Monday, 22 June 2015

The Evolution of a Primary School Principal

In January 1997, I started my journey as principal at Pinelands North Primary School. I remember my first few days vividly. Before school officially started for the year, I went in to acclimatise to my new position. Sitting at a large brown desk, in the middle of a dark blue and brown room, I realised the enormity of the task facing me. I could make or break this fragile community depending on how I tackled my tasks in the next few weeks. 
Only now do I realise how true that thought was, and how much effort and time has been expended in trying to ensure that this 'fragile' community is no longer fragile but exceptionally robust and hopefully, enduring, long past my tenure.
After about a year I also realised how much faith the Governing Body of this school had in me when they decided to appoint me.......I was, after all, a woman and women did not run co-ed primary schools in 1997, and I was only 37 years old too! So, a young woman.....with spiky hair and short skirts.....many would have seen this as a recipe for disaster! Luckily they didn't!
One of the first things I did was to get my caretaker to paint my office lime green.....this colour has energised me for 18 years, and is also now fashionable, but at that time, my staff were exceptionally rude about the colour - it was too bright, it gave them headaches or blinded them! I then moved my enormous desk into the corner behind the door...another really good decision that has been constant over the years. At that time, that too was rather a radical decision. Principals were figures of authority who needed a big desk placed between them and any visitor. I then scoured the school storage areas for comfortable chairs, bought a coffee table and placed those in my office as preferred places to entertain visitors.

Over the years my office has become very much my home from home. I have lots of bright children's art on the walls, a huge bookshelf filled with teddy bears as I am an arctophile, and my pin boards are dark purple. This is definitely my happy space!


Changing the face of the rest of the school was much harder, as I had to consider other staffs' choices. Intense discussions were held over the colour to paint the classroom doors as they had all been white before.....and some teachers insisted on theirs remaining white! When I look now at the maroon pinboards, the shiny tiled floors and the beautiful children's work displayed outside every room, I am in awe of how far we have come! The foyer was also an important project which took slightly longer as it needed a fair amount of money to upgrade....now there are terracotta tiles, a kelim, beautiful art, freshly upholstered furniture and birds, plants and fish to encourage visitors to relax and feel at home too.

On the first day of school for staff, I was exceptionally apprehensive. At that point I still felt that I had to 'please' my staff so I 'requested', 'asked' and 'encouraged' teachers to start changing their interactions with children from authoritarian to co-operative. Detention and punishment were still very much on the agenda, and most staff felt that if they didn't have the option of this punitive approach, the children would not perform or be respectful. 
One bit of advice I was told by a former mentor was to ensure that my staff called me 'Mrs Morton' as this was a way to ensure that there was a respectful relationship between me and the staff. This advice I ignored completely and luckily I have never had reason to regret this decision!
The way I operate as a leader in this community is very different now. I am never timid, although still at times apprehensive! I believe that I cannot be timid when so much is hinging on the outcome of every single decision we make. I need to be decisive when this school community might be affected adversely by a single incorrect move. Every time we employ a new staff member they attend a year of new staff meetings, to integrate them fully into our society as our values and ways of managing children, parents, volunteers, facilitators and the general public is very specific to Pinelands North. Although we are taught in management courses that democracy is good and autocracy is not, I have felt many times that I have needed to be autocratic for the good of the whole community.

Before I was sure of the way we were going, I was also more pliable when parents came to  complain to me about things happening in the school. I don't now disregard what they say, but because I am so sure that all our staff are teaching, loving, caring human beings who can make mistakes at times, I can diffuse difficult situations because I can see both sides of the story.

After 18 years at the helm of this 'still evolving' society, I am happy that we are on the right path, that we have created a unique society which is obviously very different from any other school society I know, and that is being seen in the education world as something to celebrate and copy as it works. Thank you to all those who continue to have faith in me, and in the greater school community...thank you for believing in us as co-creators of a new future for South Africa!   

Monday, 1 June 2015

The biggest compliment a teacher can pay their own school is to enrol their children

Teacher Chantal Petersen and daughter, Jorja
On returning from Simonsberg campsite in Stellenbosch with grade 5 and 6 pupils, I started to edit the photographs taken while we were away. I suddenly realised how many of our staff have children at our school...... In every few photographs, one of our teachers' children appeared! Contemplating this fact, I realised that every parent is concerned while their children are away from them at some unknown place. Several can't resist the opportunity to call the 'emergency' phone number on the school cellphone, to..... 'just check that my little darling is still fine'. The interesting thing is that we received no calls from staff members who also have children at camp with us....... 
When one is looking for the right school for your most precious possession......your children - you consider very carefully the pros and cons of every school in the vicinity......
Will they provide the best quality teaching?
Will they carefully consider the curriculum and choose the best to teach my child? 
Will they provide emotional or educational support when needed? 
Will the teachers treat my child as if my child is theirs? 
Will my child meet the 'right' kind of child at this school? 
Can I trust the teachers and management staff with my precious possession? 
If a teacher enrols their child at the school they are teaching at, they are actually saying that.....
...... they believe in the curriculum taught
.......they believe in the systems used throughout the school
The Botha twins, sons of Leroy Botha
.......they believe in the 'hidden curriculum' of values which is infused into assemblies and functions
and......that they believe that what they do every day, has value. 
In fact they are saying that the school they teach at, is the school they wish they had been enrolled in themselves!
Maybe, when you are investigating the best school for your child, the one question you should be asking the principal is, " How many of your staff who have children, have their children at this school?" 
Thank you to the teachers of Pinelands North, who have such faith in the school they teach at, that they have 'lent' us their precious children for seven years so that we can pass on the values we hold dear, so they can, in turn, influence the rest of the world they touch in the future.... 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Choosing a school for your family, rather than for your children

In the next few weeks, families close to our school are going to be choosing schools for their children. This exercise is fraught with anxiety as it is such an important decision!
Our school ducks are part of our family
I have always interviewed all the families who apply to Pinelands North Primary, and at the first meeting, I pass on this advice:
Remember that the choice of school is actually a choice for your whole family, not for the one child. This means that your whole family, within reason of course, should align themselves with the values and ethos you perceive the chosen school to have. The only way this can be established without being a member of the community, is through spending time at the establishment.....make sure you attend everything the school organises before your child is 'school ready'. Functions like school fairs, open days, sports matches and plays are perfect opportunities to see the 'school in action'. Instinctively you will feel the right 'fit', just walking along a corridor! 
The school must also be affordable for your family, not only in school fees but also in uniform, and extras like camps, stationery and extramurals. The one thing families often
forget to include in this affordability is......Will your child go on similar holidays, wear similar civvies clothes, buy the same toys......? This problem rears its head later in school life because, as they get older, all children want to fit in. If your child is going overseas every holiday, and nobody else in his class is doing so, it becomes difficult to talk about the holiday. In the same vein, if your child is getting small toys for their birthday, but everybody else in his class is getting an iPad, an iPhone or an Apple watch, then your child is again not going to fit in.
Multisport athletes riding through Koeberg Nature Reserve
Most schools you would consider will give your child a good academic education. In South Africa the curriculum is regulated so there should be few differences in the academics between schools. Instead, look for the extras over and above the usual academics. Things in this category would be outings, fun days, projects, camps, music lessons, and extramural learning like science and stamp clubs. In a school like Pinelands North, this also would mean the Creative and Talented Programme. This programme caters for the brighter child and is geared to extending them longitudinally and vertically. This means that if your child turns out to be advanced academically, this programme would extend their thinking without them feeling frustrated academically.  
Celebrating books on World Book Day
I am biased but my other consideration is that I would want my child to grow up in a school that celebrates diversity, not only by race but also by religion, ability and disability, psychologically and academically. The country we live in in 2015 is very diverse, and children growing up in a homogenous society will find life after school exceptionally difficult!
So, go on...investigate, research, interview, and discover the perfect school for your child which will then be the perfect school for your family. Finding a school like this will encourage you and your partner to be fully 'present' in your child's learning, throughout the 7 years of primary school! School today is so different from schooling we experienced, so go out and enjoy your schooling, all over again, through your children!


Monday, 27 April 2015

Changing the World, one Red-Schooler at a time!

Starting out as a principal in 1997, I have never known anything but change in education! We have been through 'right sizing' of schools, transferring of teachers to other schools (usually using the 'last in, first out' method), banning corporal punishment, Bengu's OBE, then the NCS, now CAPS.....and so it continues. In fact, a lot of very experienced teachers and management staff at schools left at the end of 1996 because they were then concerned that South African education as we knew it, was going to crumble. I am so pleased they did, because that opened up a place for me to manage our little microcosm of South African society! Believe me it hasn't been all 'honey and roses'! I have often felt frustrated, despondent and angry but when I review the past 18 years, the overall view is very positive because change can be cathartic! All the outside change has encouraged us at Pinelands North to continually re-evaluate what we do, and how we do it.
This continual process has kept us on our toes, and every time a new curriculum has been developed, it has encouraged us to review what we do, and plan an even better curriculum for our children. This has meant that when other schools were told to 'throw out' physical education, needlework, woodwork and music, we adapted these subjects to fit into the new curriculum. Now, when most schools who were teaching isiXhosa have stopped, we added more time to our week just so we could keep it. Another subject which has been dropped in grade 4 to 6 is Economic Management Science....we also added time for this subject because of our belief that each of these brings an added value to our South African society. Here is how:

  • All South Africa's children need at least 3 languages! How could the curriculum developers agree that only 2 languages would be compulsory? The culture, acceptance and communication value of knowing 3 languages is very obvious!
  • Needlework and Woodwork used to be gender segregated subjects when we were at school. Now grade 4 to 7 children at Pinelands North all do both, in addition to Technology. This means that all children learn how to use a sewing machine and overlocker, and to use wood, tools, hammers and nails. Most of us wish we had had this opportunity as every extra skill one learns, is one more opportunity to create work in the future.
  • Economic Management Science was a subject all children loved, and parents wished they had had at school themselves. Children learnt about bank accounts, mortgage bonds, saving and how to start a business. Children at Pinelands North in grade 4 to 6 still learn entrepreneurial skills and have a Market Day every year to practise their business building skills.
  • Music and drama are now 'back' in the official curriculum but at Pinelands North our children have continued both these subjects since they were introduced in about 1998. The skills learnt in these subjects, and during the other opportunities for public speaking and poetry recitation they have during a regular school year at Pinelands North, mean that our children are prepared to 'stand up and be counted' when they need to voice their opinions.
  • We also teach a 'hidden curriculum'. This is the 'stuff' that doesn't have lesson assigned to it but is subtle and underlies all our interactions at school. It is about empathy for others, about caring for animals and learning about other cultures, religions and peoples so that interacting with difference is easy in the future.
Our 'Red Schoolers' are prepared in their primary years, to take on the world. School is not only about learning 'subjects' - it is about learning how live in a future changing world - a world that demands you be the very best person you can be.  Our children leave at the end of their primary schooling 'the best they can be', able to change the whole world or....... just their own if they wish. That makes me very proud!


Monday, 13 April 2015

You learn to talk by talking, you learn to read by reading, you learn to write by writing...and you learn to include by including!

Working in a school where inclusion is the norm, creates problems when faced with a segregated society where most adults today can't fathom how this works as it is so far removed from their schooling and current work practice. The idea of inclusion is that people with 'special needs' are viewed in ways in which they are the same as other people, rather than in ways they are different. At our school we see everybody having special needs, some just have special needs some of the time and some have them all the time!

According to the Centre for Inclusive Education in Canada, the characteristics of an inclusive school are these:

A supportive environment
Grade 1s at the Science Centre
Our school has many people supporting every child every day. The class teachers are the first 'go to' people, but children also have teacher aides, a counsellor, a learning support teacher, an inclusive support teacher, the admin staff, the deputy......the list of staff is endless! Of course inclusive schools aren't only about staff support either - the children's support and the parental support network is also essential for the care, feeling of acceptance and value that children feel here. I have been told frequently about the 'atmosphere' that is tangible when someone walks into our foyer! 

Positive relationships
Children at Pinelands North are encouraged to build good relationships with aftercare staff, an older grade 7 pupil, and other children of all ages who 'work' within the school with them like the bird and bunny monitors. We find that having all our children playing together on the playground is exceptionally positive - different aged children play together and care for each other amazingly well. Some children struggle socially and so for them, the section of individual games and puzzles outside my office is a lifesaver at break time or before school.

Feelings of Competence
Grade 4 Market Day
All children need to be 'competent' at something and so we try to provide as varied an offering for our children as possible. Extramurals cater for those who wish to play in teams, and for those who don't, for those who can run and move, and for those for whom movement is difficult! Competency in the classroom is also varied as teachers try to catch children doing the right thing either in writing, reading, mathematics, performing, speaking and many other skills - academic and not.

Opportunties to Participate 
Children at school need opportunities to test their participation is as many varied fields as possible, particularly in primary school. In doing so they learn how to function in society, in their homes and in school. Pinelands North offers so many of these opportunities:
Best Speaker's Competition
Poetry Competition
Early Act Tree of Joy Christmas Gifts
Fun run/walk
Biennual school play
Market Days
Camps and tours
Each of these allows somebody to create a niche for themselves, and in so doing, be accepted widely in their school and society. 



Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Our children know how to support their peers!

Feeling very apprehensive about this task.....
I am currently on camp with the grade 5 and 6 pupils from our school, and I have spent the past hour in tears! Let me explain.
I joined a group of 20 grade 5 pupils at one of the ‘leadership’ tasks. The task was to get the whole group across a ‘river’ of mud, from a wooden platform to the bank on the other side, using a rope which is dangled in the middle of the ‘river’. The first task, obviously, is to get the rope, and then to get everybody, individually, across the river while hanging off the rope.
Immediately 4 children took over and problem solved their way to making a ‘rope’ out of shoes and laces. This was then flung several times until it wrapped around the rope, and brought the rope to the platform. The next task was then started – to get everybody across the river on this rope, without anyone falling in or landing out of a roped circle on the opposite side of the bank. Also, if someone fell off the platform while all this was going on, everybody had to start again.
Now, why was I in tears? I know we teach our children to be compassionate, not to make fun of anybody at any time and to be encouraging, but when you see this in action, without any prompting from any adult, then it is very moving!
Encouraging their group to give it a try......
Celebrating another successful trawl through the mud
Some children found the task very easy and they jumped on the rope without thinking and flung themselves over the river. Others however, reacted differently. Some told themselves they’d be fine and after a few seconds of collecting themselves, jumped over the river too. Others found the task completely unnerving, however, and refused to even try. One child in particular made me cry. She at first refused to go, saying that she was fat, and she had weak arms and so couldn’t go across. I think part of it too, was that she didn’t want to let her team down as, if she fell in, the whole group would have to start again. The children on the other side encouraged her so beautifully that eventually she clung to the rope, jumped off the platform…….and fell straight into the mud! Not one child laughed, or made fun of her. She was devastated however, and burst into tears. We tried to coax her into trying again but she insisted that she wanted to change her clothes and then come back. She did this, and eventually we managed to get her onto the platform again after everybody else had gone across. The pressure on her was enormous……everybody waited on the other side and shouted encouragement but eventually she agreed to cross, only after several of the children had told her how she was often the one who encouraged them, that this time it was her turn to be brave, that if she fell in again it would only mean that she would get muddy, and that nobody would laugh at her at all. Through all this I cried……the children said amazing things to her…things we as adults model for them daily.
She breathed in deeply a couple of times, and, after some coaching on how to jump, how to swing, and where to land on the other side, she jumped! And landed perfectly - in the rope circle, and caught by the children who were all cheering her on…..and I cried again! Our children are amazing!  

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Fleshing out our Mission Statement

PINELANDS NORTH PRIMARY SCHOOL
-provides a happy, healthy, homely, safe, yet challenging learning environment
- develops the whole child's full potential academically, culturally, socially, spiritually and physically, 
- builds a vibrant, reflective and committed staff team
- encourages committed parental support and involvement
- develops co-ownership and accountability among all stakeholders including the wider community and continually improves the range and quality of its academic and extramural activities.

It is said that an organisation should continually assess their mission and vision statement to ensure that it accurately continues to 'say who you are'. This mission statement was originally developed in about 2001, and bar a few very minor changes, has continued to reflect our school and it's ethos. 
So, herewith our thoughts on each part......


1. ‘provides a happy, healthy, homely, safe, yet challenging learning environment'
  • devise and continually review our school safety plan
  • remind all stakeholders of the Code of Conduct and Bullying Policy every year
  • make the school homely by keeping animals, growing plants, playing music etc.
  • train PNPS children in peer conflict resolution strategies
  • encourage all pupils to achieve all that they can through the personal comments written on reports and the message presented at assemblies and other general school gatherings
  • devise and implement HIV/AIDS policy, and support any families affected by HIV/AIDS
  • remind children and parents about healthy eating at school and at home, in newsletters several times a year. 

2. ‘develops the whole child’s full potential academically, culturally, socially, spiritually and physically’

  • hand out merit trophies to one pupil per class and one pupil in each specialist subject area, twice a term
  • hand out merit badges to four pupils in each class every week in assembly
  • give deserving music pupils merits too
  • send Teacher Pleaser awards to parents from every class, once per term
  • hold interclass competitions in various circumstances, to build class unity e.g. Easter egg collections
  • encourage all pupils to extend themselves academically
  • build community awareness among pupils and greater world by adopting charities or doing community work
  • emphasise subjects which will improve life skills and provide hobbies or employment for the future eg entrepreneurship, computer skills, technology, woodwork, needlework and drama
  • work proactively in school curriculum change
  • provide access to learning support to all children within the school
  • provide opportunities for inclusion in mainstream education to pupils with special needs
  • teach Life Skills in our school curriculum but continue to promote the ethos of good living.

3. ‘builds a vibrant, reflective and committed staff team’

  • promote extra curricular courses for all staff
  • evaluate all staff every year and encourage the further development of strengths and improvement in weaker areas
  • meet with new staff at least twice a term
  • employ the best staff for the position, regardless of race, colour or creed, yet actively try to make the staff complement reflect that of the pupil body
  • draw up a workplace skills plan and review it annually.

4. ‘encourages committed family support and involvement’

  • continually encourage and praise participation in Red Connect meetings and other school activities
  • keep parents informed of current and forthcoming events through weekly newsletters, School Communicator, website, twitter feeds and Facebook
  • include personal parent/principal interviews in the enrolment process
  • respond positively and attend to negative communication as soon as possible
  • provide opportunities for ‘family learning’ in school homework tasks and holiday projects  
  • encourage all parents to attend our annual School-in-Action Day, so that they see our school in action.

5. ‘develops co-ownership and accountability among all stakeholders including the wider community’

  • set up varied parent forums as the need arises 
  • use as many parents from our Parent Help file as possible
  • include parents in class and school discipline procedures
  • invite grandparents to a special day dedicated to them
  • visit 'feeder' preschools and create opportunities for them to visit us
  • initiate meetings of Pinelands’ principals and governing body chairmen to encourage greater co-operation and working together, to maintain the high standard of education in Pinelands.

6. ‘continually improves the range and quality of its academic and extramural activities'

  • enrol pupils in national and international standardised tests
  • promote PNPS to our 'feeder' preschools
  • annually review academic and extramural focus and success
  • actively include life enhancing skills/subjects in our curriculum eg drama for self confidence, life skills and HIV/AIDS education for personal growth and development.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Grade 7 Tour 2015

Our Ashton stopover
Monday started very early, with us meeting at school at 06h00! After packing the bus, we left for the N1 trip via Carlitzdorp and a short stop at Ashton on the way. The first learning of the tour was a visit to the Withoek Boerdery in Calitzdorp, to a friend of Mr Botha. Here we visited his vineyard to watch the final grapes of the season being harvested, and then we went to the cellar for lunch.
Duron and Duncan at the cellar 

We then continued with our journey, arriving in Oudshoorn for our visit to The Cango Wildlife Ranch, and a chance to see several big cats and crocodiles as well. We really had fun in the children's park too! After about an hour and a half we continued to the ostrich farm where, after a talk about the history of the ostrich farming industry, we got to hug ostriches, stand on their eggs and ride on them! A lovely braai supper was provided by the farm management, and then we swam in their indoor pool. This was indeed a highlight of our tour because they have a long slide the children use to enter the pool! The evening ended with us going to our accommodation at Kleinplaas - we slept in separate self catering houses so the children felt very 'grownup'. 
Visiting the ostrich farm

Tuesday started very early again, and after a shower and clean up, we packed the bus and went back to the ostrich farm for breakfast. After an amazing breakfast we had the chance to visit the curio shop and buy presents for our families. The next trip was to the Cango Caves! In two separate groups we went into the caves for the Adventure Tour, attended a movie on the history of the caves and then were able to go to the curio shop at the caves. After both classes had finished, the bus travelled back to the ostrich farm for lunch. Then we were off again - this time to the Plett Puzzle Park and finally at about 7 in the evening, to our destination - Harkerville Forest Lodge, close to Plettenberg Bay. After supper we collapsed into bed, happy in our new home.
Visiting the elephants

Wednesday started with breakfast at the lodge and then the bus left for Monkeyland and the Birds of Eden. Both these visits were great.....we walked into aviaries and among the birds and monkeys which gave the children such a good perspective of their lives. Our next stop was the Knysna Elephant Park. For many this was a real highlight of the tour as we got to touch and feed these amazing animals after lunch. Later that afternoon we visited the Knysna Forest for the Eco-ED forest adventure and braai. The children learnt a lot about the Knysna forest and the animals living there, but also about leadership and trust, after having a chance to play the drums in unison! Our final task was the walk in the dark back to the bus, and then we travelled back to Harkerville and the comfort of our warm comfortable beds. 
Leroy with the barn owl

Riding on the tractor
Breakfast at Harkerville and another trip by bus started Thursday! The first visit was to Radical Raptors. It was amazing to see all these birds of prey, out of their cages, flying above our heads. We then went to spend a few hours at the Adventure Land Fun Park where the children and staff zoomed down long water slides, floated on plastic tyres and generally had great fun. Lunch followed, back at Harkerville Forest Lodge, and then we left for Featherbed Nature Reserve. This was another highlight as we went across the Kysna Lagoon in a ferry, were taken up the hill on a tractor and trailer, and then hiked back to the jetty through beautiful milkwood forests. Afterwards we caught the ferry back to Knysna and then the bus took us to the Plettenberg Bay Spur for our final supper of burgers and ice-creams. And, as  Thursday was Noah Petersen's birthday, we got to sing to him there too!
Noah's birthday cake

On Friday we were very tired! After working so hard all week and not getting to bed early enough, we really dragged ourselves to get up, have breakfast, pack up and get into the bus on time. As we waved Harkerville goodbye, there was much sadness as we had really loved our time there! Noah's Wolf Sanctuary was our first stop before the trek home: there we met the resident wolf packs, had time to feed the 'petting zoo' animals, and hear about how wolves live in the wild. Mossel Bay was the first stop to have lunch - a takeaway pie from Pick 'n Pay - and then our journey continued to Cape Town. Most of us slept all the way back to school, and after meeting our families, promptly went home to sleep too! What an amazing week together!
Waiting to enter the caves

Thank you to all the staff who organised and accompanied the children on the trip, and to the children who again proved that our school teaches something unique - every time we travel outside of the school, the public spontaneously tell us that our children are well behaved, have beautiful manners and ask really good questions. Thanks for continuing to 'Aim High'!
Visiting Monkeyland


At the puzzle park









Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Importance of Electing the 'right' Governing Body

Later this month, all public schools in South Africa will elect a new Governing Body for a term of three years. Now is the perfect opportunity therefore, to ensure that the Governing Body your school selects, is the best one possible!
Lia Nizjink - current chair
School communities differ and so what is good, and possible, for one community, is not necessarily the best for another. School principals have a responsibility to their communities to ensure the best candidates are made available, and are voted in, so that their schools are enhanced by the Governing Body, not disadvantaged. I believe the principal's role in this is crucial. By this, I do not mean that we should be canvassing for the parents and staff that will follow the principal's lead meekly. I do mean that principals around the country should be advertising the elections weekly, on all communication platforms, should be emphasising the importance of the governors adding value to the school, and should be suggesting to those who might be interested that they meet with current governors to be better informed about the important role they play, in public education in South Africa. It is also crucial that the governing body reflect the school community so that all parts of the community feel that they are well represented.
Ko Bohms - treasurer
Tania van Rensburg -secretary
Governing body associations we are associated with; the Federated Association of School Governing Bodies, and the Governing Body Foundation, have been advertising these elections since the beginning of this year, trying to encourage parents to accept their responsibility for their local schools and to be involved. This advocacy can either be annoying or helpful to school principals, and the way they view this advocacy, is often through the past relationships they have had with their own previous governing bodies.
Mimi Xhantini - exemptions
I have been at schools in the past were a governing body has been a positive influence in a school, and also in schools where the governing body is seen as the enemy...In both these cases my experience has been that the principal has made the difference. When a governing body is 'feared' it is often because the principal 'uses' the governing body as a big stick - I heard of a teacher who was told that she should comply with an instruction or if she didn't, she would have to meet with the governing body to explain why she wouldn't comply...
The Governing Body Foundation have sent around a newsletter which gives the 'characteristics and capabilities' of those who wish to be nominated as governors: their list includes serving
  • in the best interests of the school not themselves
  • for the 'right' motives, not advancing their own interests
  • without reward for their services to the school
  • without expecting any advantage for their own children - academically or any other
This month allows schools to show the rest of South Africa, and the world, that democracy is alive and well. Please ensure that your school does reflect the South Africa that Nelson Mandela wished for us all!