Spine Road High School is a standard bearer in the Mitchell's Plain community.
|Mr Najaar posing with three of his Grade 12s.|
Academic profile of Spine Road High School
In the 2014 National Senior Certificate examination, Spine Road High School made history: they were the first school to achieve a 100% pass rate in the history of Mitchell's Plain. In the 2015 NSC Final examination 280 matriculants sat for the examination. The school achieved a 99,3% pass rate and an 80% Bachelors pass rate.
In the Systemic Test 2015, the grade 9's achieved an 84% pass rate in Mathematics and 96% in English. The national pass rate for Grade 9 Maths is about 22%.
The school attracts about 2000 applications for enrollment at Grade 8.
|Mr Najaar, the principal of Spine Road High School|
I visited the school and wanted to know by the principal, Mr Najaar, how they have moved their school from being one that was shunned by the community to one of the most sought after schools in the Mitchell's Plain area. Here is a snapshot of our conversation.
"We needed to change the teachers' mindsets and show them what is possible. We knew we had to develop our brand and the school hall, a one-of-a kind institution, played a big role in helping us to see the amazing possibilities for our school," said Mr Najaar.
We used to be a school known as a school for gangsters. Children walked right past our school to go to other schools in Mitchell's Plain or to other schools further away. One day, I took my staff to stand on the hill (on the school grounds) and asked them to observe the school children walking home from the various schools.
We asked ourselves what we were not doing that children were prepared to travel far distances to attend other schools. Then we put in the hard yards to transform our school. We worked hard to create a brand of excellence and sustain a culture of high expectations.
My staff and I are passionate and dedicated to do only what is good for the children. I believe that you should not be afraid to confront anyone who comprises the children. If you don't want to work so that all our children succeed, then you don't deserve the children.
Choosing the colour of our school blazer was strategic. We chose our red blazer because it symbolises power and success for each of our learners. The color is uncommon and it makes a bold statement. When our children wear their uniform, their self-esteem is boosted. The uniform hides their poverty and everybody looks like achievers.
We raised the internal pass rate to 50% and we expect all our children to achieve at least 50% in their
subjects. Each subject has an annual expo to showcase the learners' work to the parents and to inform them about the subject. We also write four full scale examinations throughout the year so that learners are engaging their schoolwork all the time. Our matriculants have a longer school day that is non-negotiable.
What other structures are there at the school that provide the learners with a rounded education?
We have an extensive sport and extra-curricular programme at the school. Many of the clubs are run by the learners themselves. We don't spend time on athletics because a lot of time is wasted at the beginning of the year. Athletics is a sports code like all the other sports. If children want to participate in athletics, they must be at school at 7h00; if not, they forfeit their opportunity. We have extra classes for the entire school.
|La'eeqa Martin, one of the coordinators of the MC club and Mr Najaar.|
At this point, we are joined by La'eeqa Martin, a Grade 12 learner who is one of the coordinators of the MC2 club at the school.
Tell us how MC 2 started and what you do?
Three friends started the club when they were in Grade 10. They wanted to offer Maths and English to the students who needed help in these subjects. I was one of the tutors. When these boys were in Matric, they asked me to step in as a coordinator.
We recruit tutors from the top 20 achievers in each grade. These tutors will then assist the learners after school with their maths. We usually start in the second term and then continue until the end of the year. The club is run by the learners themselves. We do all the planning, recruiting and the tutorials.
( La'eeqa left and we continued our conversation)
Tell us about the Maths Olympiad that you run for the primary schools in Mitchell's Plain.
Every year our Maths Department hosts a Maths Olympiad for all the Grade 7s at the primary schools. They set the papers, mark and record the learners' results and then analyse each school's results for them.
I then hand all this data to the primary school principals on a one-to-one consultation session. Schools can then work on those areas where the learners are underperforming and strengthen the areas where they are doing well.
|Proudly Spine Road High School: Three Grade 12 learners with their principal, Mr Najaar.|
What drives you to raise the bar at your school?
It's all about giving our children the best they deserve. They do not have to travel out of the area in search of a good school. We are here on their doorstep and they can and will receive high quality education."
After the interview
I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation I had with Mr Najaar and La'eeqa Martin. What I noticed too, is that Mr Najaar knows his learners' names. As I left, three Grade 12 learners were on their way to class. When I asked each one of them what their goal was for this year, they said almost in unison:
" We are aiming for at least 80% and a Bachelors."
That clinched the conversation for me. If the head of the school and his learners boldly declare their goals for success, then a culture of high expectations is firmly rooted at Spine Road High School.
Mr Najaar is open to sharing the Spine Road Story. Why not give him a call and invite him to tell their story to your staff?
Let's celebrate and share so that we can all grow together.