At the end of a four-day leadership programme at Forte High School, Dobsonville, Soweto, 13 bush willow trees - one for each participant - were planted at the school to symbolise growth, sustainable leadership, and as a reminder to the heads of the school to use their newly acquired skills.
Facilitated by Hay Group, which partnered the organisation, One School at a Time, the focus of the leadership programme was to build effective leaders at the school, including the principal, deputy principal and heads of department. The belief is that a proper solution for education can deliver a solution for poverty and crime, and that through education South Africa could become a shining example to Africa and the world. In South Africa, there are approximately 30 000 schools, of which 23 000 are dysfunctional and contribute annually to an already dysfunctional society. The idea is that improving the education system is an absolute possibility, one school at a time.
"While pass rates and university exemptions are used annually to benchmark schools and the Provincial Education Departments' performance against previous years, success does not reside solely in these statistics," said Gail Lumby, senior consultant at Hay Group and former school head.
Favourable climate needed
"In order for schools to achieve results, the climate in which teaching and learning takes place needs to be favourable. We have all heard the stories of schools that have little to no resources producing outstanding results; how is this possible? Through extensive research in the area of leadership and work in education, the Hay Group has identified the impact that leaders in schools have on the teaching and learning environment and is intent on making a difference in South African education by focusing on sustainable leadership."
Lisete Harris, sector head and head of corporate social investment at Hay Group continued: "We know that up to 30 percent of the difference in performance between teams is down to their climate - what it feels like to work there, what it feels like to learn there. We also know that up to 70 percent of a teams' climate is determined by the leader. And we know how motivation, behaviour and leadership style combine to create those climates. With this knowledge, we have embarked on a leadership development journey with Forte High School and One School at a Time, to transform the leadership of the educators to create an engaged and enabling climate to produce extraordinary student learning results. The programme will be sustained by ongoing one-on-one coaching to ensure that we support these leaders to action change, help them realise their potential and create a culture of excellence."
A positive outcome for the school
"We are absolutely delighted to be part of such a leadership programme offered to us by the Hay Group" added Bronwyn James, MD of One School of a Time, "and I look forward to seeing the growth of both the schools SMT team, as well as their newly planted trees. The data that has been generated on the programme has given them insight both into themselves and their functioning and effectiveness as a management team. I have already seen how the team has taken their discussions about the school values and the importance of identifying, communicating and living the values, by putting them into action. This can only yield a positive outcome for the school."
Further partners in the initiative include Willow Feather Farm, where they are "passionate about trees''. With 500 000 trees under cultivation, the company heads up its own community greening programme, encouraging businesses actively to offset carbon emissions by planting or sponsoring its high-quality trees as part of its CSI programmes.
The trees were sponsored by property development and management company, Success Academy. The CEO, Charl du Toit, has pledged to donate 150 000 trees to school pupils over the next five years as part of his "Save our Planet - Plant a Tree" project. Passionate about educating the youths of today on the importance of keeping the environment green, he has donated 10 000 trees to every pupil at a number of schools in Centurion.
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