Focus on Teach and we’ll focus on your Reach

Published: 12 February 2019

Schools are complex organisations that require more than just teaching abilities to survive.  Excellent teaching followed by superb results has become a standard expectation, fantastic facilities and compelling co-curricular programmes are no longer differentiators or reasons to select one school over another. 

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The private schools market has become incredibly competitive and with more choice on the horizon and the economy maintaining its recessive qualities, who wouldn’t shop around to find value for their Cash or at the very least be enticed by more than just what has become stock standard at a variety of private schools, and in some cases, well-established state-schools? 

The cost of schooling one child in private education sits at over R1 500 000 for the duration of their Grade 1 to Grade 12 career.  An average daily cost to attend a Mid-tier Ivy League school is R900 per day. This is a sobering thought, even more sobering when you consider that the average school fee increase sits at well over 7% per annum.  Consider the compounded nature of these fee increases over twelve years, add to this the rising cost of uniforms, textbooks, stationery, school tours, special levy’s and the list goes on…  All of this before you have provided for health, food, communication and a roof over your head.   

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Education is the great engine of personal development.” – Nelson Mandela 

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It is a concerning thought that we need to be so wealthy in order to “change the world”.  It is even more concerning that we need to be so wealthy to ensure that we are afforded the best possible opportunity to “change the world”.   One cannot avoid the profound responsibilities that schools have on delivering powerful educations that arm and equip their students with the knowledge, know-how and drive to shape and affect changes in their worlds.  Schools can no longer afford to plod along and practise in stagnant and, often, antiquated ways.  I am by no means referring to the content of teaching, I am referring to the qualities that inform the teaching, the decisions made within classrooms, the interactions with students and the various choices adopted by managements.  The “what” is diminishing in value and the “how” is claiming the spotlight.  In other words, the manner in which education is approached is of paramount importance and must sit centre-stage. 

Schools are essentially eco-systems that rely on a number of forces to enable a symbiosis.  The success of schooling relies on a multitude of factors working in a deliberate manner towards common goals.  I would argue that attaining a National Senior Certificate should not be a goal.  It should, indeed, be a target, but the way in which it is attained is what is most crucial.   

Ask yourself these questions to better understand if you and your school are on the same page: 

  • What is the single most important goal at your school? 
  • How long has this goal been the focus? 
  • Do my colleagues feel the same? 
  • Do my student and parent body know about this goal? 
  • Do our students and parents feel the same about this goal? 
  • How do I go about my business that drives me towards this goal? 
  • Do my colleagues have a similar approach? 
  • Do I feel aligned with this goal? Does it resonate with me? 
  • In the absence of this goal, how do I operate? 
  • In the absence of this goal, how do my colleagues operate? 

Alignment in any organisation or eco-system is vital.  It allows for seamless and harmonious interactions.  It reduces the prevalence of conflict.  Alignment dictates that all stakeholders should be on the same journey.  It is transparent and clear.  Consider the above questions – are you convinced that there is alignment in thinking and practises? 

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Schools by their very nature have multiple focal points.  They are academic custodians.  They are expected to cater for the developmental needs (physical and emotional) of its pupils.  They act in loco parentis –the capacity of parents in their absence.    Children spend approximately 70% of the working year (excluding weekends) at school – yet again emphasising the duration of time that children are in the hands of our schooling systems.  This bolsters the argument that schools play a significant role in focusing on growing and, to a degree, parenting children.  It goes without saying that schools should be focused on the ‘right’ stuff – the students!   

Focus on the teach and we will create the reach.

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