Claremont High: How we achieve excellent results on a small budget

At just 11 years old, Claremont High School is making waves in the education space in Cape Town. The school was started by the Western Cape Education Department in 2011, with the aim of creating a challenging yet enabling environment, focused on promoting outstanding academic performance among pupils whose backgrounds do not typically allow access to the best quality education. 

Westerford High, a highly regarded nearby-school, assisted in the management of our newly-established school, providing valuable guidance in the early years. In more recent years, Claremont High has found its own feet, establishing itself as a successful school in its own right.

Our education model

Claremont High was started with a very specific focus. Every child must take pure Maths and Physics to matric and students are often reminded that to be successful, they must work both harder and smarter than anyone else. The school offers a no-frills education with a focus on a rigorous curriculum but also on each child as an individual. Teachers are encouraged to develop mentoring relationships with their students, stepping in to guide and assist them when necessary. 

Both students and teachers are held to high standards by an encouraging and dynamic leadership team. The principal, Murray Gibbon, runs a tight ship, leading in a kind and encouraging but no-nonsense manner. He manages to keep an eye on all aspects of the school, while expecting and allowing staff to take responsibility for their roles. The result is a school of which the students, teachers, and parents are immensely proud. 

Some of our wins

In the 2020 matric examinations, Claremont High was ranked 9th in the Western Cape overall and first in the province in Physical Science. What makes this achievement remarkable is not only that the school is relatively young but that its fees are a fraction of all the other highly-ranked schools. CHS fees for 2021 were R10 000 per year, while fees for the other top twenty schools ranged between R29 900 and R 158 620 p.a.

Our recipe for success

So, what is the secret to success on a budget? At Claremont High, all stakeholders are willing to put in the extra effort required to make a success of the school and we achieve this without spending extra money. We do the following to cut costs:

  • Students assist with the daily cleaning of classrooms. 
  • Matrics help to manage some administrative tasks. 
  • We don’t have outside coaches or service providers – instead teachers offer a variety of extra murals including tutoring, debating, hiking, music, dance, and a small variety of sports. 

The budget is very carefully planned and expenses trimmed, wherever possible, but it is the extra time and effort put into the school by parents, students, and teachers that makes the difference. 

Because the school has achieved excellent matric results at a comparatively low price, organisations that offer high school scholarships are increasingly keen to place students at Claremont High, since the school offers more value for money than former “model C” and private schools do. This helps in balancing the budget, as many of these families would otherwise not have been able to pay fees. One quarter of CHS students are on either a full or partial fee rebate. 

The Claremont High model is certainly one that can and should be replicated. What is required is the right mix of vision, leadership, commitment, and support.

About the author:
Having taught Maths at three different high schools across Cape Town since 2002, Laura Lowry is currently the Head of Mathematics at Claremont High School. She is passionate about education and its power to alter the trajectory of young people’s lives. She completed a BBusSci(Hons) and PGCE at UCT, and lives in Cape Town with her husband and two young children.

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