Showing posts from 2015

Here are the links to posts about reading in this blog.

I have decided to group the blog links for six posts that are dedicated to reading advocacy in our schools.

1.     A case for a national reading campaign
In the post,  We need an ambitious national reading campaign beyond the classroom, I reference the Cuban literacy campaign that was driven by the government of the day.  I argue that we too, have the resources to promote and sustain a national reading campaign, if we are serious about lifting our children's performance.

2.     Reading Programmes at School should be supported by a sound school and classroom infrastructure.
In  Six fundamental elements that should form the backbone of your school's reading strategy.  I suggest six elements that schools should consider when they embark on a whole-school reading strategy. These strategies are being implemented by schools where a good reading culture is established.

3.  World Book Day is celebrated by schools.
World Book Day 2015 is one of the highlights on primary school calenda…

Help children to read more effectively: Expand their cultural experiences of the world.

Teaching children to read fluently and with comprehension is a long, complex process that school heads and teachers need to understand.  There are many factors that are involved in becoming proficient readers.

One of the factors that influences children's reading proficiency is the extent of their world knowledge. The greater the children's experiences of the world around them, the better are their chances to comprehend books more effectively.

Build children's cultural capital
Let us focus on how children's limited background knowledge blocks them from developing their reading and comprehension skills.

Children who come from poor homes, are often not exposed to a variety of experiences as children from middle class homes. Their world knowledge is generally restricted to the experiences in their neighborhoods.  Teachers recognize these gaps, but they ascribe the children's lack of knowledge to laziness or an unwillingness to think.

"I was shocked when the chil…

Sun Valley Primary School says no to conventional homework AND yes to a personalized homework policy.

When you speak to Sun Valley Primary School teachers about their shift away from conventional homework, they are unstoppable.

Here is a transcript of our conversation.

Why has the school decided to stop giving homework assignments as we know it?

We felt that giving general homework was not helping to improve learners' performance. We wanted the homework that they received to be more focused and personalized. Not the 'one size fits all' activity that stressed both the parents and the children.

Children also have a full programme besides their classroom teaching. They are involved in sports and extra-mural activities. When they finally get home, they are tired of the long day. Most parents work and there are also parents who aren't able to help their children with the homework so stress levels rise. Parents need to spend quality time with their children. They need to bond with the children and have a family life.

What replaced the homework, if any?

We have replaced  tradi…

Vote for my blogs in the SA Blog Awards competition if you find them useful and entertaining.

Both my blogs have been entered into the SA Blog Awards 2015.  If you like the content of the blogs, then please vote for my blogs.

Perhaps a brief profile of each blog will help  refresh your memory of the focus of my blogs.

In my lifestyle blog,, I generally write about all my experiences and encounters from breakaways, friendships,  family life, to personal nuggets of my own life. Sometimes I ramble on about little things and at other times I am just giving you peek into the real me. 

In my educational blog,, I focus on school matters. I try to share stories of schools, give advice on management and leadership, human resource management and other school matters. I hope that The School Corridor Tatler will become a useful resource for school managers and their SMT teams. I wish I had more time to write posts but perhaps in the future, I will be able to generate far more posts than I do now.

If you want to participate in the voting proce…

School Prize giving ceremonies are always heartwarming.

I was privileged to attend the prize giving ceremonies at Delta Primary School and Floreat Primary School during the second last week of this school year.

Delta Primary School's Prize giving ceremony

This was the inaugural prize giving ceremony at Delta, one of the innovations that their new principal, Hilton Palanyandi, introduced. Another first for the school is their school choir. As a fledgling choir, the number of members is impressive.
"When the choir started, there were only thirteen  learners. Now the choir mistress has difficulty keeping the choir a decent size because of the growing interest," said Hilton Palanyandi.

The school's cadet drill squad also showed off their drilling skills at the ceremony. The master of ceremonies thanked the group and then proceeded with the programme. He looked surprised that the drill squad was not moving off the stage. Eventually one of the drill captains whispered to him," we need to march off, Sir." So much for d…

When children from poor schools dramatize their lived experiences, they are not only entertaining us.

The format of Levana Primary School's HIV/Aids Day celebrations was typical of school-themed festivals. There were drama skits, poetry reading, singing and dancing by the children. Because we also celebrate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, the school made this campaign part of their festival.

The impact of  Levana's show was the delivery of the  social message that was driven home by these young, unschooled actors. When these children dramatize their lived experiences, they blur the lines between fact and fiction. They are inadvertently sharing something far deeper with us.

There is no doubt that the children absorb the traumas of their neighbourhood. The children effortlessly slipped into their roles as violent, domestic abusers, gangsters and aimless, drug-dependent  dropouts who recruit and seduce boys and girls. They spat out their angry words almost from memory. I was gobsmacked.

Thankfully, the children directed the same intensity when they repeatedly so…

Reviewing the Reading 40 Books per Learner Campaign in the Lavender Hill-Steenberg Schools .

For the past three years, we have been actively promoting independent reading at our schools.  In 2013, Colleen Diedericks, then the Foundation Phase Subject Adviser, and I implemented a Literacy Improvement Strategy in our circuit. The Literacy Strategy was designed to meet three objectives.

Firstly, we wanted schools to explore and interact with research that sought to explain how schools themselves entrench low literacy levels because of organizational and classroom teaching problems.

Secondly, we aimed to help schools expand their peer networks so that they could have access to more resources and support.

Thirdly, we believed that a corporate book reading campaign would help to galvanize school's literacy improvement programmes and energise them to lift the reading levels at their school. That is how the Reading 40 Books Per Learner Campaign came into being.

Let me give you an overview of the build up to launching the Reading 40 Book…

Lavender Hill needs hashtag #Save Lavender Hill Community because of ongoing violence.

Lavender Hill is a community that is under siege, but Lavender Hill will never be a trending favourite with mainstream media.

Yesterday, children as young as eight years old, who were on their way to school, saw once again, how one gangster was killed by another rival gang member. The shooting took place at about 8 0'clock on an open field opposite Hillwood Primary School.

School children use the very same open field as a thoroughfare to their schools. You will see children in their various school uniforms from Zerilda Park Primary, Hillwood Primary, Levana Primary, Prince George Primary and Lavender Hill High School, walking to their only real hope to help them escape the poverty and other evils of their neighbourhood.

When the shooting happened, the children were there on the field, caught in this crossfire.

Young children watched the shot man stagger across the field and then saw him jerk before finally dying.  These same children are writing their final examinations.

The L…

Cape Town Opera and St Mary's R.C Primary school brought The Magic Flute opera to the Cape Flats.

On Tuesday evening, Cape Town Opera in collaboration with St. Mary's R.C. Primary School staged Mozart's "The Magic Flute". The performance was exquisite. The school children held their own against the professional opera singers as The story of The Magic Flute unfolded on the stage.

The children made the opera a magical, accessible story to the audience of doting parents, grandparents, siblings and friends. As Prince Tamino wins the battle to save his sweetheart, Pamina, from her evil mother, the Queen of the Night, the children danced, sang and acted like professional actors. They slipped effortlessly into their various roles as they transformed into birds, crocodiles, snakes, fire or the ocean.

The energetic opera created the ideal platform to showcase the talents of these young school children. The appreciative audience applauded the singing and acting throughout, creating a fun, enjoyable experience for those on and off the stage.

As a prelude to the opera, The …

Spare a thought for many of the Class of 2015 as they fight back.

Yesterday the Grade 12's started their NSC 2015 examination in full swing. I monitored the English examination at Ocean View High School where 140 students were ready to write their first paper of the Grade 12 final examination.  The untold stories of these resilient youth at Ocean View High school and all other schools across the country, can fill volumes.

Fourteen of these Grade 12's  at Ocean View High School were relocated to homes in Ocean View over the weekend. These learners live in Masiphumelele, an informal settlement that has been raging with unrests for the past few weeks. On Sunday, the principal and teachers of Ocean View High offered to accommodate their learners from Masi. These vulnerable learners need a place of safety and a space where they can study.

Masiphumelele High School is seriously under threat because of the violence and instability in the area. The Grade 12 learners too, had to be accommodated at another venue, far from their homes, to enable them …

Showcase of the disciplinary drill skills of the cadets at Steenberg-Lavender Hill Schools

The Drilling Squad competition of the Steenberg-Lavender Hill schools was held today on the sports field adjacent to Floreat Primary School.  SAPS, who run these drilling teams as their outreach programme to schools, organized this historic Steenberg-Lavender Hill Drilling competition.

The schools that participated were: Steenberg High School, Lavender Hill High School, Sibelius High School, Hillwood Primary School, Levana Primary School, Sullivan Primary School, Lourier Primary School and Delta Primary School.

All the cadets were well disciplined. It was fascinating to watch the young drill squad captains taking their squads through their paces. The camaraderie was amazing.

Most of the schools won various awards for best drilling, best dressed, exhibition and march categories. Delta Primary was judged the overall winner after taking first and second prizes in most of the categories.
Well done to all the schools for the spectacular display of disciplined drilling. Thanks to SAPS -Ste…

Lavender Hill High School Tourism teacher wins the GTTP - SA / Travelport Tourism Teacher of the Year award.

Annelize Robson, the Deputy Principal and Tourism teacher at Lavender Hill High School, has won the prestigious national Tourism Teacher of the Year Award. The Tourism Teacher of the Year Award was developed by Global Travel and Tourism Partnership - South Africa (GTTP-SA). The Award Ceremony was held at the National Careers Expo Gala Event in Bloemfontein on 02 October, 2015.

This award gives national recognition to Tourism teachers who make a difference in the lives of the learners, the school and the community where he or she teaches. The Tourism and Travel Subject adviser, Ms Sharmini Naidoo and the principal of the school, Faseeg Manie, must be on top of the world for having their nominee for the Tourism Teacher of the Year Award confirmed to be the best on a national platform.

Profile of Annelize Robson
Annelize Robson has been teaching at Lavender Hill High School for decades. As the Tourism teacher, she has received excellent results for her subject, Tourism, at the school. H…

World Teachers' Day deserves more than a mention on social media and the news.

World Teachers' Day, especially in our country, deserves more than a mention on social media and as a news brief on radio and television. We should trumpet the invaluable role our teachers play.

When the children of the poor masses make their way to their schools, they find teachers who are ready to cultivate their vision of hope. When these same children, who are enveloped in the hideous traumas of poverty and crime, our humble nation-builders are there to build their broken spirits.

Teachers are ordinary folk with their own vulnerabilities and fears, yet they have committed to their calling to transform young people into responsible, caring, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow. They are the majestic eagles of our classrooms.

The theme of this year's World Teachers' Day, is appropriately on teacher empowerment and building sustainable communities.  Although we have a long way to go to ensure that we build our teachers' capacity and to restore the dignity of their profes…

It is never too late for dysfunctional school leadership teams to change.

I wrote in a previous post that a school head with a dysfunctional senior management team, makes it difficult for a school to succeed. What then, do we mean when we say school leadership is dysfunctional and how can the school leadership fix their poor performance?

 Let's unpack Dysfunctionality.
I like the definition of the word, dysfunctional, as described on the Urban dictionary website: to be very bad at something.  This definition eliminates the temptation to be pretentious about what is going wrong at the school. Being "bad" at something means you lack the ability and the skill to do what you are supposed to do.

The complexities of dysfunctionality at schools
It is often difficult for outsiders to know to what extent SMTs are dysfunctional. The outward signs at school may mask the degree to which SMT members are not helping to manage and lead the school effectively. These school leaders may themselves compromise teaching, monitoring of the curriculum,  their manag…

Our Heritage Day Tour kicked off with a magical journey to Drakenstein Correctional services.

This year our education district celebrated Heritage Day in the Cape Winelands. Our tour included a visit to the Madiba House, two museums in Paarl and the Taal Monument.

 The first leg of our tour was a visit to Nelson Mandela's "gilded cage" at the Drakenstein Correctional Services. Nelson Mandela lived in what was a former farmer's house for 18 months before he was released on 11 February, 1990.

Madiba House
Warden Mr Fisher who has been working at Drakenstein Correctional Services for 31 years, was our tour guide. Being in our Madiba's house was surreal.

Our storyteller kept us spellbound with all the interesting details. We stood in the kitchen where Madiba's food was prepared.

"Here was a massive microwave in the kitchen," said Mr Fisher.  "When Mr Mandela saw the microwave the first time, he wanted to know why he needed a "television" in the kitchen as well. When the food was prepared, the chef had to eat of the food first. Tha…

School newsletters are a powerful, strategic resource to engage school communities.

School newsletters are a powerful, strategic resource to engage school communities. There are many schools that send monthly or fortnightly newsletters, yet there are schools that issue weekly newsletters in the areas where I work.

Delta Primary School is one of the schools that sends weekly newsletters to parents. The new principal, Hilton Palanyandi, explained the purpose of their weekly newsletters.

"I have learned from other schools. I have looked at the various models used by other schools and felt that the weekly newsletter serves our needs. There is so much happening at the school and the newsletter helps to bridge the communication gap between the school and the parents.

Parents and learners receive the news briefs about important school business and learner achievements in and outside the classroom. We are also using the newsletter to tackle the problem of late coming at our school and we have had success.

Addressing latecoming
Late coming was a huge problem at our scho…

Make your School Improvement Plan a living document for everybody at the school.

The online School Improvement Plan (SIP)

Before the end of the third term, the Western Cape Schools should have completed their online  DRAFT School improvement plan (SIP) for 2016. The online SIP includes a school-self evaluation component and an Action plan.

The online SIP  was introduced about three years ago as a systems-planning tool for schools, education districts and the provincial education department. Schools are required to complete certain components of their SIP 2016, one of which is the ACTION plan by the end of the third term. The online SIP will then be signed off and accepted in January 2016, after input from the IMG Manager.

Schools are alienated from their own SIPS
Most schools usually rush to complete their online Draft SIP as a last minute exercise.  In their haste to comply, many schools do very little or no consulting with their other stakeholders like their teachers, support staff and parents. This oversight is especially evident when we discuss the academic …

The parents establish their SGB Forum in the Retreat-Steenberg-Lavender Hill area.

Today the School Governing Bodies in the Retreat-Steenberg-Lavender Hill belt established their historic SGB Forum. The SGB forum was a seed that was planted about three years ago by Noel Isaacs, the principal of Floreat Primary School. At the time four of our school principals headed the School Governing Training and Development Programme that was offered to the SGBs in our circuit.

Then, this year, after our circuit had taken our newly-elected SGBs on an overnight training camp, one of the parent governors at Lourier Primary School, Basil Williams, approached Noel to set the ball in motion.  The rest as they say, is history. Today the parent governors with their school principals, agreed unanimously that an SGB Forum will be a powerful support structure for their schools.

Most of the representatives of the schools' SGBs showed up at the meeting that was held at Delta Primary School.

The governors agreed on the following broad objectives of the SGB Forum:

The SGB Forum should be a…

The Centre for Conservation celebrates Heritage Day with a focus on the 28 Heath Region schools.

This year the Centre for Conservation designed their Heritage celebrations around the twenty eight "Heath" schools. The Heath region covers schools in the Diep River, Plumstead, Southfield, Heathfield and Retreat area. The youngest school is the Cafda School of Skills in Retreat while the oldest school is St. Anne's Primary School in Plumstead.

The term "Heath Schools" was chosen as a tribute to the erica verticillata, commonly known as heath. That is where Heathfield got its name. The erica verticillata, a beautiful plant that belongs to the Fynbos family is now extinct in the wild. The Heathfield and Retreat schools are situated in areas that were once covered with vleis and wetlands where these ericas with their tubular flowers grew prolifically.

Sigi Howes, the Head of the Education museum, told a beautiful, poignant story of the eco-political heritage of the schools. The schools on this part of the Cape Flats are linked to the "shame" part of ou…

School principals and their SMTs can make or break their schools.

While I was waiting to convene a grievance meeting at a school, I had an interesting conversation with two school management team leaders - a deputy principal and a head of department. The main topic of our conversation was the difficulty to get their own children into schools of their choice.

The head of department was disappointed because her daughter, a high achiever (95% average), was not accepted at the school that was their first choice. She spoke about the competition to get into good schools and bemoaned the powers that these schools wield.

Is the school principal responsible for the school's success?
Inevitably, the conversation turned to the difference between poor schools and wealthy schools and the role the principal plays in managing and leading the school to success. Here is where the conversation became interesting. There was definitely a sense that the two senior management members believe that  only the school principal is accountable for the success of the schoo…