Pretoria - Teacher unions have voiced mixed feelings following the announcement that all school principals and deputy principals will in the near future enter into performance contracts with clear performance targets.
On Tuesday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the department was looking at strengthening the appointment procedures for school principals in a bid to strengthen accountability in schools.
She explained that the performance will be measured in terms of the academic performance of the school in accordance with the South African Schools Act and directly linked to performance in the Annual National Assessments and National Senior Certificate examinations.
"The principals will also be measured against the quality of management and monitoring of the performance of their respective teachers in line with the Teacher Performance Appraisal System, currently under discussion.
"Furthermore, district support for schools that is often poor or lacking will be strengthened through, among other things, the development of job descriptions for circuit managers and subject advisors and the development of performance agreements to be signed by officials, with clear targets and deliverables," Motshekga said.
She noted that these interventions will go a long way towards raising levels of accountability across the entire sector and ensuring that the department moves steadily towards reaching the set targets in learner achievement.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) warned against being tempted to introduce "managerialism" in education.
SADTU General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, emphasised the need for commitment to the Quality Learning and Teaching campaign, and an understanding that quality education is defined in terms of context and culture.
"Performance agreements in education are there and what we need is to implement them correctly and not bring more administration burden on our schools," Maluleke said.
However, the Professional Educators Union commended the idea, noting that it will improve the schools' performance as one would find a good school, where there is good management.
"We need principals who will ensure that policies are being implemented and well equipped with necessary managerial skills," Maluleke told BuaNews.
While the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA) also welcomed the idea, they said it should be first negotiated in the Education Labour Relations Council.
"It is a good move because some [principals] in the system are unable to turn the schools around. So what is the use of them being in leadership?" said NAPTOSA President Esrah Ramasehla.
The Annual National Assessments results (ANA) results for tests written in February by Grades 1 to 6 learners revealed that fewer than half of all learners in South Africa perform at a level that indicates they have at least partially achieved the competencies specified in the curriculum (35 percent). Few learners are able to achieve outstanding results, with only three percent of learners in Grade 6 Mathematics being considered outstanding with at least 70 percent pass.
The Grades 1 to 3 learners were tested in literacy and numeracy, while learners in grades 4 to 6 were tested in Languages and Mathematics.