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From a sinking school to a moving school: a case study of a school-teacher union partnership to facilitate school improvement.

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School-teacher union partnership has been found to have a positive impact on school performance, teacher development and learner achievement. The purpose of this research study is to examine the impact of a school-teacher union partnership to facilitate school improvement. The study was underpinned by instructional and transformational leadership theory, which collectively emphasise participatory decision-making, participation of all stakeholders in school improvement interventions. The study was guided by an interpretivist paradigm and case study design. Participants were purposively selected and they included six for semi structured and eight for focus group discussions. These participants were drawn from SADTU, Department of Education and Kuzolunga Secondary School. Document analysis was used to corroborate the interview data. The study revealed inter alia, that planning of partnership was informed by evidence-based approach which contextualised courses of action to improve learner outcomes. The team-based structure was used to facilitate stakeholder participation and coordination of partnership activities. From a SADTU perspective, this partnership enabled resource mobilisation to improve the quality of education. In the teachers’ view, the partnership encouraged peer learning through mentoring and coaching. Although the Department preferred the results-based approach, it appreciated SADTU’s evidence-based approach which empowered management, teachers and learners through shared accountability for action and results. The study found that refocusing the commitment of teachers is key to improving school performance. Incapacity of principals and parents hinders success of the partnership. The study concluded that the school-teacher union partnership works well in improving the school. The study also established the centrality of the principal for the formation of the school-teacher union partnership and its success in improving the school. Given this, the study recommended policy adaptation to facilitate school leadership development so that principals are empowered to undertake their diverse roles. In respect of teacher unions, the study proposes that they must use their power and influence to mobilise their members to support school improvement initiatives. School improvement can be strengthened through effective communication between teacher unions, schools, parents and the Department of Education. The study advances an African Perspective within the concept of Ubuntu to ensure success and continuity of school teacher union partnerships.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.