A study of school improvement : an exploration of the David Rattray Foundation as a case study for school improvement in the Rorke's Drift / Isandlwana area.
The poor performance of South African schools has become a pressing concern over the years and the need to improve learner outcomes has become tremendously important. It is for this reason funds are invested into the planning and implementing of school improvement projects so that learner outcomes can be enhanced. The purpose of the current study was to explore a set of projects carried out by the David Rattray Foundation (DRF), an organisation that attempts to bring about school improvement to schools in the Rorke’s Drift / Isandlwana area. The study focused on trying to understand the nature and function of the DRF, what interventions they have implemented to bring about school improvement and what the processes of change were that occurred. The study used Fullan’s (2006) theory of change, the seven core premises he introduces on change and complexity theory to understand and interpret the data. The study also used Weber’s (1947) two approaches, charisma and bureaucracy, to explain the findings that emerged from the data gathered. The study was qualitative. The study, in addition, was an exploratory and descriptive case study that used six types of data collection instruments, namely interviews, document analysis, a checklist, a preference analysis, observations and Participatory Action Research (PAR). The principals of 8 schools were interviewed as well as the CEO of the DRF. In addition, two of the eight schools were observed in great depth. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. This study presented three themes, which emerged from the data: school improvement, partnership and wider system issues. The findings indicated that the DRF is involved with trying to achieve school improvement. The study also indicated a business-like approach when trying to achieve school improvement. In addition, the study revealed a shift in the DRF’s vision, from carrying out individual school improvement initiatives initially to wanting to adopt whole school reform. The study portrayed the difficulty in trying to bring about school improvement to schools in the Rorke’s Drift / Isandlwana area in view of the facts that the context is an unkind one, the DRF consists of one person solely carrying out interventions in 17 schools under the constraints of time and funding.