Cape Town -
A Cape Town school principal is being threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to push through to matric a pupil who failed Grade 11.
Brian Isaacs, of South Peninsula High School in Diep River, said his education district had threatened the action against him after his school refused to let a pupil, who failed Grade 11 last year and also failed in Grade 10, move on to Grade 12.
He said teachers felt it would be best for the pupil to repeat the grade, but her mother insisted that she progress to Grade 12 and contacted the district office, which instructed him to “put her over” to Grade 12.
Isaacs said the school had sought legal advice, but had been told that national policy stated the pupil could not fail twice in the phase, so the school would have to turn to the high court.
“If we had the money we would do it. The department is undermining us as an examining body,” he said.
Thousands of children who failed Grade 10 more than once were moved to Grade 11 at the end of last year. A total of 3 826 Western Cape pupils who failed the grade for a second time last year are now in Grade 11.
They represented 5.2 percent of all Grade 10 pupils last year.
“A total of 3 269 learners (6.1 percent) who failed Grade 11 progressed similarly to Grade 12,” Paddy Attwell, spokesman for the Western Cape Education Department, said.
National policy, published in the Government Gazette in December 2012, states that a “learner may only be retained once in the Further Education and Training phase (grades 10 to 12) in order to prevent the learner being retained in the phase for longer than four years”.
But Isaacs said the regulation was “sending out the wrong message”.
“We are telling children that they don’t have to work hard to succeed.”
Attwell said education authorities made a distinction between progression and promotion.
“Learners who pass are promoted while learners who fail more than once in a phase progress to the next grade. The academic record of learners who progress will reflect the last grade that they passed, for example, Grade 9 if they fail twice in Grade 10.”
He said the fact that the South Peninsula pupil had progressed did not mean that she had passed Grade 11.
Curriculum advisers had discussed the requirements with schools. The metropole south education district had, for example, arranged tutoring for the 362 Grade 11 pupils who progressed to Grade 12,
“The curriculum advisers… have found that in most cases the gap between learners who passed and failed is not that great and with extra support… close this gap…”
Basil Manuel, president of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said the policy could lead to an “attitudinal problem”. “Learners know that they can only fail once in the phase so if they have failed Grade 10 they may think that they can cruise for the rest of the phase.”