Promising improvements seen at primary schools where Principals Academy Trust offers Teacher Support and mentoring of principals

In 2019 the Principals Academy Trust increased its presence in Western Cape schools at Foundation Phase level, with 26 schools now part of the organisation’s Teacher Support Programme.

The Principals Academy Trust (PAT), a non-profit public benefit organisation in South Africa, has been mentoring school leadership teams since 2012. PAT offers principals the opportunity to be part of a Management Development Programme, offered in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. These principals are then mentored during and after completion of the programme with the goal to achieve systemic change and an improvement in learning outcomes in the schools. In 2016 PAT acknowledged the need for assistance for teachers and classroom support in the lower grades and adapted its approach with the creation of a Teacher Support Programme (TSP).

During the past year PAT has been actively coaching 103 principals. In addition to 26 schools receiving assistance through the Teacher Support Programme at Foundation Phase level, 13 schools also had TSP specialist teachers offering Mathematics and English assistance.

“We currently monitor the learning outcomes of 125 of the schools with principals and/or deputy principals that have participated in our Management Development Programme since 2013. Monitoring involves the collection and analysis of learner performance data from the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations, Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Systemic Tests and the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) results, where this data is available,” says Rick Haw, founding member and trustee of PAT.

During 2019 PAT also developed its own performance index – the Principals Academy Trust Performance Index (PATPI). This provides a single score calculated from the learner performance in Language (LoLT) and Mathematics in the NSC examinations and the WCED Systemic Tests. It is a rigorous measure of performance based on the number of learners that score more than 50% and more than 80% in these two critical subjects.

“We have seen good improvement in many of these schools, with particularly pleasing improvements in most of the primary schools. Some schools have shown exceptional improvements and we are using what we have learned from our work with these schools to intensify our efforts in those that are lagging,” Haw says.

Some of the schools have improved their PATPI score by more than 50 points between 2013 and 2018.

Through the Teacher Support Programme, the PAT team builds relationships with teachers at the schools where the programme has a presence, offering individual and specific ad-vice and assistance with lesson plans, specific learner challenges and finding creative ways to implement interactive learning in the classroom within the structure of the curriculum.

Having consistent interaction with the teachers and forming a partnership with the school, small interventions and adaptations in approach can lead to marked improvements.

“I assisted in helping a young teacher at a school start a Reading Corner in her classroom. She was so excited and proud of the fact that this enhanced the children’s interest in and excitement to read,” says Heather Bailey, part of the TSP team, about some of the interventions introduced and the impact it has. Shared Reading was also introduced in schools to improve reading in the Foundation Phase.

The TSP team also helps with classroom arrangement, decluttering, introducing group work in a circle format (called a Ring in Grade R) instead of linear structured rows etc.

Members of the team have identified the lack of gross motor skill activities in some schools as a challenge which they are hoping to address over time by introducing fun outside ac-tivities that still incorporate, and also enhance, learning.

“We are looking forward to 2020, to another year of this very successful collaborative approach where the Principals Academy and schools work together to ensure that South African learners get the very best education that they can,” says Haw.

About the Principals Academy Trust

The Principals Academy Trust, a Section 18(a) Trust established in October 2012, seeks to empower school leadership in public schools, serving socio-economically disadvantaged communities. PAT’s ultimate goal is to impact the overall teaching ecosystem and academic outcomes of the schools where we have a presence. Currently 103 schools are part of the programme. Approximately 2 000 teachers teach the more than 60 000 learners attending these schools in Athlone, Bellville, Delft, Franschhoek, Gansbaai, Genadendal, Grabouw/Elgin, Grassy Park, Gugulethu, Hermanus, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Kuilsriver, Lavender Hill, Lotus River, Manenberg, Masiphumelele, Mfuleni, Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Paarl, Philippi, Retreat, Simon’s Town, Stanford, Vredenburg and Witzenberg. Read more in our separate fact sheet.

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