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Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP08.2016

Elected parent governors constitute the majority on the school governing bodies in South Africa’s public schools, yet their involvement lacks effectiveness. Pilot research conducted in peri-urban and semi-rural Western Cape schools in 2014 and 2015 indicates that parent governors understand their responsibilities well enough, but their effectiveness is limited by three factors: a general unwillingness on the part of many of the school principals to fully incorporate parent governors into their legitimate roles; an overwhelming number of ex-principals in Institutional Management and Governance positions who favour interaction with the principal to the exclusion of the governing body; and the dominance of retired principals in the leadership structures of the organized associations of school governing bodies. Opportunities for improving parent effectiveness in governance therefore exist within the school, between the school and the district and provincial administrations, and through the formation of school governor associations that are more truly representative of parent governors.

The study contributes to a larger body of work funded by the European Union Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development for the purpose of making recommendations to remove binding constraints in public education. It examines recently collected data in the light of the criteria for successful governance identified by the Ansell and Gash collaborative governance framework. The Ansell and Gash model derives from a meta-analysis of over a hundred public-private collaborative projects. The success criteria revealed are (1) that starting conditions must be conducive to collaboration; (2) that leadership must be inclusive; (3) that institutional design must be sympathetic; and (4) that trust and mutual confidence must be present, and can best be attained through the use of an agreed-upon collaborative process.