Principals Academy Trust – Addressing the dire need for support in the Foundation Phase of education.
Brucy Probyn, Derrick Moore and Paul Cassar from the Principals Academy Trust joined Benito Vergotine in studio on Wednesday 18 September.
Listen to the conversation here: Principals Academy Trust
Foundation Phase of education.
stimulation that is often difficult to overcome.
In Statistics South Africa’s most recent general household survey, released earlier this year, it was
found that only 38,4% of 0 to 4-year olds attended a daycare centre, crèche, nursery school or
pre-primary school. Although 49,2% of children aged 0-4 years stayed at home with parents or
guardians, the survey suggests that stimulation for cognitive development for this group might
be lacking. Almost one half of respondents indicated that they never read a story to the child or
drew and coloured with them.
This often leaves Grade R and Grade 1 teachers with a significant gap to address when children
enter these earlier grades.
The Principals Academy Trust (the Academy), a non-profit public benefit organisation in South
Africa, has been mentoring school leadership teams since 2012. In 2016 the Academy
acknowledged this need for assistance and classroom support in the lower grades and adaped its
approach with the creation of a Teacher Support Programme. This programme currently has a
staff complement of 12 facilitators.
At the end of August, the Academy held its second Foundation Phase workshop, presented by the
Teacher Support Programme team. The first workshop took place in 2017 and was offered to all
Foundation Phase teachers. The second workshop specifically focused on educators of Grade R
classes, with Heads of Department and Grade 1 educators also included in the invitation. The
theme for the day was: “Meaningful Connections – Meaningful Learning: making the learning
process a happy and meaningful journey for both educator and learner.”
More than 130 educators from over 40 schools (some from as far afield as Swellendam and Paarl)
attended the workshop which was held at Pick n Pay’s head offices in Kenilworth, Cape Town –
the venue and refreshments kindly sponsored by the retailer. The workshop offered the
educators three separate sessions, which were run concurrently and attended by all delegates on
a rotational basis.
The attending teachers achieved five SA Council of Educators’ points (SACE) for attending the
four hour workshop.
“We believe that if we target and support Foundation Phase teachers, we can make a meaningful
impact on the school ecosystem in South Africa. Of course it will not be a big and rapid change,
but every little bit makes progress possible,” says René Sinclair, original member of the Teacher
Support Programme. Sinclair has been active in education since 1978 and head teacher or
principal of schools both in South Africa and, for an extensive period while abroad, in South
“I have to say that I wish our schools could officially incorporate groups even younger than Grade
R. There is so much we can do even before they get to this point,” she says.
According to Bruce Probyn, who heads up the mentoring team that supports principals as part of
the Academy’s methodology, the organisation is achieving significant results and progress
because the problem is addressed from two angles – mentoring the principal on the one side of
the spectrum and supporting educators in classrooms on the other.
“This transition in our approach is exciting. Working from both ends like this, like a vice grip, we
hope to assist in addressing some of the educational woes that South Africa is facing,” he says.
The attendees at the workshop commented on the positive and interactive nature of the three
sessions that were offered, already requesting information about a follow-up workshop for the
“It is enormously fulfilling to see the teachers take on board and implement strategies
successfully that you have shared with them. Our main focus is to improve teacher competence
and to see this happening is a great joy,” says Jenny van Velden, another member of the Teacher
Support Programme who led a session on the day.
The Principals Academy Trust is currently actively supporting 26 schools through its Teacher
Support Programme in the Foundation Phase. Educators from three schools who do not form part
of this group also attended the workshop.
“We are happy for other schools to attend, even if we don’t currently have a presence in those
schools,” says Probyn. “Ultimately, having the right tools and strategies for teaching will be for
the benefit of the children in the classrooms. They are the end beneficiaries of everything we
About the Principals Academy Trust
The Principals Academy Trust, a Section 18(a) Trust established in October 2012, seeks to
empower school leadership in public schools, serving socio-economically disadvantaged
communities. The Trust’s ultimate goal is to impact the overall teaching ecosystem and
academic outcomes of the schools where we have a presence. Currently 103 schools are part of
the programme. Approximately 2 000 teachers teach the more than 60 000 learners attending
these schools in Athlone, Bellville, Delft, Franschhoek, Gansbaai, Genadendal, Grabouw/Elgin,
Grassy Park, Gugulethu, Hermanus, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Kuilsriver, Lavender Hill, Lotus
River, Manenberg, Masiphumelele, Mfuleni, Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Paarl, Philippi, Retreat,
Simon’s Town, Stanford, Vredenburg and Witzenberg.
Read more in our separate fact sheet.