SCHOOL IMPROVEMENTS (PMDP)
The focus of PSAs work in the schools sector is primarily focused on building school management and governance practices which will support improved learner outcomes in both primary and secondary schools. We will generally work alongside service providers who focus on teacher development and specifically on subject matter excellence.
Our work therefore involves the following role players:
Heads of Department
School Governing Bodies (SGBs)
Circuit Managers and Subject Advisors
PSA will typically undertake programs which involve between 50 and 600 schools over multiple Provinces and Districts. Each program lasts between 2 and 5 years.
Most of the programs in which we work, have a corporate or PBO funder and will involve the Department of Basic Education at national and/or Provincial levels. We have now worked across six Provinces i.e., KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo as well as the Norther and Eastern Cape.
At the outset, time will be invested in understanding the requirements of the funder and those of the Department of Basic Education – these discussions will typically result in the selection of certain modules for training and coaching. These modules can, in addition, be customised to support specific outcomes of the funder or the Province.
Once a broad plan (including clearly defined outputs and key performance indicators (KPIs)) has been developed and approved in principle, then more detailed discussions will take place involving district and circuit managers, DCES as well as teachers unions where relevant.
At this point PSA will the select and train up local coaches who will form part of PSA’s project team in each of the areas in which the program is located. These coaches who are often ex-Principals or ex- Circuit Managers go through a very structured training process to enable them to deliver on the program which has been designed. The training and coaching of local coaches is undertaken by senior PSA staff and will typically stretch over two years in the case of new coaches.
Thereafter selected schools are taken through an induction and onboarding process and PSA conducts baseline assessments which are directed at establishing each schools current maturity in terms of its management and digital practices. These baseline assessment are then revisited at least every 12 months to assess progress by each school.
The following modules are available
The development of these modules has been occasioned by a number of factors including (1) research conducted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of KZN (UKZN) on those school management practices which have the strongest correlation to improved school outcomes and (2) demand by clients (3) recent global events e.g. Covid (4) national campaigns e.g. Reading.
The core modules which were recommended by the research carried out by the UCT, have demonstrated through their training and coaching that they will produce improvements in G10 outcomes which are 7% higher than prevailing provincial averages.
Each module is trained over one day and comprises a set of slides, with trainer notes and accompanying documentation from the Department of Basic Education. Every module has a set of outputs which are in line with DBE requirements and hence do not require any ‘additional work’ from participants.
A number of modules are accompanied by tools e.g. around curriculum and absenteeism management which will support participants in core responsibilities which they are required by the DBE, to execute.
The core modules for Principals are certified as a short course and they carry SACE Professional development points.
Typically, modules are trained 1-2 months apart – this training can be undertaken either face to face or online with the former being preferred from an impact perspective, at this point in time.
Once a module has been trained it is followed up by a 0,5 day coaching (typically 2 x 2 hour sessions) around the outputs in order that these are applied to the school itself. The coaching is best described as ‘mentoring with a coaching style’.
The coaching can involve individuals or small groups e.g., the Principal and Deputy or the HODs together, and because of the costs involved, coaching sessions are increasingly being conducted on-line with significant success.
During the course of coaching engagements and then through the baseline assessments, coaches will seek evidence that the training outputs have transitioned from ‘outputs’ to ‘outcomes and new practices’. This is evidenced by a portfolio kept by each participant and their coach.
Details of training and coaching visits and progress are captured and stored in PSA’s cloud based, data base and these are used to inform reporting and decision making.
Programmes are managed through senior PSA staff who are responsible for finances, coach management, logistics and delivery on outputs. As indicated (Methodology Section), PSA follows a 10-Step project management process which is designed to minimise risk and to ensure effective delivery.
Reporting on activities and outputs is undertaken monthly – these reports will also highlight risks and opportunities and well as progress according to budget. KPIs which are often reported include curriculum coverage and absenteeism. At the conclusion of a programme, participants who have submitted their portfolios of evidence will be presented with certificates of participation and their SACE points, at a ceremony organised to which family members are usually invited to attend.
Sustainability is built into programmes through the involvement of Circuit Managers and Subject Advisors who are positioned to take the programme forward after PSA’s departure.
The PMDP has been independently reviewed on three occasions –
“The PMDP has demonstrated that it combines strategic vision with operational efficacy and has successfully engaged in some of the most difficult and intractable contexts of poverty and underdevelopment with surprising results. The PMDP has thus succeeded in overcoming barriers to the training of principals that many other programmes could not solve and is able to deliver its programme at a scale none of the others have managed to reach…”
Helene Perold and Associates in 2010