What does it entail to be a self-managing school? : evidence from one South African school.
I embarked on this research journey with the aim of understanding in some depth, the work of a South African primary school through the self-managing lens. The journey was triggered by an apparent limited understanding in South Africa about what it entails to be a self-managing school despite the fact that the South African Schools Act, in keeping with developments worldwide, calls for schools to become more self-managing. In South Africa, the term ‘selfmanaging school’ has kind of been ‘hijacked’ and become restricted to refer to Section 21 schools that self-manage their finances. But literature unequivocally shows that the notion of a self-managing school is ‘pregnant’ with meaning, far deeper and richer than financial wellness. Thus the fundamental questions guiding this study related to how Acme Primary School fared as a self-managing school and what lessons could be learnt there, regarding what it may entail to be a self-managing school in the South African context. Couched within the interpretive research paradigm, the study adopted a single case study research design. A sample of ten participants comprising of the School Management Team and selected educators made up the main data source. Data was captured through a blend of four instruments, namely a transect walk, observation, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The study was informed by a two- pronged theoretical framework of the theories of capital and distributed leadership. Findings provided a complex and intricate web of factors which pointed to Acme Primary School being on course towards self-managing. The school’s success as a self-managing institution revolved around its ability to draw on all four forms of capital: intellectual, financial, social and spiritual. Intellectual capital was to do with knowledge production and utilization thereof in order to maintain a sense of renewal and inspiration within the school. Social capital related to the building of relationships and interactions among stakeholders. Financial capital was to do with the presence of the resources necessary to meet development needs. Spiritual capital entailed the bond created through shared beliefs, norms and values all of which developed a culture of self-belief and a drive to succeed. The school’s success was also informed by leadership that was distributed across the organization - a case of multiple leaders.