School fights for its life

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peak view school INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Peak View Secondary is in trouble over poor performance, although the school has a different take. Photo: Thomas Holder

Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant intends to close the province’s worst-performing school – and the parents are furious.

Grant sent a letter to the school governing body of Peak View Secondary in Athlone, which produced the province’s lowest 2011 matric pass rate, asking them to tell him why he shouldn’t close the school.

The school could be closed down on December 31.

The school is one of 27 in the province that could be shut down by the end of the year because of dwindling pupil numbers, the poor quality of teaching and other reasons.

Grant said he intended to close Peak View for four reasons: its poor matric results, the declining academic performance in all grades, a large number of pupils coming from outside the community and “a very low pass rate” in English home language “throughout”.

The school, which has 650 pupils, obtained an 18.9 percent pass rate last year. In 2010, the pass rate was 43.2 percent. In 2009, it was 54. 2 percent. In 2008, 66.7 percent.

School governing body chairman Sean Jacobs said parents are going to march in the Cape Town city centre on Friday.

“The bottom line is: hands off Peak View! If we have to go to the Presidency, we will.”

Jacobs said the reason for the closure was a numbers game.

“The closing of Peak View is for statistics. The Western Cape got the best matric results over the past years (and) they want to show all the other provinces that the Western Cape is up there. Now they are targeting underperforming schools.”

He said the community feared that the buildings would become a breeding ground for crime if the school was closed.

Parents said the department should work on improving the school instead of shutting it down.

Teachers said the main reason for last year’s poor matric results was that 24 Xhosa-speaking pupils had failed English home language and the department hadn’t provided support programmes for this subject. They claimed pupils had performed well in many of the other subjects.

Principal Oswald de Villiers said Xhosa home language had been introduced this year and already there had been an improvement in results.

Staff members said the school now wanted an opportunity to prove itself.

They also questioned why one of Grant’s reasons for closing the school was the fact most pupils came from outside the area when this is something that happens in many schools.

Rasida Adams, a member of the school’s senior management team, said Peak View was the last resort for many pupils who couldn’t get into other schools because their primary school results were poor. She said the school also accepted drop-outs and pupils who had failed and couldn’t find placement anywhere else.

Community worker Charmaine Less questioned whether the department had considered pupils were writing their June exams before they “dropped the bombshell”.

Grant’s spokeswoman, Bronagh Casey, said the department was “carefully monitoring the educational viability of all its schools and, where appropriate, identifying schools for possible closure”.

“The identification of schools for possible closure is done on an annual basis at district level to ensure that the shape and size of the education (system) is better aligned to the demands of society than before.”

Casey added the MEC would only make his final decision about Peak View after all prescribed processes and requirements were met.

“The school governing body will now be given the opportunity to make representations to this proposed action. The minister will then consider all the representations made by the school governing body.”

She added that if he decides to go ahead with closing the school a public consultation process will be held.

Casey said Grant will consider everything once again and will be guided by what is in the best interests of the pupils before he makes his final decision.

She said if the school closes, pupils could be sent to other schools in the area, such as Bridgetown High, Athlone High, and Spes Bona High, and teachers would also be accommodated.

Meanwhile, the department has also announced that it is replacing five principals who were previously in charge of serial underperforming schools.

Schools that achieved a pass rate of below 60 percent in the National Senior Certificate exams have been classified as underperforming.

The department said the principals agreed to leave after discussions.

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Cape Argus

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