Proposed amendments to the South African Schools Act and the Employment of Educators Act would drive transformation and were in line with the National Development Plan.

The Draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill has been criticised for limiting the powers of school governing bodies in appointing school heads of departments, principals and their deputies. The bill also proposes handing control to the department in determining a school’s language policy.

Defending the controversial bill during a briefing of Parliament’s basic education portfolio committee on Tuesday, the department’s acting chief director for legal and legislative services, Chris Leukes, said that the proposed amendment limiting the powers of school governing bodies was perhaps the most important.

"It limits the power of a governing body in regard to the appointment of educators. In terms of this amendment, a governing body may recommend to the HoD [head of department] the appointment of only post-level one educators. This means that the selection and appointment of educators on post-levels two, three and four will be the sole responsibility of the HoD," Leukes said.

He said it was noteworthy that the ministerial task team appointed to investigate allegations of the selling of posts by teacher unions and departmental officials recommended that the powers of school governing bodies be clipped.

It also recommended that appointments to posts from level two and above be taken away and that the Schools Act and the Employment of Educators Act be amended to reflect this.

"The proposed amendment is necessitated by the requirements of transformation and by the realisation of how important the leadership and management team is for turning a school around and making it successful. The National Development Plan also played a role in the decision to propose the amendment. It emphasises the importance of attracting competent persons to become school principals," Leukes said.

Other amendments in the bill cover an increase in penalties for preventing compulsory school attendance; the language policy in public schools; and a code of conduct on cultural beliefs and religious observance by pupils.

Deputy Basic Education Minister Enver Surty said the department was processing the inputs from the public which would further inform the direction the department would take. The process was still at an early stage.


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