Learning from School Visits
Recently, whilst in Johannesburg, Rachel was able to visit two schools, both developing innovative models of education.
Streetlight school, located in a community housing area, operates from the ground floor of a block of flats. The school started in 2016 from a desire to provide quality education for the community. The school is currently for 5 to 7s. Parents pay minimal school fees making it affordable. Fundraising covers the shortfall in staffing and running costs.
The SPARK group of schools started in 2013, with the aim of providing high quality education through the accessibility of affordable education. SPARK school Maboneng, also operates from the ground floor of a block of flats, with the majority of children coming from Soweto. The school currently exists for 5 to 11 year olds. School fees are approximately R20,000 / £1,130 per year.
Through meeting Principals, and considering each school’s mission statements – in light of what Soul Action aims to establish – it is evident that there are obvious similarities, for example, we are all aiming to provide affordable and quality education.
High quality /excellent education
It was inspiring to spend time with Principals who, like Phil and I, are thinking differently about South African schooling, and, implementing innovate approaches to education. Principals respecting the rights of children, providing excellent education through combining opportunities for children to develop key skills with an environment encouraging creativity, curiosity and research. To ensure the quality of teaching and learning, Principals were intentional in investing in staff. Each teacher was observed weekly, and the Principal facilitated one to one feedback and planning meetings (not too dissimilar to the Leverage Leadership approach we wrote about previously). Alongside working one to one, regular professional development took place.
To make fees affordable, each school has developed its own model; Streetlight charges minimal fees, whereas SPARK charges approximately R20,000/ £1,130 per student, each year. We plan on using a sliding scale for fees, with parents paying proportionally to their income.
Increased affordability, in terms of people costs was being achieved at the schools through being creative and innovative with staffing structures. They had moved from a traditional approach of one teacher per class. This in particular has challenged my thinking in terms of our approach to staffing structures, quality and affordability. It is an area that needs dialogue with Soul Action’s board of Trustees, i.e. to find the best staffing structure to match our aims and philosophy for the school.
Streetlight and SPARK were meeting their aims – quality and affordable education – for the children they were serving – 99% of which were black African.
The area where we are noticeably different is our desire to be transcultural (see our previous blog this month). South Africa is a diverse country with citizens from many cultures. We believe that by being transcultural we can work towards developing a society where people respect & value one another.