Sharing Grove 2016

January 14, 2014 0 Comments

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2016 Edition

Prepared by Grove Primary School Governing Body

1 Sharing Grove

Sharing Grove – The School Plan is a statement of how we intend to nurture and grow our school over the next year and beyond. It is our tool for giving the school direction into the future, for prioritising activity and for establishing stronger accountability between the school and its stakeholders.

The theme of the plan is Sharing Grove. It speaks to our values as a school rooted in caring, acceptance and tolerance. It reflects our intention to better harness the enormous skills, energy and commitment within our staff, our parent body and our children behind our common educational purpose. It also captures our commitment to finding ways in which we can make a positive contribution to improving the education system as whole.

The plan was initially developed by the School Governing Body in conversation with the staff and parents in 2010. The plan itself is not intended to be a final statement about The Grove’s direction. It is rather a summary of evolving thinking at the current moment of an on-going journey of action and reflection in our school community. Each year our progress is carefully monitored against predetermined goals.

2 Our context

A competitive world of rapid change

We are part of a complex world of rapid and far-reaching change. The implications of the knowledge economy and information technology are transforming many established ways of learning, working and living. It is a world full of possibility but also of intractable challenge. It is a world that places a premium on talent and high level skills. The demand for high performing schools and school systems has thus intensified globally. The Grove needs to respond to these global realities in a creative and proactive way in order to ensure that our children are well-equipped for the challenges of tomorrow.

A struggling system of national education

The Grove is also part of a struggling national system of education. Despite the comparatively high level of state funds directed at education and many initiatives to improve the quality of education, the outcomes lag and South Africa typically scores lower than almost any other country measured on the literacy and numeracy benchmarks at grade 3 and 6 level. Academic research suggests that at least 75% of our primary and secondary schools can be considered as dysfunctional. This has resulted in a deepening of educational inequality as the relatively small number of high-performing schools in the system – mostly but not exclusively model C schools – continue to consolidate and develop. This situation has major long-term implications and is not sustainable. There is a need for much stronger partnership orientation and common effort within the school system to begin to address this challenge. The Grove again needs to play its part.

A school with many strengths but challenges

The process confirmed that The Grove is a school with many strengths – excellent teachers, a culture of performance, a committed parent body, and enthusiastic learners. It has delivered excellent academic outcomes; proof of this is The Grove earning the status of the ‘top co-educational primary school’ in the Western Cape in 2015 and 2016. This is a reflection of the grade 3 and grade 6 literacy and numeracy Systemic Test performances. The Grove has also performed consistently at the top in the Kids Lit Quiz and General Knowledge competitions.

Pupil demographics also show that The Grove has become, and continues to become, much more integrated in the years since 1994.

The Grove has also identified a number of challenges. One key issue relates to fee increases over time. The Grove fees have increased at an average of 9.4% per year over the past 7 years. These increases are largely determined by factors outside of the control of the school (like teacher salaries) and The Grove percentage fee increase mirrors that of other similar schools. In recent years, the rate of increase has declined and the gap between CPIX has narrowed.

3 Our core attributes

Our challenge as The Grove is how we continue to develop the general excellence within a community rich with differences, that makes it such an attractive school while remaining affordable. We think of excellence, inclusion and affordability as being mutually reinforcing attributes to be developed rather than as competing requirements in tension with each other. In our view, you cannot have anyone of the three without the other.

Excellence

The Grove is committed to excellence in education. We recognise that The Grove has enjoyed a deserved reputation for academic excellence but appreciate that excellence is never a static end point but rather requires constant renewal, improvement and innovation if it is to be maintained.

The focus of excellence is the children of the school. We will have achieved excellence if the school provides them with the foundation they need to be all they can be and if they develop as happy well-rounded individuals who are highly equipped for their next stage of life with all the capabilities to be successful and to make a contribution in a competitive globalised world. The Grove in short seeks to produce children who are leaders – each in their own individual and unique way. To this end we have adopted a Thinking School approach which nurtures thinking and makes it visible so that a culture of thinking is built and a strong learning community established. This entails a whole-school practice of thinking routines, behaviours and tools which enable the children to be self-actualised, adaptive and confident personalities with a broad range of skills and capacities in the academic, cultural and sporting realms.Within this holistic approach to education, The Grove has a particular emphasis on arts and cultural excellence.

We recognise also that excellence flows from a school ethos rooted in sound core values where children are free to learn and develop in an unfettered open way.

The Grove values its teachers and recognises that they are at the heart of educational excellence. We are committed to employing, developing and retaining excellent teachers. We seek to create the best working environment and remuneration and benefits package that is financially sustainable. We pride ourselves on providing opportunities for on-going professional development that make The Grove a highly attractive employer.

To achieve such excellence also requires curriculum, teaching and management practice that is up-to date with global innovation and educational best practice and underpinned by a culture of on-going learning. It also requires on-going reflection on how the whole education process works in order to continuously improve the school experience.

Our approach to excellence is also reflected in a commitment to external verification through benchmarking ourselves with comparable schools both in South Africa and internationally and subjecting ourselves to peer reviews and other forms of evaluation.

Inclusion

The Grove is committed to being an inclusive school that embraces diversity. We seek to create a school community with a wide range of differences bound together by a shared commitment to educational excellence and mutual respect.

We seek to establish an ethos of tolerance, commitment, equity, anti-bias and non-bullying that is translated into conduct and action.

We also want to be a school where no one group within the school community exerts a predominant influence, but where all members of the school community feel a common ownership and pride and can recognise themselves and their cultural values as intimately part of the school.

This commitment to inclusion accepts everyone is an individual with unique views, unique capacities and unique needs that need to be respected and catered for. Excellence in this inclusive perspective is thus not primarily about the achievements of some of the pupils, but it is how we enable every child to optimise their potential. We see our richness in differences and our commitment to embracing them as unique strengths from which we leverage creativity, new thinking and innovative practice.

Our commitment to inclusion is not only about the internal functioning of our school community; iIt is as much about engaging with and supporting the broader education effort. The Grove cannot be an island of good education when much of our education system is dysfunctional and where most children in our country do not receive an acceptable level of education. We are committed to finding ways in which we can make a positive contribution to the education system as a whole.

Affordability

The Grove is largely funded by fees paid for by the parents. We note that the current model is under pressure. The growing number of exemptions combined with bad debt, tight economic circumstances and on-going above inflation increases makes it increasingly difficult for many of our parents to afford our fees. There are no easy answers to the question of affordability particularly given that the increases are largely driven by factors beyond the control of the school. This is not a problem exclusive to The Grove but affects all fee-paying public schools.

We think it is necessary to establish principles to guide our commitment to affordability. These are:

We recognise that excellence does cost. We are, however, committed to ensuring that our fees are in the mid-range of similar schools in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and that our fees will remain significantly lower than similar private education.

We are committed to providing excellent value for money and aspire to be Cape Town’s best

value school. The essentials of general excellence will be prioritised and waste and non- essential expenses limited. School leadership and management will regularly explore ways of reducing costs without compromising excellence. This effort will be supplemented by improved financial governance and management that is transparent and accountable.

To sustain excellence it is expected that all parents will prioritise paying for education and finding real non-financial ways of contributing particularly where they are partially or fully exempted.

At the same time, we do not want fees to make The Grove unaffordable to low income families. We have a commitment to maintaining a level of exemption of up to 10%.

Our vision for the school and its on-going development into the future, however, also requires

going beyond current revenues based on fees. We are committed to an approach to funding with an emphasis on growing sponsorship and bequest income and leveraging other assets such as voluntary effort and the leasing of our school facilities to reduce costs and increase revenue.

4 Our vision

We have a vision of The Grove Primary as South Africa’s laboratory of public primary school excellence – a dynamic learning environment striving to achieve educational best practice and committed both to the whole educational need of each individual child at the school as well as to sharing its practices and knowledge with other schools.

Grove Primary in 2020 is:

A teaching school known nationally (and internationally) for the quality of its teaching, its teacher development innovations and its internship programme as well as its commitment to sharing its experience and knowledge.

A learning school always pushing the frontiers of what is possible and experimenting and innovating to achieve extraordinary results from its limited resources.

  • A registered Thinking School which has a coherent whole school thinking approach, a common thinking language that is explicitly taught and reinforced.

A school drawing pupils from the range of religious, racial, class and cultural backgrounds that make up our country and the world.

  • A caring school that encourages its children to care for people and gives practical expression to this through a range of activities supporting the poor, the aged and the sick.

A green school that recycles its waste, minimises its environmental impact footprint and engenders values of sustainability.

A financially secure school that has built up a large trust fund and proactively secures project- based funding from various sources through being an exceptional model. The Grove is able to fund scholarships and bursaries for deserving students from poor backgrounds as well as finance the technology and facility upgrades required to maintain excellence.

A technologically savvy school at the frontline of applying the new digital and social networking technologies to education in a sustainable affordable manner.

A networked school highly connected to other schools in the city, the country and internationally through partnerships.

An activist school committed to advocacy work with other schools and stakeholders for excellent education for all in South Africa.

  • A school with competitive facilities that allow its learners to benefit from learning, playing sports and participating in social activities in the most conducive environment possible.

5 Our priority areas

Three areas have been prioritised to facilitate on-going school development and to ensure The Grove is able to produce educational excellence, inclusion and affordability.

Incremental improvement and maintenance

The Grove has been making steady progress in a number of areas over the past years. These include financial management and budget preparation, improved implementation of IQMS, curriculum development, communication and fund-raising. This progress needs to be consolidated over the next few years.

Excellence through shared learning

This programme gives effect to the vision idea of The Grove as a laboratory of primary school educational excellence and good practice. However, the idea is not that The Grove would do this on its own but rather that this would be done collegially in partnership with a number of other schools with different profiles and needs. The intention is to create a model of improving education standards in all schools participating in an improvement network through knowledge and good practice sharing, teacher exchanges, mutual support, facility sharing, shared services and other established collaborative practices. Such a programme reinforces our own learning priorities while making a broader contribution to education.

Our educational focus has two key dimensions:

An internal dimension focused on accelerating shared learning within the Grove community.

Activities will include consolidating and growing an internship programme, making more use of the considerable capacity within the teacher and parent body for training and development and enhancing communication, feedback and management and governance transparency. One key idea is to refocus staff development and to facilitate and incentivise teachers presenting training and undertaking research as a way of building skills and knowledge. Finding the appropriate balance between academic, sports and cultural activities has been identified as a challenge together with the linked issue of organising teacher workload in a way that addressed current time pressures on teachers and enables more focus on emerging priorities.

An external dimension focused on developing a series of partnerships and networks of schools committed to sharing knowledge and resources in a collegial reciprocal manner. Such collaborations would use methodologies such as comparative research, seminars, conferences and training, teacher exchanges, peer reviews and mentoring and coaching. The process will be very important and must help mobilise commitment from the participating schools, their staff as well as the education department and support agencies.

This approach has already borne fruit and The Grove, together with Capricorn Primary in Vrygrond, were part of an exciting and very successful Focus on Maths project. This project included a 3-year funding grant to research and share lessons about improving performance in mathematics (particularly in Number work and Patterns, Functions and Algebra at Gr 1 -Gr 4 level).

Another important element will be the participation of teachers in professional learning communities with teachers from other schools to ensure both on-going cooperative learning as well as sharing The Grove experience and knowledge. The Grove already participates in a number of programmes of this nature such as the Changemaker schools and Symphonia Partners for Possibility programme which focuses on school leadership and management.

Promoting Grove – Mobilising resources through partnerships

It is accepted that it will be necessary to raise substantial new funds if The Grove is to be able to realise its larger vision and to ensure that it remains on a sustainable path. Ideally, a large development fund of many millions of rand is required to make a significant difference. It is recognised however that we will not be able to raise such money without repositioning The Grove in a fundamental way as a school committed to playing a leadership and catalysing role in relation to the broader educational system as reflected in the Excellence through Shared Learning idea above.

Key elements then of the Promoting The Grove initiative will include:

Building strong relationships and commitment within The Grove community through school community events and enhanced communication. This is our starting point and we will prioritise creating forums for dialogue and active participation in school life over the coming years. This will also include active liaison with parents of prospective learners (through presentations to feeder pre-primaries and so on) as well as to alumni and the parents of alumni to secure their commitment and financial support.

Building a strong and compelling Grove brand based on its many current virtues (A Thinking school, academic results, support, class size, accessibility and technology) and its bigger vision. This will be amplified through signage, school beautification through art and through developing appropriate media products (leaflets, school music CD, Grove on You Tube, Facebook). It will also require effective use of the media to promote the school and its vision through regular news stories and opinion page articles.

Engaging proactively with key constituencies. This will include talks with the provincial and national departments of education and with relevant support agencies (such as universities) and education donors to ensure that The Grove initiatives enjoy strong broader support and contribute positively to the urgent need for a revitalisation of the whole school system.

Developing a portfolio of innovative projects, services and facilities that have the potential to unlock resources for the school and its bigger vision. In addition to the ideas outlined above, ideas to be developed include:

o Taking Grove off the Grid (a focus on renewable energy, conservation, sustainability and zero waste). This would reduce operating costs over time, could be a focus of fundraising and could also be done in partnership with other schools. It could also have spin-offs such as consultancy opportunities for the school or the production of a major documentary as well as educational benefits.

o The idea of The Grove being a post-school- hours centre for training and development for both government and the private sector (as a way of sustaining improved facilities, generating revenue and making a broader contribution).

A concerted multi-pronged approach to fundraising with a focus on international and local donors, businesses, government departments and school alumni and parents. This would include a targeted campaign at former learners, parents, grandparents for financial and in-kind contributions to bursaries, the development fund and shared learning projects. It would also include securing project linked funding and expert support through partnerships with government and education support agencies and funders. Many creative suggestions have been made including an open day for companies, building linkages with high schools and universities, enabling tax efficient donations and finding ways for donors to get positive marketing opportunities through their association with the school.

6 Aligning plan and budget

The school budget can be thought of as having two components:

The basic minimum component being the amount of money required to maintain the status quo – to prevent a decline in the teaching, administration or infrastructure of the school. This part of the budget would ordinarily not make provision for any real increases in budgetary provisions other than where those increases are determined by factors beyond the control of the school (such as teacher salaries or utility fees);

A growth component enabling the school to develop and improve its offering in line with the strategic vision. Some growth priorities that have been identified for the budget include consolidating and improving the IT-based teaching infrastructure, expanding the number of learnerships at the school and funding an additional sports teachers to accommodate the increased requirements in this area of the curriculum as well as reducing the extra-mural load on other teachers, to allow them to focus more on providing a rich and supportive child centred academic programme.

It is further accepted that it will not be possible to fund the development of the bigger vision through fee income alone. Some of the resourcing for this will come through refocusing some of the work done by our staff to achieve better practice and closer alignment with our strategic direction. Some will also come from mobilising more voluntary effort from our parents and through forging new partnerships. However, we also need to raise a substantial amount of funds through selling the Sharing Grove vision to a range of potential donors and funders.

The appointment of a School Business Manager in 2016 will allow for The Grove to concentrate on the raising of capital for future expansion that will see the school achieve our aspirations. Fundraising and donor activities will be initiated and managed by this appointment both within our immediate community and our broader network, as well as to ensure that our financial resources are optimally allocated within our budget. This financial aspect coupled with the marketing strategy will ensure that our greater agenda is achieved.

                                                                                                                                

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