WCED seeks interdict against SADTU and COSAS - Debbie Schäfer

Minister says union's call to boycott systemic tests is a direct attack on the rights of children, poor children in particular

WCED seeks interdict against SADTU and COSAS 

25 October 2016

The Western Cape Education Department has approached the High Court for an interdict restraining SADTU and COSAS from disrupting systemic tests in Western Cape schools.

The WCED is currently testing the skills of learners in Grades 3, 6 and 9 in language and mathematics in the province.

The department has engaged independent service providers to conduct the tests, to ensure that the results are as objective as possible.

SADTU called for a boycott of the tests on 12 September 2016 and has actively sought to disrupt the tests at more than 100 schools so far.

The tests tell schools and the department exactly what to do to improve language and mathematics skills in our schools.

The WCED uses the results of the annual tests to track progress, set annual targets, to inform teacher training and support, and to evaluate the impact of these interventions.

Our aim is to improve the knowledge and skills of learners in language and mathematics, and to build the foundation they need for further learning.

Given this objective, SADTU’s call to boycott the tests is a direct attack on the rights of children, poor children in particular.

SADTU is exceeding its mandate in calling for a boycott disrupting the tests. The WCED has issued lawful instructions to schools to facilitate the test, which have nothing to do with conditions of service for union members.

The union is welcome to discuss their concerns in the appropriate fora. Ultimately, the WCED has every right to implement policy on testing.

The Acting Head of Department wrote formally to SADTU last week advising them to desist from disrupting the tests. SADTU ignored this advice, and proceeded to disrupt further tests today (Monday, 24 October 2016). 

In the meantime, we have received information that COSAS is also participating in the disruption.

The WCED has thus today served papers on SADTU and COSAS in the High Court today (Monday, 24 October 2016) for an interdict restraining them from disrupting the tests and from disrupting tests that the department will have to re-schedule.

The application for an interdict seeks to restrain SADTU and COSAS from engaging in unlawful conduct, including the following:

- Entering or approaching school property within 500 metres without the WCED’s permission

- Committing any act of public violence or intimidation, or disruption of lawful activities at schools

- Damaging any property belonging to the WCED

- Interfering with or disrupting the WCED’s responsibilities to learners, staff and service providers

- Inciting, encouraging or assisting any other person to acts of public nuisance on or near school property

- Preventing access or threatening to prevent access to schools

- Blockading streets in the vicinity of schools

- Interfering with vehicular and pedestrian traffic around schools.

The union has claimed that learners are “overtested”; that the tests do not add value; and that the department uses them to “blame teachers”.

These claims are false. The learners concerned only write the tests once every three years. Research over many years has shown that interventions based on the results have resulted in significant improvements in the system as a whole.

The aim of the tests is not to “blame teachers”. The tests provide detailed information that the department uses to inform teacher training and support. The objective is fundamentally developmental.

We simply cannot have SADTU and COSAS interfering in the running of education.

Issued by Bronagh Casey on behalf of Minister Debbie Schäfer, 25 October 2016