Failing schools in South Africa: A case of defeatism in school leadership

In collaboration with the Vaal University of Technology in South Africa and funded by the local National Research Foundation, Tom Bisschoff is leading a project on academy type schools for the ever increasing problem of failing schools in one of the nine provinces in South Africa.

Contact: Tom Bisschoff

Vaal University of TechnologyThe project gained momentum when Tom visited the VUT in July 2010 to train eight lecturers on research methods. At that occasion more than 30 staff members volunteered to attend the seminar but the intention was to train eight as field workers to conduct semi-structured interviews with local head teachers from failing schools. The school district office was involved in the project and identified ten failing schools for the project (schools that could not in five years managed to get more than 20% of their grade 12 learners through the national school leaving certificate examination). A paper was presented at the British Education Research Association’s (BERA) annual conference at Warwick University in September 2010. Valuable feedback was obtained from the audience.

Straight after the Football World Cup competition in South Africa the teachers went on strike and the field workers could not enter the schools to conduct the interviews. The interviews only took place in 2011 during the month of May.

In July 2011 Mike Bottery (independent coder) from the University of Hull and Tom visited the VUT to analyse the data. Whilst at the VUT, the researchers also conducted a few workshops on publishing research in peer reviewed journals for staff within the university.  The outcome of the analysis process was a draft paper on Failing Schools in South Africa: A case of defeatism in school leadership. During a Centre for Leadership: Birmingham University (CLUB) meeting/seminar the draft was presented to the colleagues from the School of Education, Business School and other interested colleagues. Valuable feedback was obtained and the draft was improved considering the suggestions from the audience.

District OfficialsLater this year a third visit to Vaal University of Technology will provide feedback and reflection to the academics in training. The School District Officials will also be informed about the outcome of the project. In the last year of the project a detailed report will be compiled for the National Research Foundation (South Africa).