Strategy for underperforming schools

SOYISO MALITI

At least three high schools in Kraaifontein and Kuils River have been identified as underperforming by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

For 2015 Wallacedene and Scottsville secondary schools and Kuils River Technical High School, tallied up 53.3 percent, 57.3 percent and 56.9 percent matric pass rates respectively – short of the prescribed 60 percent average benchmark by the WCED.

Wallacedene Secondary principal, Pauline Mcako, attributed the drop in the pass rate to having 80 pupils “progressed” from Grade 11 in 2014 to matric last year. She said this cost the school dearly, as the pupils couldn’t cope with the demands of Grade 12. The school’s pass rate was 67.3 percent in 2014. To atone for the drop, the school has already begun with Saturday classes, attended by all pupils in Grades 8, 9 and 10 from 10am to noon, as well as after-school tutorials. Ms Mcako said the majority of the progressed 80 pupils had failed matric dismally, and had not passed in one of the four terms spanning a calendar year.

However, she said, some of them qualified to write supplementary exams. Continuing on her strategy, Ms Mcako said: “We’re working closely with the Metropole (East district). We are going to try hard this year to minimise the number of pupils who have failed.”

Wallacedene Secondary school governing body chairwoman, Neliswa Zwelakhe, also apportioned blame for the drop on the progressed pupils.

She said the class of 2016 would attain an average of “at least 80 percent”. Ms Zwelakhe said no pupils were progressed from Grade 11 to Grade 12 this year. “We have added tutors to deal with maths and tourism, which had been a problem in the past for the current crop of Grade 12s,” she said.

Francis Lubbe, Metropole East circuit 4 manager who oversees Kuils River Technical High School, said his circuit inherited the school from another district in January this year. Mr Lubbe is upbeat about his district’s ability to turn around the school’s results with a strategy that includes extra classes, pep-talks with the pupils and extra funding.

“There is a massive strategy in place,” he said. Vowing to personally spearhead the turnaround, Mr Lubbe said he doesn’t “like coming second”. Every subject, and the general performance thereof, has been scrutinised, Mr Lubbe said. He said management had also been put under the spotlight as they left no stone unturned in their quest. The strategy includes marketing the school to the community, parents and would-be Grade 8 pupils, beginning with an open day that took place on Saturday March 6.

“We’re going to make the (Kuils River) community very proud,” an upbeat Mr Lubbe said. He said he had already had a pep-talk with the pupils recently, which was followed by the commencement of regular after-school tutorials.

“During the session, I told them they can all become a success story if they went on and obtained a degree,” said Mr Lubbe, who is also tasked with overseeing another school’s turnaround in Khayelitsha. The WCED characterises underperforming schools as those that achieve matric pass rates of less than 60 percent, said the WCED’s spokeswoman, Millicent Merton. She said the department has set its eyes on increasing the number of matriculants leaving schools, while improving the quality of their results. She attributed this as the reason the Western Cape had the highest retention rate in Grade 10 to 12 in the country, “and the highest proportion of candidates who achieve access to bachelor studies”. Ms Merton said circuit managers sign off school improvement plans which in turn inform district improvement plans.

“The WCED provided every high school with a detailed report on their matric results in the first week of the 2016 school year.” Scottsville’s Secondary School did not respond in time to the Northern News’ questions.