Lead like a champion

The single most important component of the entire education system is the dynamic relationship that exists between the teacher, the learners and the curriculum itself.

All of the policies, processes, structures and activities across the education system should therefore be structured in such a way as to enable and enhance the processes of teaching and learning in the classroom.

Edufundi’s Lead Like a Champion programme has been designed with this in mind in order to add value where it matters most – in the classroom. We call this the ‘instructional core’, as it is where teaching and learning takes place on a daily basis.

The programme seeks to support and enhance the work done in the classroom and is key to achieving Edufundi’s overall objectives: Every teacher will have a set of practical tools for effective teaching and learning. The SMT will be equipped to support the continuous professional learning of teachers. The school will integrate the principles of the Edufundi programme into its culture and policies to ensure long-term success.

“This workshop was very informative and gave me clarity on how to deal with my duties.”

Effective leadership is crucial in order for a school to improve the quality of education it provides as well as for developing the skills and abilities of the educators themselves. While there are many approaches that can be used to improve learning in schools, all of these methods have one thing in common – the school management team (SMT) needs to create the enabling conditions for effective teaching and learning.

This includes developing teacher capacity and building a school culture that promotes academic performance. There is a substantial body of research that backs up the importance of effective leadership in education, so it is essential to provide ongoing support for individuals in senior leadership positions in order to ensure that they are equipped to continue performing their key roles at the required level.

“This workshop has opened up SMT’s minds, especially regarding the four pillars of trust which sometimes affect teachers’ performance as well as results at our schools.”

Principals and SMTs are often so consumed by managing resources and completing the many administration tasks required by the Department of Education that the business of teaching and learning can end up slipping into second place on the priority list. It is therefore vital that teachers receive the support and guidance they need to ensure that they are in a position to serve the primary aim of a school, which is to ensure that all learners are educated effectively.

The core focus of our support to school management teams is around Instructional Leadership – in other words, leadership that is focussed on teaching and learning – and it is for this reason that we have partnered with renowned education and instructional leadership expert Dr Allistair Witten to strengthen and develop our offering to SMTs.

“It is important to build leaders’ capacity to lead schools in a way that will improve learning,” says Dr Witten, who highlights three of the key deliverables for principals and SMTs.

  1. Create enabling conditions in which teaching and learning can happen.
  2. Embed good practices throughout the school, thereby creating a school culture which should include routines, expectations, beliefs and values nurtured by the SMT in order to support openness to teaching and learning.
  3. Build ownership and unlock agency, which is the ability of an individual or group to act on a situation and change it. “When we do this well, we will have a sustainable model for taking the work forward,” adds Dr Witten.

“Reflective practices made me think critically about myself, our school, my team and the community elements and how we can provide effective teaching and learning.”

Lead Like a Champion consists of a series of six 6-hour workshops conducted over a three-year period (two workshops held per year) with all members of the SMT. In each workshop participants work together to explore
a specific area of instructional leadership and, in order to ensure that what was learned in the workshop is applied in practice (and to follow Edufundi’s successful principles of mentoring), we have introduced the role of a Leadership Support Coach.

An ex-Principal from one of our schools has been hired for this role and will be providing regular support visits to SMTs in our Western Cape schools. Edufundi is currently piloting and refining this model of support in the Western Cape, but we are also fundraising with the aim of expanding this support to other provinces and our plan is to hire another Leadership Support Coach to take on this role.

“We need these workshops to remind us about the bottom line – the instructional core.”

The programme’s first two workshops were piloted at 17 schools in the Western Cape in 2018, with 78 SMTs attending the first workshop while 61 SMTs attended the second workshop. The focus of the first two workshops in year one of the programme was around “Building Up the School Management Teams”, and we started with the invisible aspects that guide school management teams such as moral purpose, vision, mission and values.

We supported the SMTs by encouraging them to look at their own assets, explore ideas for how to work together as a team, enhance trust and introduce practical tools for effective developmental supervision.

“The workshop has empowered me and I feel strong, revived and I look forward to implementing these strategies.”