The Northern Cape Education Department’s plan to piggyback on a recent Constitutional Court judgement in favour of the Gauteng Education Department regarding schools’ admission policy was halted by the Northern Cape High Court.
The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) recently brought an urgent appeal before the court to prevent the Northern Cape Education Department from proceeding with changes to schools’ admissions procedure for 2017 as set out in a circular. Despite an undertaking in this regard, this education department neglected to consult with FEDSAS or other role-players on the proposed changes.
“The provincial education department, together with provincial governing body organisations, form the Provincial Consultative Forum. On a meeting of this forum the department has undertaken to consult with role-players on these changes. However, this did not happen. The department then blatantly ignored a letter from FEDSAS in this regard as well. Should consultation have taken place, FEDSAS would have been able to point out that the changes as proposed in the circular are not in line with statutory stipulations and are therefore illegal,” says Mr Paul Colditz, CEO of FEDSAS.
Similar to its Gauteng counterpart, the Northern Cape Education Department tried to get around the Schools’ Act by interfering with schools’ admission policy, which is a legal function of a school’s governing body. School principals that did not adhere to the proposed changes in the circular were threatened with disciplinary action. However, the Northern Cape High Court has set aside the circular and has ordered the Northern Cape Education Department to carry the costs.
“Especially encouraging is the fact that the court specifically based its decision on the education department’s lack of consultation with education role-players like FEDSAS and the fact that the department failed to honour a commitment to FEDSAS in this regard. This confirms the basic principle of public schools, namely that the school is to be managed by the entire school community, including all role-players, and not just the State,” says Colditz.
Colditz says according to the circular the changes were to have been implemented at the start of the third quarter. “The implication of the court’s decision is that the normal admissions procedure for 2017 is to be followed, with school governing bodies determining a school’s admission policy and that learners are to be admitted to a school according to this policy.”
FEDSAS again confirms that the organisation is prepared to work together with the education department, but only if it takes place in a positive manner and within the legal framework.