In fulfilment of our vision for school leadership in the country, BRIDGE supports Communities of Practice for principals at a district level in Gauteng. The position of a principal is often described as a lonely one, and these communities give principals the opportunity to network and give each other mutual support in a framework of trust. Ekurhuleni North was the first of such Communities of Practice to be established by BRIDGE in 2012. The community of principals has been working together for five years and will be fledged by BRIDGE at the end of December 2016.
The CoP consist of principals from primary schools in Wattville and Actonville and over the five years these principals have formed a strong bond of support and care for each other which has flowed over into the schools. The most noticeable aspect of this CoP is the level of trust that has built up between the schools. Principals visit each other regularly, share resources and offer help when needed. They consult one another and have addressed community issues collectively and not as individual schools. Over the period of five years, two principals have retired but their replacements have been embraced by the CoP and made to feel welcome.
One of the major achievements of the CoP has been the running (over 3 years) of a maths test which assesses the maths knowledge of Grade 7 learners, either at the end of Grade 7 or the beginning of Grade 8. The results have been marked and assessed by BRIDGE and Grade 7 teachers. The latter on one occasion banded together and discussed the trends that were emerging from all the schools. There was a willingness to share and compare teaching methods and approaches which was a hugely positive and collaborative exercise. Over the three years that the test was administered, it has become apparent that there are common concerns in teaching and the principals have tried to address these at a school level, through dialoguing and comparing notes with one another. The District has shown interest in this work and has engaged with BRIDGE and the schools on what has been identified.
Other activities that the CoP has engaged in, amongst many, include:
– sharing hall space for functions between schools;
– developing values statements in schools using a common methodology;
– learning how to fundraise from each other and then running specific events in-school;
– engaging directly with the GPLMS district team to successfully lobby for changes in how the GPLMS could be rolled out;
– one principal representing the CoP being interviewed on Cliff Central to tell others about the benefits of collaborating and working as a team;
– visiting one another’s schools – as principals and also as teachers – to learn different methods and observe different approaches to teaching and learning, then sharing what has been observed.
This community is highly regarded by the District and is regularly invited to talk about what they do at District fora. The group is a stellar example of how a CoP should operate and BRIDGE looks forward its ongoing growth and development.