Durban - Thousands of management teams from KwaZulu-Natal schools will undergo training to sharpen their leadership and management skills to improve academic performance.

On Tuesday, 566 principals graduated from the provincial Department of Education’s eight-month compulsory principals management development programme.

The programme began with principals from underperforming schools and new appointments, and aims to equip the province’s 5 658 principals, 2 697 deputies and 11 000 heads of department with skills in financial and curriculum management as well as school governance.

The province has about 500 underperforming schools that had a pass rate below 60 percent last year.

The programme, costing R6 million, was run in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Performance Solutions Africa and the Department of Public Service and Administration.

Since the beginning of the year the programme has been run at UKZN during school holidays and weekends.

Department head, Nkosinathi Sishi, said the programme was an investment in deputy principals and heads of department because when a principal retired, they would be able to continue running schools effectively.

“In the last five years, the department has employed many principals,” he said.

“The department is moving away from Saturday workshops and we are setting higher standards. The tendency of sending people to workshops has been criticised.”

The training would take place in phases, with a certain number every year.

Sishi said the province’s top principals would also have to attend the training.

“We don’t want these principals to be stale. From time to time, they need to be given new challenges and we still want them to attend a programme of this nature,” he said.

The management development programme was piloted in 2009, but Sishi suspended it last year because its focus had shifted.

Next year’s intake is estimated at 1 500 members of school management teams.

“If a principal undergoes this training, we demand higher performance,” Sishi said.

Those who failed to complete the training would have to pay the money back to the department.

One of the graduates, Delani Shabalala, principal of Sbambanezulu High School in Umlazi, said the training had made the burden of running the school lighter and it was relevant to the school’s daily operations. - Daily News