Title page for ETD etd-08162012-111838

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Wessels, Janine
Email janinewessels.wessels@gmail.com
URN etd-08162012-111838
Document Title Aspirations and legal obligations of newly elected governing bodies of schools for learners with special education needs
Degree MEd
Department Education Management and Policy Studies
Advisor Name Title
Prof H J Joubert Supervisor
  • newly elected schools governing bodies
  • learners
  • South African Schools Act 1996b
Date 2012-04-16
Availability unrestricted
The Schools Act has brought about a change in the way in which schools are managed and governed. Each public school should be governed by a governing body and the professional management of the school is vested in the principal (South African Schools Act, 1996b). The governing body of a special needs school consists of various role-players that include, among others, parents, educators, learners, and representatives of sponsoring bodies and of various organisations. Furthermore, these role-players should be knowledgeable about the legal requirements pertaining to the functions of a governing body. It is legally expected of each governing body member to know what the legal requirements of a governing body are. The governing body is expected to draft the school’s policies, such as the language policy, admission policy, religious policy, disciplinary policy and the financial policy (Schools Act, 1996).

There are various types of public schools: mainstream schools [full-service schools] and special needs schools [special needs schools as resource centres] (DoE, 2005). Very little research has been conducted on the governance of special needs schools. The governance of a special needs school is more complicated than that of a mainstream school in respect to drafting the various policies. There are aspects such as limited resources to accommodate specific disabilities and the type of disability that the school caters for in terms of the admission policy that must be kept in mind. These aspects complicate the governance of special needs schools and require more thought and planning (Department of Education, 2007).

This research specifically focuses on the governance of special needs schools and the aspirations that the individual governing body members of these schools have. The governing body members come from different backgrounds; they have differentqualifications and different experiences. These factors contribute to the ideas (aspirations) that they have in terms of their role as governing body members. The aspirations of the governing body members should correlate with the various school policies, due to the fact that the governing body draft these policies. The policy documents provide a clear indication of where the school is heading and of its mission. Not only should the governing body participants’ aspirations correlate with the school’s policies; they should also correlate with the legal requirements set out in the Schools Act.

This research consists of two separate case studies relating to two special needs schools. Three governing body members from each school were interviewed, using semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews assisted in ensuring that the participants were understood correctly and in getting clarity on certain aspects that were addressed.

The various policy documents of each school were analysed to establish an idea of the school’s mission and for the purpose of triangulation. These documents include, among others, the language policy, admission policy, religious policy and the code of conduct for learners.

The interview responses and the documents were compared to establish to what extent the governing body members’ aspirations correlate with the policy documents. The schools were not compared in any way; each school was regarded as an individual entity.

In this study the following has been found:

  • 1. Governing body members are not fully briefed or knowledgeable about their functions.
  • 2. Governing body members refuse to attend training sessions provided by the Head of Department on grounds that these sessions are not meaningful or convenient.
  • 3. Most of the schools’ policy documents, such as admission policies, language policies and religious policies have not been revised in up to nine years.
  • 4. Some of the participants in the research contradicted one another and the schools’ policy documents.

In conclusion it can be stated that the governing body members who participated in this research have served on governing bodies for many years, the shortest term of service being four years; they should be knowledgeable about their function and should have the best interest of the school at heart. This seems to be in contradiction to the findings of this research. Even though the governing body members lack sufficient knowledge and insight, they are extremely positive and have the best interest of the learner at heart.

Copyright © 2011, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Wessels, J 2011, Aspirations and legal obligations of newly elected governing bodies of schools for learners with special education needs, MEd dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-08162012-111838 / >


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