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Whole School Evaluation (WSE) and its implementation in the Western Cape

Posted by Magali von Blottnitz on 09 March 2019 8:50 AM SAST
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The Whole School Evaluation (WSE) is a national policy promulgated in 2001 – but its implementation is the responsibility of provincial departments of education. The description below is based on a study done in the Western Cape, which involved a review of policy and interviews of various stakeholders. Note that there may be some variation in other provinces.

The whole school evaluation (WSE) was promulgated nationally in 2001 (RSA, 2001), and implemented in the Western Cape in 2006, replacing the old provincial inspectorate system. It involves three steps:

1.      pre-evaluation documents prepared by the schools;

2.      an external evaluation; and

3.      post-evaluation, whereby schools and districts analyse the WSE report and incorporate the recommendations into school improvement plans (SIPs).

 In the Western Cape, the WSE is carried out by teams, consisting of permanently appointed officials and part-time WCED supervisors appointed by the WCED this purpose. There is a multi-functional team for high schools, which consists of a team leader and three team members. Each school is evaluated according to the nine focus areas specified in the WSE policy. Lesson observation takes place in languages, mathematics, natural/life sciences and an elective (high schools) or foundation phase (primary schools). The length of the visit is three or five days, depending on the size of the school.

 There are a number of critiques of WSE.

·        Firstly, from the union perspective, they are described as: ‘nice little reports where little is done. WSE is equally useless (in comparison with performance management)’.

·        Another complaint from a couple of interviewees was that, due to SADTU resistance, the external supervisors cannot evaluate teachers in classrooms. However, according to the WCED official in charge of WSE, there are classroom visits but under circumscribed conditions, e.g., the school needs to know in advance.

·        Additional critiques were that WSE is not robust enough, and that it takes too long to implement. The objective is to evaluate high schools once in three years, and primary schools once in five years. There are 1,524 schools in the Western Cape. Between 2006 and 2014, about 757 schools (50 per cent) have been evaluated (WCED Data Base, 2014).

But for all of the criticisms, there was also a sense that WSEs add value. SIPs prepared by schools are monitored online by the districts and are also an early warning system; many WCED staff we interviewed reported this to be a relatively effective measure of monitoring.

Source: Levy et al (2018), The Politics and Governance of Basic Education, © Oxford University Press.

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