The COVID-19 lockdown period has brought with it high levels of uncertainty to the entire education system and has school management teams with a range of very challenging issues to address. The successful transition through this period will rest very heavily on these leadership teams getting the right practices and disciplines in place from the get-go.
Last month we issued an article which indicated that our response to this challenge was to design and pilot a set of online modules to support SMT members namely, Managing Schools Remotely and Managing Schools in Small Groups.
These modules were piloted with over 100 schools in the following Provinces – Limpopo, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga. Despite some network and connectivity challenges in some areas we managed to secure over 80% active participation by principals and deputies.
A few learnings we can share are:
- We found that there was just as high enthusiasm for the online engagement from schools in deep rural areas as from other areas
- The Zoom platform worked well for most schools – where we encountered difficulties, we tried other platforms, such as WhatsApp group calls
- It was useful to add commentary into the PowerPoint slides, as it meant participants could easily follow and understand the content even if they battled with connectivity on the day of the online session
- There was a saving of 34% on the costs usually associated with face to face training which involves travel cost and time, accommodation and physical materials. The costs of the data provided to participants and coaches was less than the standard face to face costs. In addition to this, more principals were afforded online support within a day via this mode of support
- The costs of data were minimal – 3G for all 173 participants to cover both modules, training and coaching support for just under R40 000
- Some schools which usually struggled to keep pace within the mainstream programme blossomed with the online intervention. They started to proactively request support from the coach by initiating meeting invitations and also ensuring their entire SMT was part of the online support sessions
Online learning is becoming the ‘new normal’ and PSA continues to focus its support on school leaders during this challenging period.