Secondary School Improvement Programme (SSIP)
Gauteng Department of Education

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
One of the legacies of Apartheid in South Africa was the denial of proper education to disenfranchised African communities. Since the advent of democracy, government has made a major effort to repair the education system. Despite significant progress, there remain major challenges in lifting the quality of education, particularly in poverty afflicted communities and particularly in the gateway school subjects such as mathematics and science.Many schools in disadvantaged communities in Gauteng continue to suffer from inadequate resources, large enrolmentnumbers, insufficient numbers of and inadequately supported teachers in gateway subjects and, as a consequence, poor achievement levels. Achieving equity in the education system remains a challenge: Prior to 2008, the top 11% of schools (i.e. those in more affluent areas) accounted for 71% of successful mathematics results. The 2009 Gauteng provincial Grade 12 pass rate was 34% for mathematics and 25% for physical science, with the vast majority of successful candidates coming from more affluent urban environments. This presents a major obstacle to the progress of learners from schools in economically disadvantaged communities into higher education, training and employment. The situation has led not only to an annual waste of potential and talent but it has doomed many thousands of young people in economically disadvantaged communities to lives of unemployment and poverty. The situation has been self-perpetuating: Schools in poverty afflicted areas have not attracted sufficient numbers of high quality teachers; The scale of the problem is beyond the budget available to upgrade schools or to provide sufficient resources for the high number of learners needing support; Grade 12 learners have accumulated major gaps in basic concept mastery throughout their schooling that undermine their progress; Poor English language skills slows curriculum delivery in high school so that large parts of the curriculum are not delivered or delivered poorly; Poverty denies many learners adequate nutrition and living conditions that impacts on educational progress. The Gauteng Department of Education was faced with the challenge of breaking the cycle of poor teaching, learning and achievement. In order to close the vast gap in the quality of education and the levels of educational achievement between learners in economically disadvantaged communities and those in economically advantaged communities, the Department needed to take action to deliver quality education and support in key subjects to many thousands of high school learners in hundreds of under-performing schools in disadvantaged communities throughout the province.This would require a high-impact short term intervention and a longer term strategy to sustain the improvement.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In 2009, the Member of the Executive Council responsible for Education, requested the Deputy Director General for Curriculum Development & Support and the Chief Executive Officer of the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre (a science centre attached to the Gauteng Department of Education) to design a special intervention project to address the problem of poor learner achievement in key subjects in under-performing schools which were not achieving a minimum Grade 12 pass rate of 75%. The plan was approved by the Department’s executive management and budget allocated for the programme to start at the beginning of 2010. The programme was called the Secondary School Improvement Programme (SSIP). Its objectives are: 1. A significant sustained improvement in Gauteng’s Grade 12 pass rate in 10 identified subjects in priority schools which are not yet achieving a minimum acceptable pass rate; 2. A significant and sustained improvement in the quality of passes of learners in priority schools. 3. An improvement in the quality of teaching in 10 subjects A programme of supplementary tuition was developed that has the following features: • All under-performing schools participate. In 2013 this involved 385 high schools; • Supplementary tuition is offered in 10 subjects to all Grade 12 learners in those schools. In 2013 this involved 50 000 Grade 12 learners; • The programme runs each weekend during the school term and during all school vacations, culminating in an intensive programme before the final end-of-year exams; • All teaching and learning material is centrally developed by ex[perts, quality assured and approved. All programme sites deliver the same lessons on the same dates. • There is an approved lesson plan for each lesson and all learners are provided with worksheets and homework materials for each lesson. • The programme is synchronised with the Work Schedules in schools. • The programme offers other development and support services to learners. These include: o Motivational talks by qualified speakers and past learners who are now tertiary level students; o Study skills training, study groups and self-study resources o ICT literacy training • Tuition is provided by carefully selected, teachers who had a track record of excellence in teaching and high levels of achievement of their learners; • Learners are transported to selected schools which serve as central programme sites. In 2013 there were 140 sites throughout the province; • Learners are provided with meals. • There is a parallel teacher training programme for teachers in the priority schools that facilitate both the improvement of professional skills and the interface between what happens in SSIP sessions and what happens in class during the week. The programme has run successfully since 2010. It has successfully improved the quality of education in priority schools, both in terms of the overall pass rate of Grade 12 learners and in terms of the quality of passing grades. The programme has become embedded as part of the school routine and is supported by all role players and stake holders.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
• No intervention of this kind has happened before. It is the first large scale, centrally managed, supplementary tuition programme ever implemented by a provincial education department in South Africa. • The educational management approach is new. The programme is implemented, managed and monitored by a team of head office units, district offices and school based staff, working as a consortium. This is an unprecedentedlevel of teamwork. • By locating the project planning and management outside of line departments in an environment that nurtures innovation, even line staff were able to think creatively and to be innovative in solving educational and logistical challenges. • The blended cultures and approaches of the provincial department and an NGO allowed a different and fresh thinking to emerge that facilitated a totally different kind of project. • The programme requires a range of large scale logistics management that includes management and quality assurance of educational materials, bulk provision of printing, transport and catering services, the management of contracted staff. Special procedures and processes have been developed to ensure that all logistics are effectively managed and compliant. • Innovative procurement processes have allowed the programme to be implemented at a much lower cost and with substantial cost savings, while remaining compliant and transparent. • The project has improved quality management in the school system. Through implementation of the programme the GDE has been able to identify which schools are falling behind in curriculum delivery. Data is fed back to the relevant district office which then deploys officials to the school to investigate and resolve challenges or to provide additional support to teachers.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The programme action plan involved the following steps: 1. The programme plan is approved annually and budget allocated. The mandate to implement has been given to the Sci-Bono Discovery centre. As an arm’s length institution, the organisation is able to use innovative and non-conventional procedures in managing the project. 2. Sci-Bono convenes teams of selected district officials in each of Gauteng’s 15 education districts. The proposed teams are sanctioned by GDE’s senior management. 3. The district implementation teams (DIT) annually select central programme venues to act as programme sites and identify high performing teachers as potential programme tutors. These recommendations are forwarded to Sci-Bono, which then contracts the sites and tutors. 4. Sci-Bono invites transport and printing service providers to bid to service the programme. Sci-Bono has developed standard rates for services on the basis of cost plus a small margin. The rates are lower than the market rate. All qualified service providers that respond are invited to participate but at the standard rate. 5. The department of education communicated the programme to schools, school governing bodies and their umbrella associations, learners and learner representative bodies, parent bodies, teacher unions, community structures and other role players. Agreement and support from all representative structures was agreed. 6. The programme was implemented according to an agreed calendar of dates. The programme has involved about 50 000 Grade 12 learners annually. (It also offer support to about 90 000 Grade 10 and 11 learners, but only during school holidays) 7. The formal programme is expanded to include motivational talks by volunteers such as professional motivational speakers and celebrities such as musicians and sports people. 8. Services such as transport and printing are closely monitored. 9. Funding is transferred monthly to school sites to arrange basic catering for learners. The allocation is based on verified previous attendance numbers. 10. All tutor claims are paid by Sci-Bono, after 3 levels of verification and 2 layers of checking. The annual calendar is summarised as follows: Oct – Dec: Planning for the following year Feb – Sept: Implementation of weekend and school holiday programme Oct: 2 week intensive supplementary tuition camps

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The following stakeholders were involved directly in implementing the programme: • The Gauteng Department of Education’s Executive Management Team • The GDE’s Curriculum, Quality Assurance, Intervention, Communications Directorates • The GDE’s District Directors and officials • The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, an NGO with links to the GDE • Tutors: 4 000 part-time contracted teachers, academics and students • Priority high schools. (385 under-performing high schools in poverty affected areas) • About 50 000 Grade 12 learners (and 90 000 Grade 10 and 11 learners) The following stakeholders were involved indirectly inn supporting the programme: • School Governing Bodies (SGB) and SGB Associations • Teacher unions • Learner Representative Councils • Ward counsellors and Community representative organisations • Faith Based community structures • Political party provincial constituency offices
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Funding: The programme costs about R140 million annually. The bulk of the funding is allocated by the Gauteng Department of Education and this is supplemented by donor funding from private sector corporate social investment. Services are procured according to a fixed rate which is based on cost recovery plus a minimal margin. All relevant service providers on Sci-Bono’s database are invited to participate, but not all agree. Technical: All educational, logistical and technical resources and services are provided by the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, a science centre and NGO with links to the department of education. The programme has 140 physical sites, most of which are public schools which are chosen as they are centrally located and can be reached by most participants. Services such as transport, printing and catering are outsourced to providers who agree to supply services at the fixed rate set by Sci-Bono. Human: The programme contracts about 4 000 tutors annually. These are teachers who sign part-time contracts to work on weekends and during school holidays. There are site managers are each of the 140 sites. District office officials manage the programme sessions in their districts. Staff from the department’s Curriculum, Quality Assurance, Intervention, Communications Directorates assist in monitoring programme implementation but do this without compensation for the additional time spend on weekends. Sci-Bono has a dedicated programme office of 15 people to implement and manage the programme.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
1. The provincial Grade 12 pass rate has improved each year for the 3 years that the programme has run. In 2009 the provincial pass rate was 72%. By 2012, the pass rate had improved to 84%, with Gauteng being the best performing province in South Africa. 2. The pass rate in critical subjects increased significantly in under-performing schools. In mathematics the pass rate improved from 34% in 2009 to 55% in 2012. In physical science, the pass rate improved from 25% in 2009 to 60% in 2012. Similar and greater improvements are evident in the other subjects offered in the programme.There has been a change in the profile of top performing learners in Gauteng who historically came almost entirely from affluent schools. Since the implementation of the Strategy, the balance has shifted and an increasing number of top performers now come from township schools. 3. The situation in under-performing schools has changed significantly and the gap between them and schools in affluent areas has narrowed. In 2009, only 1 priority school achieved a Grade 12 pass rate of over 90%. In 2012 there were 40 priority schools that achieved pass rates of above 90%. Schools with pass rates of under 30% have declined from 30 in 2009 to 1 in 2012. In 2009, there were 6 learners who achieved distinctions in physical science; In 2012 there were 251 distinctions. 4. The programme has allowed thousands of learners from poverty afflicted communities to achieve levels of success that qualify them to enter higher education and training and which give them access to bursary funding and scholarships. It has changed learners’ attitudes to learning and helped build self-esteem. 5. The SSIP initiative has evolved from being seen as a short term intervention to becoming adopted as an element of conventional support for schools in disadvantaged communities. It is widely supported by all stakeholders and seen as one of the most impactful interventions in redressing the legacy of Apartheid. It has been one of the most successful projects in uniting a wide range of community stakeholders.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The programme is closely managed and monitored: 1. Every site reports attendance and progress via SMS by 15h00 on each day that the programme runs on weekends. There is a daily report via email on days where the programme runs during the week. Reports are consolidated and emailed to executive management by the end of the day. All problems and challenges are reacted to within hours on each programme day. Each site then provides detailed data on attendance per subject and per participating school. 2. A weekly Monday meeting of site managers is held in each district, chaired by the DIT, to debrief the previous week’s session and prepare for the following programme session 3. All 15 DITs meet every Tuesday with Sci-Bono, the managing agency, to report on district implementation and prepare for the following sessions. The detailed composite data for each site and each district is presented using a customised dashboard which indicates where management action is necessary. The data is sent to senior management in each district office and to the provincial head office. Where necessary, the head of department intervenes to facilitate action. 4. Sci-Bono reports to a provincial programme management committee every 2nd Wednesday so that issues of implementation can be managed. The committee has representatives of all directorates involved and there is a report from each directorate. 5. The provincial department’s Quality Assurance directorate monitors sites though a process of unannounced random visits to sites. The Curriculum directorate visits classrooms randomly to assure content delivery quality. 6. Sci-Bono collects anecdotal feedback from learners each week, from different sites. A monthly learner satisfaction report is compiled. 7. The CEO of Sci-Bono reports to the provincial Executive Management Team on programme progress on a monthly basis.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacles were: • Attendance: Maintaining the target attendance rates of over 80% at all programme events. This was due to factors such as poor motivation in learners with the lowest levels of achievement, poor weather conditions in winter that demotivated learners from attending on weekends and long distances that rural learners had to travel to central sites. A strong advocacy campaign was run which targeted learners, parents and community structures. This helped improve attendance each year. • Tutor quality: The programme identified the best teachers in the province to serve as tutors in the programme. In many cases, these teachers were employed in more affluent schools and were unwilling to be involved in a programme that was run in disadvantaged communities. Where competent teachers could not be found, the programme facilitated the movement of teachers between sites so that good teachers taught at adjoining sites each day. In some cases, the best teachers were also asked to work as trainers in teacher training activities that took place at the same time. Intervention by executive management to give priority to the SSIP intervention helped to redirect these teachers. • Staff Burn-out: Many of the district officials spent many hours of uncompensated time helping to manage the programme. This was a great strain on them during weekends and led to them being less than rested for the following week’s work. The accumulated impact of the additional workload became very evident towards the end of the year and many were dubious about being involved in the following year. It was agreed to that their supervisors would try to give additional time off where they could. A series of non-cash incentives and rewards was implemented, supported by private sector donors.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The key benefit of the programme is the very significant improvement in the levels of educational achievement of learners in hitherto underperforming high schools. The evidence of the impact of the programme can be seen in the following: • In 2009, 17 schools in disadvantaged communities achieved matriculation rates above 80% and 93 schools posted rates below 50%. In 2012, after 3 years of the programme, 134 schools in disadvantaged communities achieved matriculation rates above 80% and 10 schools posted rates below 50%.These results come after many years of poor achievement levels that have led to generations of school leavers facing unemployment and no prospect of further education and training opportunities. • The programme has contributed to the improvement in attitudes to teaching and learning across the province and has led a systemic improvement in curriculum delivery throughout the schools system in disadvantaged communities. There is evidence from the feedback received from participants that there has been an improvement in aspirations, self-esteem and learners’ determination to progress in their post-school careers. • The programme has resulted in the development of a range of specialised teaching and learning resources for extra-mural programmes. These have been widely distributed. These have been provided to participating schools, teachers and learners in disadvantaged communities in Gauteng but, as they are public domain resources, they have been made available to other schools and NGOs, to other provinces and nationally at no cost. • The project has helped to improve communications between the department of education and community stakeholders. The programme led to the development of a provincial communication network that allows for quick and effective distribution of information through direct digital messaging and through local media. District offices now have relationships with local media and the faith-based community networks. This helps the department to communicate with parents and learners. • The implementation of a different system of management, specifically designed for a broad based implementation has spilled over into district offices. The district implementation team have benefitted from a 3 year long capacity building associated with the programme. District officials have had formal training in using ICT for management and they have developed their project management. The management approach and the system have been successful enough for the department of education to replicate in two other provincial projects.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Sustainability: The programme has been designed to improve the sustained improvement in teaching and learning in key areas of the schools system. Its fundamental goal is to transfer the gains made in the SSIP into the mainstream system so that the approach can be institutionalised. As the SSIP involves all levels of the public school system in Gauteng the long term goal is to convert the programme from a parallel intervention into a mainstream support mechanism. This will facilitate the programme being adapted for local ownership and implementation in individual schools or in education circuits and districts. This involves: • Developing resources to support teaching and learning at schools and enabling schools to run their own programmes in future, without needing external support; • Strengthening the teacher training programme has been implemented in order to improve the quality of teaching in schools which will reduce the need for SSIP as a provincial initiative in the future. • Building managerial capacity in education districts and in schools. • Documenting the procedures and processes that have been developed by the SSIP in order to facilitate the effective implementation of future large scale province –wide projects. Significant administrative and management expertise has been built at district office and school level for such projects. • Expanding the provincial ICT strategy to support digital communications to assist in (a) distributing resources and (b) delivering teacher training and support. These actions are currently in process. Progress is already evident in the adoption and adaptation of the programme by other schools, both in Gauteng and other provinces. A number of corporate donors are making use of the resources and programme approach in CSI projects elsewhere in the country. Transferability and Replicability: • A number of non-SSIP schools in more affluent areas have already adapted the model for their own use. • The Gauteng Department of Education has been approached by at least 3 other provinces with a view to learning how to adapt and implement the model in other parts of the country. • The programme resources have been loaded onto the national Department of Basic Education website as a free resource

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The following lessons have been learned: • It is possible to plan and implement large scale educational interventions if it is preceded by careful planning, proper consultation and the involvement of a broad transversal team. Close management is needed to glue the parts together. • It takes time and persistence to forge a unified, aligned and mutually supportive project team, particularly when the team is a large one (i.e. more than 70 people.) This may take in excess of a year, but once the team is strong, best practice flows across the province very quickly. • It is critical to achieve uniform success in all implementation sites, although it is not critical that this happens simultaneously. It must be possible to deploy resources and skills quickly to areas where the programme lags behind target. • Political and executive support is crucial to success and to being able to unblock obstacles to progress. Continuous communications and consultation can pre-empt many potential obstacles. While there may be no visible benefit to the time invested in this, there are major gains in not having to deal with issues of inadequate support, miscommunication or non-alignment to goals. • It is just as important to aim for implementation momentum in large scale education programmes as it is for long term success. Momentum, i.e. the programme’s capacity to keep going according to plan without micro management, may be more important than short term success. • Innovation and creativity are important as is persistence in the face of resistance to change in systems where convention and deeply embedded. Fear of failure and distrust of innovation can be overcome by quick wins and by a keeping focus on the mission. • Large programmes with multiple sites need effective administration. Innovation and creativity do not reduce the need for proper basic administrative efficiency, transparency and accountability. • Accountability and responsibility are critical to progress. Recognition and acknowledgement are critical to maintaining success.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Gauteng Department of Education
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   David Makhado
Title:   Director: Education Research and KM  
Telephone/ Fax:   +27 11 355 0560/ +27 86 219 8568
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   P.O.Box 7710
Postal Code:   2000
City:   Johannesburg
State/Province:   Gauteng

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