Mr Lugodla, principal of Qaqamba Secondary School, also achieved the highest marks in the SLP intake and is pictured here receiving his award from Managing Trustee of SEED Educational Trust and USB-ED Visiting Faculty member, David Newby
There is no "silver bullet" for education. It is when the receptivity of a leader meets a leadership programme that emphasises personal growth and systemic responses to challenges that much can be achieved.
This is according to Managing Trustee of the SEED Educational Trust, David Newby, and USB Executive Development (USB-ED) visiting faculty member.
Aimed at leaders of schools and districts in some of South Africa's most stressed and challenging environments, SEED has been running a School Leadership Programme (SLP) since 2006.
To date there have been 32 intakes with more than 750 participants from 7 Districts in 4 provinces in South Africa. In 2012, SEED and USB-ED agreed to partner on the project so that an accredited programme could be run for leaders in schools and education districts. Together they have run 20 intakes of between 20 and 30 participants.
The SLP comprises study schools and both individual and group coaching aimed at improving leadership for teaching and learning. Themes covered include: Understanding self in context, dealing with stuckness, understanding and leading change, conflict management, team performance, relational systems and developing a theory of change.
Handing over an award for the highest marks achieved in one of the recent SLP programmes to Mr Luzuka Lugodlo, principal of Qaqamba Secondary School in Duncan Village in East London, Newby said the school has been one of the biggest turnarounds that we have seen in our participating schools in the course of twelve months.
Mr Lugodlo was appointed as new principal in January 2016 and he and three other Senior Management Team (SMT) members enrolled in the SLP that commenced early in 2016.
He describes the state of the school when he arrived as follows: "At the time of my appointment some people saw it as a school which deserved to be closed down due to the conditions at the school. The situation ranged from very poorly maintained school grounds, poor infrastructure, poor human relations, poor learner and teacher discipline and poor learner performance in all grades".
The school achieved a matric pass rate of just 17% in 2015 underlining the parlous state of affairs.
He described the situation as needing a skilled leader but felt that he lacked these skills. In his 4th assignment and in the speech he made at the certificate ceremony, Mr Lugodla highlighted some of the growth in his leadership during the SLP. The following is a paraphrased summary of what he said:
- I learned that it is not about how energetic I am but rather about how I can motivate and mentor my team to perform their roles.
- I learned that whilst being too ambitious energises me, it can drain my staff. It is more important to get staff to initiate changes themselves and to allow them to develop their own energy.
- I learned that I need to model what I want to see taking place at the school.
- I learned the benefit of consultation so as to make informed decisions. This also helped the staff to feel valuable to the institution.
- I learned that it is not necessary to wait until 100% of the staff are behind a change before it can be implemented. Once I had at least 70% on board I was able to move and once the negative staff saw the signs of success they became supportive of the change.
He went on to describe some of the changes at his school in the course of the year:
- I reworked the vision, mission and values of the school with the staff during the course of the year and the high levels of conflict between staff decreased significantly.
- I strengthened the authority and responsibility level of all staff throughout the school and this impacted upon the discipline of learners who became more responsible in terms of completion of assignments and tasks.
- As a new principal, I had to deal with the inevitable negativity and undermining from some staff members I focused on a needs based approach to this conflict rather than enforcing policy or using my power and this created a positive climate in the school where teachers became more productive rather than being distracted by the conflict.
- Despite the fact that 60% of the learners in Grade 12 were progressed learners (they had failed Grade 11 but were progressed to Grade 12 because of a new Government policy), Qaqamba achieved a 61% pass rate in 2016 - an improvement of 44% over the 2015 results.
Newby said that although Mr Lugodla attributes the turnaround to the SLP, we recognise that there were other factors that contributed to this success.
- Because we have been working with the District for the past few years, the District officials have got behind the initiative in Duncan Village thus providing the supervision and support needed for long term sustainability. It is interesting to note that the circuit in which the participating schools are situated was the top performing circuit in the District.
- We worked collaboratively with our funder, Old Mutual Education Flagship Project and with our service partners LEAP Maths and Science Schools and Edunova who are providing support in Mathematics and Science to the schools in Duncan Village.
- SEED's mentor in Duncan Village, David Wylde, worked closely with Mr Lugodla and was able to help him reflect on his learnings in the SLP and then implement them in his school.
Prof Arnold Smit, one of SEED's founding trustees and Head of Social Impact and associate professor of Business in Society at the Stellenbosch University Business School said: "This programme has proven itself over almost ten years now as one that rekindles hope and restores resilience for educators leading their schools and communities in tough conditions.
"It puts leadership training, coaching and mentoring together in one integrated package and combines it with the knowledge, compassion and expertise of a dedicated team of people development specialists. The results speak for itself," Prof Smit said.
Finally we recognise that Mr Lugodla was willing to grow as a reflective practitioner. This is not always the case, Newby said.