Johannesburg -

Contested school admission policies dominated the first day of the disciplinary hearing of Rivonia Primary School principal Carol Drysdale.

On Tuesday, Drysdale pleaded not guilty to insubordination for failing to follow a Gauteng Education Department instruction to enrol a Grade 1 pupil at her school last year.

Taking the stand at the hearing, which was opened to the media after an application by Eyewitness News, the department’s director for legal services, Qiniso Zwane, argued that the school disregarded its own admissions policy on the number of pupils allowed per classroom when it refused to accept the pupil.

Zwane said that when department officials did the 10-day head count of pupils at the school after the beginning of the school year, there were 24 pupils in each Grade 1 class, as opposed to 30 as stated in the admission policy.

However, Drysdale’s legal representative, Dion Masher, argued that the department didn’t consider this together with the rest of the school’s admission policy, which stated that there should be a maximum of 120 pupils per grade.

Masher said that because the school already had 24 pupils in each of the five Grade 1 classrooms, it had already reached its capacity of 120 pupils per grade.

However, the validity of the school’s admission policy was also open to discussion because the department had not signed off on it, as required by section 5 of the South African Schools Act.

According to the act, the school governing body has the power to determine the admission policy based on the school’s resources and capacity, among other things - but the policy must be approved by the provincial department.

Masher argued that the school had submitted its policy, but had not received any feedback from the department and therefore was entitled to rely on its own policy.

“The department has never got back to the school to say the school’s policy is not in compliance with existing legislature. The school has sent three admission policies that have not had responses from the department,” he said.

Zwane responded by saying that the department’s silence didn’t mean it had “accepted the policy on the face of it”.

The case continues. - The Star