Working together to empower school leaders

BRIDGE has partnered with The Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation to develop a programme that seeks to improve learner outcomes by empowering school leaders and HoDs to implement quality educational practices and processes; this will be done through a combination of mentoring, professional learning communities (PLCs) and peer review. The Peer Review Process has been developed by the South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC), and their learnings and the resources will be adapted for use in this programme. The programme will run over 5 years and is funded by the Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation.

BRIDGE hosted a Leadership Symposium which was aimed at encouraging stakeholders to build relationships with one another, and to re-commit to the Programme. In particular, the symposium aimed to put the mentoring aspect of the Programme on a more secure footing by giving principals and deputies the opportunity to meet and interact with the two Programme mentors from the SAESC. The symposium modelled a collaborative methodology, which participants could then use in their own institutions. The symposium was attended by committed and enthusiastic principals, deputies, Heads of Department (HoDs) and district officials.

The Symposium opened with activities aimed at helping participants to engage interactively with one another, and to develop a basis for building relationships of trust. The first step focussed on helping people to ‘find themselves’ by focusing on their thoughts and feelings. Participants appreciated the opportunity to look inward and to reflect on themselves and their needs, noting that they seldom had the time to do so. A few admitted to feeling somewhat unsure and hesitant as to how to receive and adapt to the experience.

The second step was aimed at helping people ‘find each other’. Reflections on this session stressed the commonalities that exist, despite people’s different roles and workspaces. Participants appreciated being able to engage on a non-official, one-to-one basis, and found that they shared many personal values, interests and goals; attached meaning in similar ways; and experienced similar fears and challenges.

Programme Manager, Hassiena Marriott, expressed appreciation for people’s openness and wholehearted participation, which ensured that every voice was heard. The external facilitator highlighted the quality of the interaction between participants, which was both open and respectful. Venessa Moodley, principal of Actonville Primary School, speaking on behalf of the principals and staff of the nine Ekurhuleni North schools, described the symposium as ‘hugely beneficial’. She observed that the presence of district officials had been particularly appreciated. The symposium had brought people together and made it possible for them to interact with and experience one another in a different light. Participants confirmed their motivation to learn about the Programme and its implementation, to improve their practices, leadership abilities and institutions, and to work towards positive change. They viewed the symposium as a welcome opportunity to gain inspiration and perspective.