Succeeding Against the Odds: Understanding resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa

Lead Research Organisation: Stellenbosch University
Department Name: Economics

Abstract

The aim of the present study is to understand resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa. Previous research has shown that a large part of the explanation behind these schools' success is the leadership and management practices of teachers and particularly principals. Despite this near universal acceptance of the pivotal role of school leadership and management (SLM) for student achievement, accurate quantitative indicators of these practices remain elusive. Put simply, we do not currently have appropriate questionnaires that can accurately capture the school leadership and management practices among schools in challenging contexts in developing countries. One of the reasons for this is that these instruments are designed primarily with a developed-country-context in mind and do not account for possibilities that are prevalent in developing countries and typical in challenging contexts.

Furthermore, in large-scale quantitative research, existing measures of SLM capture effective or ineffective SLM practices in superficial and fragmented ways. When looking at existing quantitative models of educational achievement researchers regularly find that there is a large unexplained component despite controlling for school resources and various student home-background factors. This is especially the case in challenging contexts where this disconnect between resources and results seems largest. One of the tentative explanations for this lack of explanatory power is that we are not currently capturing the true leadership and management practices (or lack thereof) in these schools and that this is partly due to inappropriate and inadequate SLM instruments. This is the first motivation for the inter-disciplinary nature of the proposed study; that the disciplines of Economics and Education bring different but complementary perspectives to bear on this issue of school leadership and management.

Our previous research on schools in poor contexts in South Africa showed that deeper insights were obtained by a comparison between paired sets of schools with similar demographic and locational features, one performing poorly and the other performing strongly. This matched-pair approach is discussed briefly below. The proposed inter-disciplinary matched-pair analysis is, to the best of our knowledge, the first of its kind in either developing or developed countries.
The current research uses 30 matched-pairs (matching 30 exceptional schools and 30 typical schools) because this provides the stark relief needed to identify which practices are driving the difference between the high performing schools and the average/low-performing schools in rural areas and townships in South Africa. The research will involve five stages: (1) Use population-wide assessment data to identify 30 exceptional primary schools (and their 30 matched pairs) in townships and rural areas in South Africa, (2) Conduct an in-depth study of 12 of the schools (6 exceptional and 6 matched typical) (3) Using the insights gained from Stage 2 develop new, more accurate and more context-specific measures of school leadership and management and pilot these in a different set of 18 schools (9 matched-pairs); (4) After finalising the new questionnaire this will be administered to all 60 schools to capture the SLM practices and behaviours of all matched pairs. In addition the team will administer background questionnaires to staff and students and monitor the Annual National Assessments in each of the 60 schools, (5) The final stage will involve validating the SLM measures identified in Stage 2, developed in Stage 3 and captured in Stage 4. The aim here is to use rigorous quantitative analysis to determine whether or not these new measures of SLM practices and behaviours are systematically related and specifically their predictive or explanatory power.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
The ultimate beneficiaries of this research are millions of primary school children in South African rural areas and townships, and those in similar contexts across Africa. The insights and understandings generated from this research will help researchers and policy makers to understand which elements of school leadership and management are most central to success in challenging contexts. This research will also systematically engage with the public and civil society, as public perceptions and civil society groups frequently pressurise government to select certain policy issues to pursue, but also because an explicit aim of the research is to highlight to the public that exceptional schools do exist even in challenging contexts. Although the primary beneficiary of a new, more contextually relevant School Leadership and Management (SLM) instrument would be researchers and government officials, some in civil society have also expressed interest. The Dept of Basic Education regularly conducts sample-based surveys of educational achievement and administers traditional SLM questionnaires. Similarly, those in civil society engaged in school improvement projects often request existing survey instruments to assess possible schools for interventions. The new SLM instrument would be made publicly available to all.

How will they benefit from this research?
Policy-makers, researchers, civil society and children in challenging contexts will benefit in two main ways. (1) As existing measures of SLM school leadership and management (SLM) are inadequate and not sufficiently contextually relevant, a new SLM questionnaire will help researchers and policy makers to identify the true management practices and behaviours and where these are present or absent in schools in challenging contexts. This allows them to focus their interventions (both for capacity-building and accountability) accordingly. (2) Due to the dire state of education in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, most research in the region focuses on the majority of underperforming schools. While this is necessary, it can have the unintended consequence of creating a 'deficit discourse' where the public and policy makers do not believe change is possible. Consequently there is a need for research that provides alternative narratives and frames for schools in the region. Identifying, describing and analysing schools that perform well in spite of severe and challenging contexts is academically important, but also has the potential for broader social impact. Showing how and why principals and teachers achieve excellent results in rural areas and townships can illustrate to policy-makers and the public that some schools can and do overcome their circumstances. The importance of this has been confirmed in our conversations with policy makers in Presidency and the Dept of Basic Education in SA, who clearly indicated that they would strongly support research that builds on and promotes the agency of teachers and principals.

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?
The research team has extensive experience in engaging with policy makers and civil society in a way that translates research outcomes into tangible, actionable steps. This includes hosting round-tables and workshops with policy makers and researchers in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our team is fortunate in having frequent interaction with local and regional policy makers, having sat on Ministerial Task Teams and advisory committees, as well as holding influential positions in government and academia. The PI is the South African NRF Research Chair in Social Policy and advises both the Presidency and the Dept of Basic Education on a regular basis. The team regularly engages with the public through the media (op-eds, radio and television) and is well-versed in research communication and dissemination strategies.

Publications

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Taylor N (2019) Addressing the 'leadership conundrum' through a mixed methods study of school leadership for literacy in Research in Comparative and International Education

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Zuze T (2018) School leadership and local learning contexts in South Africa in Educational Management Administration & Leadership

 
Description The first objective of our research project was to identify the number of exceptional rural and township primary schools in South Africa. We engaged in a rigorous process to search for exceptional primary schools for the poor in three provinces, aiming to establish whether they exist. A key part of this search process was to identify schools doing well in a system-wide test of primary school performance called the Annual National Assessments.We found that nationally, it is rare to identify any no-fee (or fee-free) schools for the poor that perform at similar levels to fee-charging wealthier schools. Only 3% of all no-fee schools that are accessible to the poor in South Africa are performing at or above the average of wealthier fee-charging schools. This reinforces existing evidence on structural inequalities in the provision of quality education in South Africa and highlights that the poor have extremely limited access to quality schooling. While we didn't find truly exceptional schools for the poor, we did identify that even in underperforming school contexts in South Africa there appear to be some outlier or resilient students who significantly outperform their peers.

A second research objective was to gain new insights into school leadership and management practices in high-achieving schools relative to average or low-achieving schools in challenging contexts. We were interested in understanding leadership practices that may be theoretically linked to higher literacy outcomes. Both the quantitative analysis of leadership practices in a sample of 60 schools, and the qualitative case studies in a sub-sample of 8 of these schools, revealed generally weak 'leadership for literacy' practices, regardless of the literacy performance levels of the schools studied. Where better practices did exist, these activities were inconsistent - i.e. if good leadership practices were discerned in some respects, this was juxtaposed against weaknesses in other leadership practices that we studied. What was highlighted however, was the central importance of teacher and school leaders' knowledge of teaching reading. Without an understanding of how to effectively teach reading in the early grades, school leaders and teachers' efforts to introduce systems or processes of improvement, often do not yield gains in terms of improved literacy levels.

A third and central objective was the development of a new School Leadership and Management (SLM) instrument. The aim was to develop an instrument that could be used by the state to assess management and leadership practices and processes in schools. We engaged in a rigorous process to develop this tool, trialing it in 60 schools, but our SLM measures were not able to systematically predict differences in grade 3 or 6 literacy levels. The relationships we expected to find between SLM competencies or practices and literacy outcomes were not detected- a finding which is also articulated in earlier studies. This in turn casts doubt on prior beliefs that differences in the quality of SLM across schools may be the strongest predictor of differences in learning across schools in challenging contexts in South Africa.

During this project we also collaborated with a linguist and department of education officials to develop new early grade reading tests in English and importantly three African languages: isiZulu, Sepedi and Xitsonga. The analysis of the reading assessment data collected in African languages provides an important contribution to the literature on reading norms and benchmarks in African languages.

URL address to research findings:
https://www.jet.org.za/clearinghouse/primted/resources/language-and-literacy-resources-repository/wp-v11-esrc-paper-1-comprehension-iceberg-v4.pdf/view
http://resep.sun.ac.za/what-do-you-mean-by-good-the-search-for-exceptional-primary-schools-in-south-africas-no-fee-school-system/
http://resep.sun.ac.za/leading-for-literacy-a-review-of-the-research/
https://doi.org/10.1177/1745499919828928
http://resep.sun.ac.za/academic-resilience-in-challenging-contexts-evidence-from-township-and-rural-primary-schools-in-south-africa/
Exploitation Route If best-practice, no-fee schools do not exist as our study suggests, it becomes very important to establish clear expectations or standards for what acceptable quality looks like. From a policy perspective our research builds a case to reinstate standardised learner assessment in South African primary schools and establishing acceptable reading and learning benchmarks to guide teacher assessment and system diagnostics. Enabling teachers and school managers to adequately determine whether learners in their classes are achieving minimum proficiency standards requires that they have and use suitable learning benchmarks. Findings in the working paper by Wills (2017) could be used in current debates around system-wide testing as it provides evidence to argue for how officials need better quality information on the performance of the primary school system and teachers require clear benchmarks on acceptable levels of learning. Furthermore the work by Spaull, Pretorius and Mohohlwane (2018) has provided the first available tentative reading benchmarks and norms in three African languages - a necessary contribution in establishing standards of proficiency in early grade reading. This paper produced in conjunction with the deputy director of research, monitoring and evaluation in the Department of Basic Education has been widely cited and presented by invitation at various academic and government forums. It has also spurred increased interest and research on reading in African languages by both funders and researchers.

Our research finding that there exist outlier or academically resilient students even in underperforming schools has been an exciting finding. This research is now being advanced by a new PhD student at Stellenbosch University. We identified that these students display notably higher levels of grit (or socio-emotional skills in general). This finding is carving the path for new research into measuring socio-emotional skills among students in South Africa.

Finally, our work to consider the linkages between leadership and management and literacy outcomes, tempers prior assumptions that good leadership or management process is a sufficient condition for school turnaround. Our research highlights the centrality of teacher and leader content or pedagogical knowledge of teaching reading. Without this understanding, attempts to influence literacy outcomes through leadership and management interventions alone are unlikely to result in desired improvements.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/new-policy-briefs-september/
 
Description This project has contributed to the South African landscape on effective schools, reading norms and benchmarks and the role of school leadership in a number of ways. The results from the data analysis on reading have been extensively included in discussions with national and provincial policy-makers. There has been a large shift in the South Africa discourse on education towards a focus on the basics of reading and basic numeracy in the Foundation Phase (Grade R-3). While this shift in focus is not exclusively linked to this ESRC funded project and has been in the making for a number of years, the research teams' familiarity with the on-the-ground reality of reading outcomes as a result of the project positioned them particularly well to comment on a wave of interest on reading in the country. During the project the new Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2016 results were released, including South Africa's results. South Africa scored lowest of the 50 participating countries. One of the Co-PI's on the project, Dr Nic Spaull, commented extensively in the media and in presentations to business, teacher groups and influential schools about the PIRLS results but also drew on the reading analysis of this ESRC project. His media review of PIRLS was also shared over 1400 times on Facebook. During the course of the project, Dr Nic Spaull was also seconded to head-up Funde Wande (an Alan Gray Orbis foundation sponsored initiative), which is now responsible for developing teacher training course material and reading material to be scaled into primary schools in an entire province (the Eastern Cape). This was a direct response to his extensive media attention to the South African reading crisis. Additionally, he was invited by the President of South Africa to a round table discussion, to highlight the implications of reading for human capital development and economic growth in South Africa. One of the researchers on the project is the Deputy Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation in the DBE, and has integrated her findings on African languages into the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS) initiative of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) which was submitted to the South African parliament in 2018 for scale-up and implementation in multiple provinces. She is now enrolled to do her PhD with Prof Servaas van der Berg at Stellenbosch University looking at reading policy in African languages in South Africa. Our experiences gathered during fieldwork in assessing early grade reading, has also been critical to effective collaboration with the DBE on their Early Grade Reading Study, which was recently prioritised by the South African President in his 2019 "State of the Nation" address. The leadership and management focus of the project has also opened-up opportunities for conversation and dialogue with key stakeholders involved in a large-scale management programme in South African schools, known as the National Education Collaboration Trust. The findings from our project are an important contribution to the national debate on the possibilities and limits of management to turn around schools.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description DBE Reading for Understanding
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The Department of Basic Education will host a 2-day national workshop on the "National approach to the teaching of reading with understanding" in April. Our researchers were invited to make submissions during this workshop, drawing on research on benchmarking in African languages. Something that we have published a working paper on as part of the ESRC work. "Investigating the Comprehension Iceberg: Developing empirical benchmarks for early grade reading in agglutinating African languages"
 
Description Participation in roundtable discussion with the president of South Africa on policies for improved growth in South Africa
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/reseps-dr-nic-spaull-contributes-to-presidential-roundtable-discussion/
 
Title African language assessments for grade 3 and 6 students (in three languages) 
Description A collaboration between Nompumelelo Mohohlwane and Elizabeth Pretorius (both involved in our project) resulted in the development of new assessments to measure reading (including Oral Reading Fluency, letter recognition, familiar word recognition and reading comprehension) in three African languages. There are very few tests in African language that exist in South Africa. These instruments contribute to understanding norms and benchmarks for reading in these three languages. Xitsonga in particular has been a highly under researched area. The assessments are useful in themselves as available resources for other researchers to use in their projects, accompanied with data to support improvements of the assessments such as informing where floor or ceiling effects are obtained. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The assessment tools have already been shared with a group of researchers interested in early grade reading in South Africa. We have used data collected through the tools to share best practice on how we can construct better assessments in future with researchers from other institutions in South Africa. The tools will soon be available online with our collected data. 
URL https://www.jet.org.za/clearinghouse/primted/resources/language-and-literacy-resources-repository/wp...
 
Title Methodological framework to guide the quantification of school leadership and management dimensions linked to literacy outcomes 
Description Through a combination of literature reviews and qualitative fieldwork, a methodological framework was designed to guide the quantification of school leadership and management dynamics that are likely to be related to literacy outcomes. The framework is designed with a South African schools context in mind although could easily be transferred to other country settings. The framework is entitled "Leadership for literacy" and draws on the notion by Stein and Nelson that leadership in schools is often subject specific and requires subject specific knowledge from leaders. The framework is dis-aggregated into four focus areas 1) Material resources, 2) Symbolic Resources 3) Human resources and 4) Strategic resources. The framework distinguishes between the presence and use of resources and the processes that support their use. For example material resources includes the presence of texts to support a reading programme, a consideration of the processes that encourage the use of these texts and support for the continued upgrade of a text rich school environment. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This framework was key to structuring an in-depth qualitative research process in matched pairs of schools with lower and high levels of functionality. In turn the framework and qualitative findings have provided the guiding framework for an instrument development process to quantify school leadership and management dimensions that are likely to be linked to improved literacy in South African primary schools. Data collected through 5 sets of instruments (principal questionnaire, deputy principal questionnaire, grade 3 teacher questionnaire, grade 6 teacher questionnaire, educator questionnaire, school observational instrument) are now being used to construct scores to quantify each of the four dimensions of the framework. 
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2012-12-Taylor_Hoadley-Qual.-Report-Leadership-for...
 
Title Mixed methods approach to leadership and management research in South Africa 
Description We have provided a clear description of the challenges and affordances of a mixed methods approach to evaluating school leadership and management in South Africa. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact In prior research on school leadership and management in South Africa there has been a strong disconnect between qualitative and quantitative approaches to understanding these concepts and their linkages with learning. We believe that we have navigated the challenges of a mixed methods approach, bringing together qualitative and quantitative research (and multi-disciplinary research) through a unifying theoretical framework. This mixed methods research process facilitated an important knowledge exchange across educationists and economists in South Africa. 
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/addressing-the-leadership-conundrum-through-a-mixed-methods-study-of-school-l...
 
Title Rubric approach to quantifying leadership and management competence in schools 
Description As a key project objective we aimed to develop and trial new metrics for measuring and codifying school leadership and management practices and processes that are considered theoretically related to literacy outcomes. We attempt to construct the first available composite measure of leadership and management practices in South African schools that may be linked to learning, specifically the literacy outcomes of poorer students. Our rubric development approach centred on an articulated theoretical framework to construct measures that would capture a fuller SLM concept and in turn provide more predictive power of SLM than typically found in previous South African school effectiveness studies. While this research development is a positive move away from merely using proxies or indicator variables of SLM in education production function studies of learning, the results are disappointing. Overall, we find few linkages between six 'leadership for literacy' dimensions and grade 3 or 6 literacy outcomes. Only 12% of 114 individual rubric elements were positively and significantly associated with grade 6 literacy outcomes. Most of the time the expected relationships between evaluated areas of SLM competence or practice and outcomes are not found. This echoes earlier reflections in school effectiveness research in South Africa (Gustafsson, 2007; Van Staden and Howie, 2014). 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Even when more effort is given to quantifying a conceptual framework of leadership and management, their remains a randomness to how better 'leadership for literacy' practices appear to be distributed across schools in challenging contexts in South Africa. The rigour given to quantifying school leadership and management through our approach and yet having weak linkages with literacy, provides a sobering nuance to the overt emphasis given by policy-makers to management and leadership as a silver bullet for resolving the learning crisis in South Africa. As a result of the measurement process, the study raises some questions about whether leadership and management accounts for the lion's share of unexplained variation in learner performance across poorer schools in South Africa (a previously held view among many researchers and policy-makers that has diverted finance away from teacher development to management programmes). 
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/addressing-the-leadership-conundrum-through-a-mixed-methods-study-of-school-l...
 
Title Early grade reading in African languages database 
Description The team has created a databse of longitudinal data from 60 schools located in township and rural contexts in South Africa. By collecting data at both the start of the year and the end of the year on the same 2000 children it is possible to create a panel dataset of reading outcomes for three African languages (isiZulu, Northern Sotho and Xitsonga) in Grade 3 and Grade 6. This includes information on the child's home background, wealth, school resources, as well as a host of reading outcomes (letters read correctly per minute, oral reading fluency, oral comprehension etc.) in both English and their African home language. This is an important contribution to the field since these are under-studied languages with almost no data available on them. In fact there are currently no empirical studies looking at Xitsonga other than this one. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This dataset of longitudinal reading outcomes will be used for a new research project on early grade reading in South Africa to commence in March 2019. Nic Spaull and Nompumelelo Mohohlwane have also used findings from this dataset to spur on policymakers in South Africa to refocus on the importance of instruction in African languages, the need for more research on understanding these languages, how to teach them and to establish norms and benchmarks to support improved instruction in the classroom. 
 
Title Educator dataset - perceptions and experiences 
Description In visiting 60 schools, we surveyed all teachers in each school at two periods in 2017 resulting in a dataset of perceptions of educator experiences for over 1000 teachers. This is a useful dataset to begin highlighting core areas that affect the well-being of teachers in challenging contexts, understanding their perceptions of management and leadership process and how this varies not only across schools but within schools. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact In the majority of school based research that takes place in South Africa there is very little focus on surveying teachers. School surveys such as PIRLS and TIMSS at most 2 teachers in a school for the sake of time survey. Any data on teacher perceptions and school experiences are therefore gathered from a small subset of educators. It is also noted that South Africa does not participate in TALIS which has been an important advancement in profiling educators internationally. Teachers are at the core of learning and its important that we start understanding these groups better - not only through qualitative work but in quantifying their experiences. Experiences may not only vary across schools but within schools which raises the value of surveying more than just one or two teachers in a school. This dataset makes an important contribution in furthering our understanding of teachers' perceptions about their work environments, engagement with work, their experiences of managers and their preferred practices. The database will also support other ESRC funded projects in South Africa at present that aim to explore accountability and trust in school contexts. 
 
Description Department of Basic Education 
Organisation Department of Basic Education
PI Contribution An important contribution of the project has been the development not only of new reading assessments in African languages, but also using innovative testing procedures. Although assessing reading outcomes using computers or tablets is relatively widespread in high-income countries, this is far less prominent in developing countries. In the present case, the ESRC-funded researchers adapted a well-known testing application (RTI Tangerine) and used tablets to assess reading outcomes in these African languages. This application of Tangerine has subsequently been used in a large-scale government program led by the Department of Basic Education - the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS) - with training provided by the ESRC-funded researchers. The Department's strategic interest in early grade reading in African languages means that they are particularly receptive to insights from the researchers on the project.
Collaborator Contribution The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is the authority that must grant all research proposals, ethical clearance etc. They must also notify district officials and school principals (and in some instance teacher union officials) that we are coming to assess learners. Having an ongoing collaboration with the Planning and Research Directorate in the DBE has proven to be immeasurably valuable for the smooth operation of the project. We have liaised with the Chief Director, Director, Deputy Director and Assistant Director of the directorate. As a result of the project the Deputy Director is now doing her PhD with the Principal Investigator on the topic of early grade reading in African languages as a result of the project.
Impact The collaboration is multidisciplinary in that we are involving researchers from both Education and Economics Departments from two universities, together with the Department of Basic Education in South Africa. The Department is now using an assessment system that was first tested and used in the ESRC research. One of the DBE personnel (Deputy Director) has now enrolled for her PhD in Education at Stellenbosch University with the PI of the project.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Informal collaboration to encourage evidence-based research on early grade reading 
Organisation Funde Wande
PI Contribution An informal collaborative group of various researchers located across different univerisities in South Africa, the department of Basic Education and other research institutions was established in November 2018 to support increased sharing on an evidence-based approach to understanding early grade reading in South Africa. Nic Spaull was key to arranging this collaboration group. Gabrielle Wills, Heleen Hofmeyr, Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (all researchers involved in our research project) are also part of this collaboration and have actively participated in promoting sharing of instruments and insights from reading data gathered from our project with this group.
Collaborator Contribution Cally Ardington from SALDRU at the University of Cape Town and Nic Spaull representing Funde Wande were instrumental in organising this collaboration and providing finance to support the first workshop (with over 20 practitioners and researchers in attendance) held in Cape Town in 2018.
Impact A workshop was held in Cape Town 2018 which brought together a multi-disciplinary group of practitioners and researchers in areas of education, linguistics and economics. The sharing of instruments across collaborators to test reading and literacy across various projects has commenced. Mapping of previous, current, and future projects on reading and the African languages tested has commenced that will provide an important reference source for researchers interested in Early Grade Reading.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Informal collaboration to encourage evidence-based research on early grade reading 
Organisation University of Cape Town
Department Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU)
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution An informal collaborative group of various researchers located across different univerisities in South Africa, the department of Basic Education and other research institutions was established in November 2018 to support increased sharing on an evidence-based approach to understanding early grade reading in South Africa. Nic Spaull was key to arranging this collaboration group. Gabrielle Wills, Heleen Hofmeyr, Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (all researchers involved in our research project) are also part of this collaboration and have actively participated in promoting sharing of instruments and insights from reading data gathered from our project with this group.
Collaborator Contribution Cally Ardington from SALDRU at the University of Cape Town and Nic Spaull representing Funde Wande were instrumental in organising this collaboration and providing finance to support the first workshop (with over 20 practitioners and researchers in attendance) held in Cape Town in 2018.
Impact A workshop was held in Cape Town 2018 which brought together a multi-disciplinary group of practitioners and researchers in areas of education, linguistics and economics. The sharing of instruments across collaborators to test reading and literacy across various projects has commenced. Mapping of previous, current, and future projects on reading and the African languages tested has commenced that will provide an important reference source for researchers interested in Early Grade Reading.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Co-hosted a workshop with RISE for African country researchers and policymakers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Research on Socioeconomic Policy Group at Stellenbosch University co-hosted a workshop with RISE from 1-2 March 2018. A group of RISE team members, including a group of Ethiopian researchers, an official from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, and a policy-maker from Kenya attended this workshop. We profiled two papers associated with our ESRC grant project at this event. First, Nompumelelo Mohohlwane presented the "Comprehension Iceberg" paper to colleagues from Kenya and Tanzania, as well as some government policy makers. Second Gabrielle Wills, provided a quantitative background paper on the school management in South Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.riseprogramme.org/news/rise-researchers-take-part-education-conference-south-africa-0
 
Description Hosting a policy-maker workshop on quantitative evidence in South African education 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact ReSEP held its third annual "Quantitative Applications in Education Research" conference at STIAS in Stellenbosch (South Africa) from 28 - 29 September 2017. This is the main education conference in SA and was attended by the Chief Director of the Strategy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate in the national Department of Basic Education as well as the Superintendent General of the Gauteng Department of Education who gave the keynote address. There were a number of high-level government officials from three other provinces and prominent South African academics.

A total of 110 participants from a range of backgrounds, including education researchers, policy-makers and PhD students attended the conference. Four ESRC researchers presented on work linked to the Leadership for Literacy project; Nompumelelo Mohohlwane, Gabrielle Wills, Ursula Hoadley and Heleen Hofmeyr. The workshop was hosted by the PI of the Leadership for Literacy project.

Presentations by Ursula Hoadley and Gabrielle Wills provided sobering insights into how leadership and management is a necessary but certainly not sufficient condition for seeing improvements in learning and specifically literacy in schools. Without the effective training of teachers and school leaders to teach reading and understand what this involves, management interventions are ineffective in changing what happens inside the classroom in terms of the quality of instruction students receive. This is an important message to communicate in a context where policy-makers think that compliance approaches to management or introducing management programmes will be sufficient to address the learning crisis in our schools.

The three co-authors of the "Comprehension Iceberg" paper presented a panel discussion on "Quantitative research on early grade reading in African languages".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/conference-on-quantitative-education-research/
 
Description Hosting a policy-maker workshop on quantitative evidence in South African education 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact ReSEP held its third annual "Quantitative Applications in Education Research" conference at STIAS in Stellenbosch (South Africa) from 28 - 29 September 2017. A total of 110 participants from a range of backgrounds, including education researchers, policy-makers and PhD students attended the conference. Two ESRC researchers presented on work linked to the Leadership for Literacy project; Nic Spaull and Nompumelelo Mohohlwane. The keynote speaker for the event was the Minister of Basic Education Ms Angie Motshekga. The workshop was hosted by the PI of the Leadership for Literacy project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://resep.sun.ac.za/index.php/events/conferences-2/
 
Description Hosting a workshop on measuring leadership and management in challenging contexts connected to the 2018 Raising Learning Outcomes Africa Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact On 14 September 2018, we held a workshop for researchers, policy-makers, students, and practitioners on insights gained from our project with a focus on communicating our findings on school leadership and management and its linkages with literacy.

This was a useful opportunity to expose other RLO project grant holder teams to our project findings as we coordinated this workshop to coincide with a RLO Symposium ('Raising Learning Outcomes' Africa Symposium) hosted by Oxford University in Johannesburg. The workshop was intentionally designed to have an impact focus, collaborating with Pauline Rose and staff at the Impact Initiative, to ensure that a strong policy focus emerged from the workshop. Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (Deputy Director of research at South Africa's Department of Basic Education) and Carol Nuga Deliwe (chief director of research at South Africa's Department of Basic Education) provided practical insights into how best researchers can collaborate with the department of Basic Education where our project was sited as a case of best practice. Other department officials were really challenged by the presentations provided as they became aware of 1) structural inequalities in the quality and quantity of school management across in South Africa and 2) the limits of management and leadership to addressing the literacy crisis in our primary schools.

As described in a 2018 Impact Initiative blogpost:
"The Symposium concluded with an 'impact' session based on the South African context, with research presentations on the links between leadership and learning in rural and township schools (Servaas van der Berg, Gabrielle Wills & Linda Zuze, University of Stellenbosch; Ursula Hoadley, University of Cape Town). Policy actors Professor Mary Metcalfe (former director-general of the South African Department of Higher Education and now with the Programme to Improve Learning Outcomes), Carol Nuga-Deliwe (Chief Director, Planning, Research and Coorindation at the Department of Basic Education, South Africa) and Godwin Khosa (CEO, National Education Collaboration Trust) offered insights on the influence of research on national-level decision-making, and Nompumelelo Mohohlwane (Deputy Director: Research, Monitoring & Evaluation, Department of Basic Education) shared advice to researchers on how to work with the government to provide evidence for policy impact - a priority of all research funded within the RLO programme" (Impact Initiative, 2018).

Reference: Impact Initiative, 2018. Event: 'Raising Learning Outcomes' Africa Symposium. Available at https://www.theimpactinitiative.net/event/event-%E2%80%98raising-learning-outcomes%E2%80%99-africa-symposium
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2018
URL https://www.theimpactinitiative.net/event/event-%E2%80%98raising-learning-outcomes%E2%80%99-africa-s...
 
Description Presentation at the 2018 Reading and Learning Conference, University of Johannesburg 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The Reading and Learning Conference was held at the University of Johannesburg from 13-14 February 2018. Using the outputs from The Comprehension Iceberg paper there was a wide-ranging discussion about the need for benchmarks in African languages. There were academics from five universities together with Chief Director of the Strategy, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate in the national Department of Basic Education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation on the "Comprehension Iceberg" for the Literacy in our Lifetime Conference, Johannesburg 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 16 June 2018 - Johannesburg - Literacy in our Lifetime Conference.
This was a conference to commemorate the June 16 massacre under Apartheid. There was a large collection of NGOs and civil society present with the aim to build a coalition around literacy in South Africa. The "Comprehension Iceberg" paper served as the background reading for the "Strategic Litigation" stream.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation to District Directors in the Western Cape 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Dr Nic Spaull gave a presentation to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Metro South district directors and regional planners about their "10-year Strategic Plan". The presentation emphasised the use of existing government data for better decision making. This is something we as a research team have spent much time discussing as part of the ESRC work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://nicspaull.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/spaull-2017-wced-metro-south-strat-planning.pptx
 
Description Presentation to International Education Funders Group (IEFG) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Dr Nic Spaull hosted a panel discussion at the International Education Funders Group in Johannesburg. This event is attended by numerous representatives of independent funders. Many of the participants reported that the presentation influenced how they think about allocating funds. Part of the experience reflected on in the presentation was the collaboration between researchers at Stellenbosch and the Department of Basic Education funded by the ESRC.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.iefg.org/
 
Description Presentation to School Principals 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact On 25 September 2017 Dr Nic Spaull presented the keynote address to the 2017 International Confederation of Principals on the topic "School Leadership in Challenging Contexts." This included reflections from this ESRC research in three provinces as well as drawing on the international literature and experience on the importance of school leadership in high-poverty contexts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://icpconference.com/programme/
 
Description Presentation to director of districts and director of SACE at the Department of Basic Education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In July 2017, Gabrielle Wills from our team reported back on our search of exceptional schools, which yielded some sobering realities, to a group of researchers within the Department of Basic Education as well as two influential policy makers within the department of education. The sobering reality that we could not find primary schools achieving at low international benchmarks of learning was an important finding given that the next day policy makers were gathering to celebrate "exceptional schools" at the secondary level. It was important to message that best practice is a relative notion and at times unhelpful as a strategy for thinking about improvement in South African education. Aiming to address basic functionality and generating improvements through a shift to the middle is more useful than attempting to transfer best practice when it may not exist.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation to practitioners, policy-makers and researchers at a Colloquium: Sustainable change in education 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact At this large colloquium attended by a mix of policy-makers, practitioners, teacher union members and academics interested in systems change in education,
two presentations directly linked to our project were given by researchers on our team. Gabrielle Wills provided a 20 minute presentation to about 100 individuals on "A Quantitative Perspective on School Leadership and Management in South Africa" and was then asked to facilitate a discussion on effective change in leadership and management in South African schooling. The presentation addressed critical issues in the provisioning of managers and leaders across South African schools, highlighting the considerable inequalities that exist in this regard. This sparked considerable debate and concern from the audience who were shown the strong inequalities in school management team post-provisioning practices across provinces, which itself reflects differences in effective administration within the South African schooling system. The audience's questions were particularly aimed at the challenge she presents that too much emphasis and resource is being given to compliance-based leadership and management interventions at the cost of investing in teacher development and increased knowledge on how to teach reading, especially considering that available evidence in South Africa points to weak linkages between leadership and literacy outcomes.

Nick Taylor and Ursula Hoadley presented on key project qualitative findings "Leadership and literacy: Exploring their Linkages in Rural and Township South African Schools"
In his presentation, Nick Taylor presented the background to and main findings exploring if and how good leaders promote good reading instruction in their schools. Discussion after this presentation focused on questions of how leaders at school are appointed and the challenge that arises when they have management expertise, but little
curriculum knowledge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.saide.org.za/documents/Colloquium_Sustainable_Change_-_1.pdf
 
Description Workshop on assessment in early grade reading 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 15 November a group of 30 individuals from universities, the department of Basic Education, non-profit organisations and other research institutions gathered to share best practice in assessing reading in African language and English in the early grades. Our research team members participated, sharing insights on reading from our project as well as sharing our instruments with different institutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018