Basic information on public education


How are school principals appointed?

Posted by Magali von Blottnitz on 03 March 2019 9:00 PM SAST
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Provincial education departments determine their own set of rules and procedures for the appointment of school principals. As an example, we share here the process defined by the Western Cape Education Department – as described by Levy et al (2018).

The Western Cape process for appointing a principal formally involves the following steps:

·        An interview panel is constituted, consisting of the SGB, a district official and a union representative. The district official and the union representative are intended to serve only as observers. The district official observing on the interview panel acts as advisor and representative of the WCED. The district official can call the SGB to order, but cannot make recommendations on their behalf. The SGB may co-opt additional members onto the interview committee, should they require additional expertise. Where the SGB in general lacks capacity, it is the district officer’s role to provide support.

·        The School Management Team (SMT) defines criteria according to which the SGB assesses applicants.

·        An advertisement is posted by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). The advertisement contains information relating to: i) key results areas and duties; ii) job description; and iii) job competencies and qualifications. Schools are able to add items to the job description of the principal (according to the school’s needs); however, the addition cannot be inconsistent with higher-level selection criteria negotiated and agreed upon at the national level.

·        The WCED accepts applications and screens the applications for educators who have misconduct charges against them, those who have been fired, and those who have retired due to poor health. It also indicates which applicants have the relevant qualifications. The applications are then put into a sealed envelope and sent to the school. This is done on the basis of a collective agreement with the unions to ensure no names are added or taken out the envelope.

·        The SGB sets a date when the envelope will be opened. Unions are invited to attend. An initial screening takes place where the SGB shortlists five to six candidates. This list is sent to the WCED. Only established school principals and deputy principals are eligible to apply for principal posts. Currently equity and representation criteria are taken into account, but only at the early stages of the appointment process. At the shortlist, stage, expertise, qualification and experience are the primary criteria for selection.

·        The interview committee then conducts interviews. They may give assignments to candidates to complete, and they also make use of competency tests (paid for by the WCED if conducted by an external agency).

·        Once the interviews are completed, the SGB provides a list of three candidates (in order of preference) to the provincial head of education. The provincial head of education makes their final selection from this list, although they are not compelled to select the SGB’s most preferred candidate.

In practice, formal processes may or may not play out in the ways intended by those who write the formal rules.

Source: The Politics and Governance of Basic Education: A Tale of Two South African Provinces (2018), edited by Brian Levy, Robert Cameron, Ursula Hoadley and Vinothan Naidoo.

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