The National Policy on Whole School Evaluation was legislated in 2001 in the Government Gazette Vol.433, No. 22512 of July 2001. The overall objective of the policy was clearly spelt out as ‘to improve the overall quality of education in South African schools with its main purpose to facilitate improvement of school performance through approaches characterised by partnership, collaboration, mentoring and guidance’ (RSA, 2001:iii).
It was introduced as ‘an effective monitoring and evaluation process that is vital to the improvement of quality and standards of performance in schools’ (RSA, 2001: iii). The policy clarifies that this ‘adopted model is radically different from the previous school inspection system carried out in South Africa under the apartheid regime’ (RSA, 2001:iii).
It was also states that this policy would complement other quality assurance initiatives such as the service reviews and monitoring of learner achievements and should be aligned with the Developmental Appraisal programme which focused on determining individual educator’s developmental needs.
The policy further states that ‘whole-school evaluation implies the need for all schools to look continuously for ways of improving, and the commitment of government to provide development programmes designed to support their efforts’ (RSA, 2001:3).
Central to the approach introduced is school-based self-evaluation which schools undertake internally and which was to be monitored by an external departmental supervisory team. At a school level the executive authority for quality assurance is vested in the school principal supported by the SGB.
In the policy the primary aims of the National School Evaluation policy are stated as the following:
- Moderate externally, on a sampling basis, the results of self-evaluation carried out by the schools.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of a school in terms of the national goals, using national criteria.
- Increase the level of accountability within the education system.
- Strengthen the support given to schools by district professional support services.
- Provide feedback to all stakeholders as a means of achieving continuous school improvement.
- Identify aspects of excellence within the system which will serve as models of good practice.
- Identify the aspects of effective schools and improve the general understanding of what factors create effective schools.
The nine areas for whole school evaluation, for which more specific criteria are presented in the whole school evaluation guidelines, are identified as the following:
- Basic functionality of the school.
- Leadership, management and communication.
- Governance and relationships.
- Quality of teaching and learning, and educator development.
- Curriculum provision and resources.
- Learner achievement.
- School safety, security and discipline.
- School infrastructure.
- Parents and community.
In the "Handbook: An introduction to whole-school evaluation policy," published by the National Department of Education in 2002, schools are required to do the following as part of the self-evaluation process:
- Carry out an audit of the areas for evaluation, using information in the guidance and criteria document.
- Grade what they regard as an honest assessment of their current state in each of the areas for evaluation.
- Provide a brief outline of the evidence they can produce to support the rating.
It is further stated that school-self-evaluation should be carried out by principals, school management teams (SMT’s), school governing bodies and school communities at large. The National Department of Basic Education is currently revising the Whole School Evaluation criteria, and the Foundation is integrating these revisions into the instrument that they use.