Factors contributing to school effectiveness in a disadvantaged community in the Western Cape : a case study
Educational inequality still exists in South Africa and permeates lower socio-economic communities. Improving the situation in schools serving poorer communities is essential. Intense interest in school effectiveness through research and policy could provide impetus for school improvement. The study aims to understand what makes a school effective within a disadvantaged community. To address school ineffectiveness, the study proposes a substantive theory developed from within a disadvantaged community. The study further focused on determining the effect of the social conditions on the effectiveness of the school. Disadvantaged communities are characterised in the study by aspects such as weak socio-economic conditions, poverty and high unemployment rates. The theoretical underpinnings of general systems theory (von Bertalanffy, 1950) and the theory of practice (Bourdieu, 1977) were used to conceptualise the study. The conceptual constructs of these theories were used as analytical tools in the study. The research study was based within an interpretive paradigm. The study made use of qualitative approaches as part of a case study research methodology. The case study is a high school in a poor community with black learners on the periphery of Cape Town. The sample used in the study included the school management team, school governing body, teachers, alumni and current Grade 12 learners. The data collection process involved interviews, both semi-structured and focus group interviews with the principal, the SMT, teachers and parents. Data was collected from learners by means of closed and open-ended questionnaires. The results of the research study have identified five critical factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the school in a disadvantaged community: effective leadership, cross-collaboration and communication, high expectations, effective teaching and development, and supportive learning field. The study further found that cross-field factors have a major influence on learners and schools in becoming effective. The cross-field factors refer to the influence of leadership and teachers on the learners. The study contributes to existing knowledge of school effectiveness, but particularly in the context of disadvantaged communities in the Western Cape. The substantive theory on school effectiveness was developed within a relevant context to address ineffectiveness. The study concludes with recommendations pertaining to leadership, collaboration, expectations, teaching, the learning environment and motivation of teachers. Recommendations were made to improve the practice of making schools effective in disadvantaged communities.