Closure of nine schools and opening of 11 new schools: Minister Donald Grant responds to changing education needs in the Western Cape
29 Sep 2011
In line with our country's Constitution, the Western Cape Provincial Government is committed to protecting and promoting the best interests of the children in our province in all matters concerning them. Governing is about providing decisive leadership and it is incumbent upon me as Minister to make the decisions that are based on what is in the best interests of our entire education system as it serves the needs and impacts on the life chances of children.
Our learners should have access to a school staffed with qualified teachers who are present, prepared and using texts. Each school needs to have the necessary infrastructure and funding to accommodate the schooling needs of its learners. Each school needs to be managed by a competent and accountable principal. And each school needs to be a safe environment within which quality teaching and learning can be achieved free from violence and substance abuse. Schools should always be educationally viable.
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is alive to the challenges that it faces in meeting these needs.
The province faces a number of development challenges simultaneously, including:
- Population shifts in the Western Cape: Each year more and more people choose to make the Western Cape their home resulting in a net inflow of citizens. Some communities are expanding while others are contracting in size and density. As people migrate from the rural areas to the urban areas and exercise the choices available to them, certain schools in the province are experiencing a decline in learner numbers and are no longer able to function as viable centres of quality education. Populations also age. These changes demand different kinds of schooling. For example, where the population grows older in an area there is likely to be reduced demand for primary schools and greater demand for high schools in that area.
- Improved learner retention: A consequence of our success to improve learner outcomes in the Western Cape is that more learners are likely to be retained in the upper grades within our schooling system and more high schools will be required to accommodate these learners.
- Greater demand for skills development: There is a growing need for skills training in the province aligned to the Western Cape economy. The WCED constantly needs to re-evaluate the types of schools available, e.g. Schools of Skills, STEM schools and the like.
These challenges confirm that public schools operate in a dynamic, constantly evolving system. Within reason, our education system needs to change its shape constantly and apply its resources to accommodate the many realities that exist in the Western Cape.
The applicable legislative framework supports the need for a flexible education system. It provides for the establishment of new schools of different types, as well as the closure, merger and conversion of existing schools. Without these provisions it would not be possible to align our schooling system with the demands of society.
We need to build or expand schools in rapidly growing communities and close, merge or convert schools in communities where the population is decreasing or where education needs have changed. Guided by what is in the best interest of our learners, this government is making appropriate and responsible use of all four provisions.
Responding to the complex challenges facing the Western Cape, the WCED is currently:
- Building 25 new schools over a three-year period; replacing 20 older schools and expanding others with additional classrooms. As per my media statement dated 7 September 2011, the WCED expects to open 11 new schools (including four primary schools and seven secondary schools) in the Southern Cape, West Coast and Metro areas of the province by the start of 2012. These new schools will accommodate approximately 13,000 learners; and
- Closing schools in areas where the population is in decline or where education needs have changed. This process will see nine schools close at the end of this year and will affect a total of approximately 685 learners. All learners will be accommodated in existing schools.
As a member of the Executive Council, the final decision to close a school rests with me. But before any decision of this nature is made, certain public participation procedures and processes prescribed by the South African Schools Act and the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act must be followed.
Firstly, based on recommendations made to me by the WCED, I inform the relevant school governing body of my intention to close the school. These recommendations are made by the WCED taking into account a variety of factors relevant to the school itself, including:
- Low learner enrolment levels
- The existence or potential existence of excessive multi-grade teaching (i.e. where a single class has learners from several grades)
- Structural and financial sustainability of the school (especially where the school is located on privately-owned property) and
- Significant changes to the environment within which the school is situated.
When making its recommendations, the WCED also considers important operational factors, including the availability of alternative schooling, transport and accommodation options for affected learners. The WCED also considers the availability of alternative posts for its employees who would be affected by a closure.
Once the WCED makes its recommendations, the relevant school governing body is then given the opportunity to make representations in an allocated timeframe in relation to the proposed closure. A public hearing is also arranged so that members of the school community can make representations regarding the proposed closure. Written submissions are often also made by interested parties.
As Minister, I then receive all representations made and submissions received during the public participation processes set out above and carefully consider these together with all arguments for and against the school's continued operation. It is only after due consideration of all relevant information and documentation available to me that I make my final decision.
This decision is always made with restraint and is ultimately guided by what is required by law and what is in the best interests of our learners.
During the course of this year, the WCED recommended the closure of ten schools in the province. After careful consideration of all relevant information and documents, I have decided to close nine of the schools recommended. The overwhelming majority of these schools do not have more than 30 learners enrolled and do not have any prospects of increasing their learner enrolment levels. The nine schools currently accommodate a total of 685 learners.
In each of these nine cases, the prescribed processes and procedures were followed. I applied my mind carefully to all representations made by and submissions received from interested parties in respect of each school. While I was always mindful of the historical and cultural significance that these schools have in their respective communities, I was equally mindful of what is in the best interests of the learners. Only after taking all these factors into account did I make my final decision to close the schools.
Let me make this clear. The decision to close these schools has not been an easy one. But I believe that in each case, the decision to close the school is in the best interests of all learners in the province (including those currently enrolled at each of the nine schools).
Each of the nine schools has been informed of the decision and the Head of the WCED and her staff are now dedicated to ensuring the following as seamlessly as possible:
- The enrolment of all learners affected by the closures in other schools
- The posting of all teachers appointed by the WCED at each of the nine schools to other schools and
- The provision of learner transport to learners where applicable.
The WCED is mindful of the timing and logistics of each closure and, as far as possible, will ensure that teaching time is maximised during the transition. The WCED also respects and follows its responsibilities to our employees - teaching and administrative - in every way.
I care about the outcomes of the individual learners affected by any decision that this government takes to close schools. My decisions are not taken lightly and are aligned to serving the best interests of the children of this province. As we move to close nine schools in the province at the end of this year, we will see the opening of eleven new schools in the province in early 2012 which will accommodate over 13,000 learners. We must remember that the environment within which our education system operates is evolving all the time and should not be allowed to impact on the system to the detriment of our learners.
List of schools to be closed at the end of 2011:
|School name ||School location ||District |
|Buffelsnek Primary School ||Knysna ||Eden & Karoo |
|Buffelsvlei Primary School ||Ladismith ||Eden & Karoo |
|Laërskool Eendekuil Eendekuil ||Piketberg ||West Coast |
|Herbetsdale Primary School ||Mossel Bay ||Eden & Karoo |
|Matjiesrivier Primary School ||Oudtshoorn ||Eden & Karoo |
|Oakhurst Primary School ||George ||Eden & Karoo |
|Robben Island Primary School ||Robben Island ||Metropole Central |
|Salt River Moslem Primary School ||Salt River ||Metropole Central |
|St Louis Primary School ||Langa ||Metropole Central |
Cell: 083 261 7699
Issued by: Western Cape Education
29 Sep 2011
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