New timetables and subject ‘trimming’ for schools in South Africa

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga has published the updated guidelines for the return of public schools.

The guidelines detail the procedures for the testing of learners and teachers before being allowed onto school property, as well as the protocols in the event that a person tests positive for Covid-19.

They also provide further information on how schools will catch up on lost teaching time, while introducing a new timetable programme to limit contact within the amended school year.

The amended calendar comes after the return of public schools was delayed by several weeks until 15 February, due to the impact of a second Covid-19 wave in the country.

The updated calendar will now see the academic year end on 15 December 2021, with a total of 192 actual school days planned – from 195 days previously.

While missing out on several weeks of schooling at the start of the year, the updated calendar will mean that students will miss less than a week of teaching time at the cost of holidays.

Updated timetables

Key to these new timetables will be the issue of social distancing, and the Department of Basic Education said that schools may consider and apply any of following available timetable models suitable for their context and functionality:

  • Daily and weekly rotation;
  • Bi-weekly rotation;
  • Platooning or shifts;
  • Traditional and daily attendance; or
  • A hybrid of the latter.

“Schools with large enough facilities to comply with health, safety, and social distancing requirements do not have to change their traditional and daily timetable models, and may continue to operate in accordance with those timetable models,” Motshekga said.

“A school that has a large enough facility may accommodate more than 50 learners, officials and parents in that facility at a time, strictly for educational purposes – provided that all health, safety and social distancing measures for Covid-19 are complied with.”

In the first example, schools would adopt a bi-weekly rotational system where 50% of total learners in the school would attend in one week based on their grade.

The learners that did not attend school in the first week would then attend school in week two.

An alternative proposal would see students go to school every other day based on their grade.

The third proposal, known as ‘platooning’, would see all students go to school every day, but alternating between a morning (session 1)  and an afternoon session (session 2).

A hybrid-model will use all three models as well as retaining the current timetable model. This means that there would effectively be five different timetable options which could be introduced across the country’s schools.

Curriculum trimming and reorganisation 

To accommodate the teaching time lost as a result of the national state of disaster and the adjustment of timetables, Motshekga said that she has reviewed the curriculum for the country’s grades.

Her department has also published a series of recovery Annual Teaching Plans (ATPs) which provide a more detailed breakdown of how each grade will be impacted.

The multi-year recovery ATPs were developed taking the following into consideration:

  • Learning losses incurred in 2020 to be recovered over the three year period;
  • Creation of opportunities through recovery ATPs to strengthen pre-knowledge, consolidation and revision;
  • The use of current Learning and Teaching Support Material and resources already available in the system;
  • Fundamental and core topics were retained
  • Amendment to assessment requirements to create more time for deeper learning e.g. in Grades 4 – 11 the June examinations are replaced by a controlled test and in the case of Grade 12, the June examination has been removed as part of the formal assessment programme.

You can find a full breakdown of the changes for each grade and subject below:

Sport and extracurricular activities

Subject to ongoing health and safety regulations, Motshekga confirmed that non-contact sport training and matches, non-contact sport-related activities and all arts and culture school-based activities in schools, may resume without any spectators.

She added that the following safety measures must be adhered to when resuming the activities:

  • The number of persons in the sporting venues, change rooms or training areas, at any given time, must not be more than 50% of the capacity of the venue with persons observing the social distancing requirements;
  • Face masks must be worn by all persons entering the sporting venues, change rooms or training areas, except when participating in training or matches;
  • There must be sufficient quantities of hand sanitizers with at least 70% alcohol content available for use by all officials, coaches, assistants, learners and participants;
  • There must be facilities for washing of hands with soap and water;
  • All windows and doors must remain open, where feasible, to ensure adequate ventilation;
  • Social distancing must be maintained at all times;
  • The sharing of water bottles, energy drinks and other drinks is not allowed.

Read: Learner placements and school fees: Motshekga on the state of readiness for the 2021 school year

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New timetables and subject ‘trimming’ for schools in South Africa