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Our most recent policy briefs for the month of September are highlighted below:

  1. Academic resilience in challenging school contexts in South Africa. Gabrielle Wills and Heleen Hofmeyr discuss key findings of a study that aimed to identify academically resilient grade 6 learners in 60 township and rural schools across three provinces in South Africa. Showing that these resilient learners are located across many schools, including very low-quality schools, and are reaching meaningful levels of literacy proficiency. We also highlight the characteristics of these resilient learners, particularly the socio-emotional skills that distinguish them from their lower-performing peers.
  2. Creating reading fluency benchmarks in African languages. Nic Spaull, Elizabeth Pretorius and Nompumelelo Mohohlwane discuss the importance of South African children learning to read in their home languages in grades one to three, in a context in which 78% of Grade 4 children cannot read for meaning in any language (PIRLS 2016).  This logically follows from local and international research, which shows that it is best if a child first learns to read in their home language and then learns to read in another language, rather than trying to learn in a language they do not speak or understand.
  3. The possibility of improvements despite a lack of existing high-quality no-fee primary schools. Gabrielle Wills asks the question, are there schools serving the poor that produce at least adequate levels of learning? This brief describes the findings of a rigorous search process to identify high-performing primary schools accessible to the poor, with a specific focus on three provinces: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. While failure to find high-quality no-fee schools, variation in learner performance exists among no-fee schools, suggesting that improved levels of learning quality are attainable.
  4. Structural inequalities in school leadership and management across South African schools. Gabrielle Wills highlights the opportunity that exists for provincial administrations to at least improve the quantity of management in schools in line with policy guidelines. Patterns and trends in School Management Team resourcing are revealed to be at odds with an improvement agenda in basic education.
  5. School leadership and local learning contexts in South Africa. Tia Linda Zuze and Andrea Juan discuss the evolving role of the South African school principal: where previously they were only seen to be managers and administrators, they are now also expected to be the standard bearers of teaching and learning activities at the school.
  6. Exploring how school leaders promote literacy improvements.  Gabrielle Wills, Nick Taylor and Ursula Hoadley present findings from a two-year mixed methods project that aimed to identify leadership and management practices that may be linked to higher literacy outcomes in township and rural schools. The Leadership for Literacy study highlights the need to refocus the role of school leaders and managers on enhancing the knowledge and pedagogical skills of teachers through effective human resource management and support.