Shaun Smillie and Vuyo Mkize
Rivonia Primary School today won the right to determine the number of pupils it can enrol in a class.
Gerrit Pretorius, counsel for the school, said this morning that the Supreme Court of Appeal had ruled in its favour.
At the time of going to press, he was still waiting for a copy of the judgment. The ruling pertained to principal Carol Drysdale’s refusal at the beginning of the year to admit a Grade 1 pupil.
She said the school was full and classes could not accommodate another child.
But the Gauteng Department of Education disagreed and Drysdale was sent for a disciplinary hearing.
When the pupil was turned away, the department intervened and ordered that the child be admitted, against the principal’s instructions.
The school’s governing body then took the matter to court, accusing the Education Department officials of violating their own rules when they “forcefully took control of the admissions function” and admitted a Grade 1 pupil even though the school’s management felt the school had reached full capacity for the year.
The dispute was over whether the school or the department could have the final say on when a school had reached its capacity.
According to section 5 of the SA Schools Act, the school governing body has the power to determine the school’s admission policy.
The policy, which makes the determination based on its resources and capacity, among other things, should be signed off by the provincial government.
The department argued that because it was ultimately the MEC who had to ensure a place for every child of school-going age, the final decision should rest with the department.
In December, the court ruled in the department’s favour. Judge Boissie Mbha ruled that “power to determine the maximum capacity of a public school in Gauteng vests in the Gauteng Department of Education and not in the school governing body”.
The school then took the matter on appeal.
Today the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein ruled otherwise – finding that it should be the school that gets to decide on when its classes are full.