Supreme Court of Appeal reconfirms functions of school governing bodies
An enormous victory for governing bodies against the increasing bureaucratisation of education. This is the reaction of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) to the judgement delivered by the Supreme Court of Appeal in favour of Rivonia Primary School.
This case had its origin in the Gauteng Education Department's interference in schools' admission policy. This Department forced Rivonia Primary School to admit a learner despite the fact that the school had already reached maximum capacity at that stage. Disciplinary sanctions followed against the school's principal, Ms Carol Drysdale, who refused to adhere to the Department's instructions.
Earlier today (Friday, 30 November 2012), the Court of Appeal determined that the MEC and the Head of the Department of the Gauteng Education Department acted unlawfully. The judgement also reconfirmed the function of a governing body to determine a school's admission policy as well as the school's capacity. "A massive injustice to school principals, governing bodies and parents, as well as children already enrolled in a school has been rectified," says Mr Paul Colditz, CEO of FEDSAS.
"We trust that the Gauteng Education Department will also act on the Court of Appeal's suggestion that the injustice done to the school principal should be rectified, and that the Department would retract the disciplinary sanctions against her, and also issue a public apology - seeing as they were willing to humiliate her in public."
Colditz says for the umpteenth time a court judgement has confirmed the fundamental constitutional rights of parents and children, and more specifically the right of governing bodies to see to it that children's need are the key determinant in all issues pertaining to the child. "We want to congratulate the school and its governing body, a member of FEDSAS, for standing their ground and for their persistence in seeing to it that justice is done."
This judgement also confirms FEDSAS's current court application to have set aside the Gauteng Education Department's unlawful new regulations regarding admissions. "School principals are often the targets of the Department's interference. However, this judgement is very clear on the issue: Hands off the principals!" says Dr Jaco Deacon, Deputy CEO of FEDSAS.
Deacon says an earlier court order in the so-called pregnancy case, where departments also tried to interfere in the functions of governing bodies, has already confirmed that the head of an education department does not have the authority to issue instructions to school principals if those instructions go against the governing body's policy and the stipulations of the Schools Act.
(FEDSAS is a voluntary association of school governing bodies of public schools and supports quality education in these schools. Some 1460 public schools are already members of FEDSAS).
Statement issued by Mr Paul Colditz (CEO of FEDSAS) and Dr Jaco Deacon (Deputy CEO of FEDSAS), November 30 2012
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