Dialogue 5 of the Principals Upfront Dialogue Series was held on 26 October 2016 at the Wits School of Governance. It explored the topic Instructional Leadership: What are the challenges of Leading for Change?
The keynote address was presented by Barbara Dale-Jones and drew on research recently undertaken by BRIDGE in partnership with Wits School of Governance for the First Rand Foundation (FRF) and the First Rand Empowerment Fund (FREF). The purpose of the research was to identify levers for improvement in education in order to determine where investment would have the greatest impact.
The research took the form of a “deep dive” into the education sector, focussing primarily on government schools and the relationships, resources and regulations within those schools that govern the activities and behaviour of school leaders, teachers and parents. A central theme is the concept of care, with every child being supported within a caring environment.
The presentation offers perspectives on a number of issues such as the root causes of dysfunction, the characteristics of “working together” and “working apart” schools, the concept of “outlier schools” which manage to beat the odds despite the dire socio- economic circumstances of their contexts, and the most effective levers for change.
Amongst the innovative recommendations for unlocking change is the concept of a social movement or campaign with empowering messages about the importance and value of teachers and the role of principals which could revolutionise the way teachers and principals are thought of and spoken about.
The panel discussions featured three courageous principals describing and reflecting on changes that they had successfully introduced in their respective schools. The diversity in the thoughts of the panellists and the varied circumstances of their different schools reminds us clearly that in South Africa schools and people can vary far apart in terms of their socio-economic circumstances and the challenges that they face.
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