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What’s Working in School Development? 28-29 February 2008

Over the last 25 years the corporate sector and international donors have invested billions of Rand in programmes designed to improve the poor quality of South African schools. Latterly, government has joined the fray as the terrain differentiates into interventions customised for different sectors of the system. One trend discernible over this time is a move from programmes driven by optimism and principle, to approaches in which impact measures and other evidence is playing a more prominent role.

Accompanying this trend has been a growing pessimism on the part of donors as they realise that their efforts have achieved less than hoped for benefits to the poor and the economy alike. A realignment within the field of School Development is taking place, with actors targeting their efforts to address one of three broad school types:


Mostly formerly privileged
Mostly African
Top and
The Engines of Production
10% of schools
HG math pass: 17 413 (75%)
African:other = 1:9
Dinaledi-type schools
10% of schools
HG math
 pass: 3 277 (14%)
African:other = 12:1
The Masses
80% of schools
HG math pass: 2 562 (11%)     
African:other = 5:1


Source: Based on Senior Certificate results, 2004 (Simkins, 2005)

To reflect on this situation, Murray & Roberts and JET Education Services hosted a two day conference which brought government, donors, educational researchers and service providers together to look at trends in school development in South Africa. The questions that the conference set out to answer were:

  • Which school development models are most appropriate for schools at different levels of functionality? How can existing programmes be improved?
  • How can government and donors work more closely together in promoting the quality of teaching and learning in all South African schools?

The conference showcased school improvement interventions of different kinds which are seen to be making a difference, as measured by objective impact assessments.

Conference resources


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