2018.