Rationale and Purpose

Over 85% of South African children attend under-performing schools and only 40% will graduate from upper secondary school. The South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC) is working to change that, one school at a time.

The South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition is a Community of Practice that is run by BRIDGE and is made up of school leaders and teachers from a group of 22 schools around South Africa that define themselves as ‘impact schools’. Impact schools are high-quality, achievement-orientated schools that provide disadvantaged learners across South Africa with affordable access (low fee or non-fee) to high-quality learning that prepares them for success in higher education and the world of work.

Key Activities

The members of the SAESC share best practice, attend content-based workshops at each other’s schools, and regularly take part in assessment, monitoring and evaluation activities. Classroom practice and instructional leadership are its main focus areas, with the aim of sharing and integrating effective practices into broader national education policy decisions. Key activities include:

  • The Coalition meets once a quarter for structured interaction and learning within the context of the host Coalition school. The National meetings focus on sharing working classroom practice and instructional leadership ideas, as well as observing classrooms in action at the host school.
  • This Community of Practice has developed its own School Peer Review and School Improvement Plan. Peer reviews enable school leaders and their staff to observe each other’s schools in action. These are a good mechanism for schools to establish a process of self-reflection and continuous learning as well as to participate in and support each other’s school improvement initiatives in a non-judgemental and collaborative way. The School Improvement Plan is a tool developed by the Coalition to help schools formulate objectives for improvement and ways of monitoring these. Link to the SPR and SIP documents.
  • The SAESC has partnered with Global Teachers Institute, Credit Suisse and Teach With Africa to convene the annual AXIS Education Summit (#AxisEd), which is a five day convergence of students, teachers and education leaders from across South Africa and around the world. The Summit allows a variety of educational stakeholders at any stage in their career an opportunity to collaborate and work towards a new vision for education. Watch this highlight video of the 2015 Axis Education Summit.

Link to the BRIDGE Knowledge Hub for meeting highlights, presentations, tools and documented working practice from this Community.


The SAESC was first formed in 2010 with seed funding from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation. This Community of Practice defined its own set of themes and objectives, which have guided its activities over its early years. The SAESC is one of BRIDGE’s most advanced Communities of Practice with its own logo, website, Twitter page and Facebook page.

The Coalition has made a number of significant gains, including the creation of an intern teacher programme, the school peer review and school improvement plan. All of these are open access resources which contribute to the development of Coalition schools and the sector more widely.

If you are interested in walking the journey with the Coalition, please contact Hassiena@bridge.org.za for more information about how to become a member.

SAESC 2016



The role of BRIDGE in the SAESC is so fundamental to the success of the work and it is the way in which the BRIDGE work is done with exemplary servant-leadership ethic that is an extended gift. Please pass on to all involved from BRIDGE the deep gratitude from all involved in the AXIS events. Please also convey my own gratitude and pride in the work of BRIDGE. 

John Gilmour , LEAP Science & Maths School