Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape MEC for education. Picture: SUPPLIED
Debbie Schäfer, Western Cape MEC for education. Picture: SUPPLIED

Western Cape premier Helen Zille has signed proclamations for the establishment of a new schools’ evaluation authority and its enabling regulations, breathing life into a key aspect of the province’s controversial new education reforms.

SA’s biggest teacher union, the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), has launched a legal challenge against the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, which was signed into law in November 2018. 

Zille’s proclamations, signed on April 11, bring into effect the act’s provisions for the establishment of the Western Cape Schools Evaluation Authority and the regulations that detail schools’ appointment process of key staff, their governance structure, and operations.

“The intention of this authority is to assess the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, and the general functionality of a school,” said Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer. “The reports will be published, once finalised, for the public to see, in line with our commitment to transparency and accountability.”

The Western Cape education department will oppose Sadtu’s legal challenge to the act, she said. “We believe this legislation is not only within our constitutional powers, but it is in the best interests of the learners, who are our primary concern.” 

In addition to the establishment of the evaluation authority, the act makes provision for closer collaboration with the private sector, paves the way for the creation of “intervention facilities” for learners who might otherwise be expelled, and enables classroom observation. It also allows schools to apply for permission to provide alcohol for adult events on school premises after hours.

On Monday, Sadtu said it was challenging the act on constitutional grounds in the Cape high court. The case has yet to be argued.