Beleaguered principals from schools in and around Cape Town are benefiting from an innovative support programme that facilitates networking with other principals and partners with business leaders to shift the schools to being centres of the community they operate in.
The Community of Learning Principals (COLP) initiative, which has been warmly welcomed by principals as one of very few initiatives that supports them, evolved through a partnership between the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC’s) faculty of economic and management sciences (EMS), Symphonia for South Africa and MYschool, with support from the South African Principals’ Association.
COLP is now in its second year of operation and rapidly gathering momentum. The initiative developed out of discussions between the non-profit Symphonia – which seeks to help organisations improve their practices – and UWC.
UWC’s EMS faculty manager Lindi Kamffer said Symphonia had found that principals were demotivated as they received a lot of negative feedback and very little positive affirmation, and Symphonia and UWC were looking at what could be done to empower them to create institutions of excellence.
Kamffer said the solution was to approach the school as a business. “Schools deal with the same issues, from staff morale to managing money, throughput targets and rates of success, says Kamffer.
There are two parts to COLP: the Partner for Possibility programme and the Community of Practice sessions.
The Partner for Possibility programme, an accredited NQF level 6 programme running over a year, pairs business leaders with school principals to develop principals’ leadership skills and test the business leaders’ ability to test leadership theories in a different environment.
Symphonia introduces the business leader and principal and raises corporate sponsorship to cover the R30000 cost, while UWC ensures standards for accreditation are maintained through workshops and in the delivery of the required portfolio of work.
The aim of the partnership – of which there were 30 so far – said Symphonia project manager James Eckley, was to achieve greater participation between the community and the school.
“A lot of principals feel trapped in schools situated in communities which they feel are poorly resourced but the aim is to change that mindset and imagine what the situation would be if the community was actively involved in contributing to, and participating in, the school and then focusing on achieving that,” said Eckley.