‘Back to school’ plans change: Five things you can expect to happen next

So, the government’s ‘back to school’ operation is temporarily on the scrapheap. Here’s what you need to know about returning grades and new approaches.

The Education Department has battled to get the school year back on track, but it seems like the ministry will have to compromise on its best-laid plans. It was announced on Thursday that five of the eight grades who were scheduled to return to class on 6 July will have to wait it out a little longer.

A spike in local community transmissions has put the government on high alert, and although Angie Motshekga is concerned by the increase in cases, there will be a new cluster of kids who can still go back to school next Monday. So if you’re a parent, a learner or a member of staff, here’s what you should know:

Clearing up the back to school confusion:

Which grades go back to school on Monday 6 July, and who must stay away?

On Monday, five grades will be told to attend school. A total of nine year groups will be asked to stay away, more than half of which were meant to be back in class by Monday. Meanwhile, two cohorts have been told to carry on attending as normal. It’s all a little complicated, but this table should clear up any confusion:

Expected back in school on
Monday 6 July after absence
Returning ‘later in July’ Grades unaffected
Grades R, 6, and 11 Pre-Grade R, Grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 10 Grades 7 & 12 to continue attending as normal

Angie Motshekga to brief the nation

Not for the first time, the Education Department will hold an impromptu conference to explain a hitch in their plans. Although we have had a bit more notice this time round: At the start of June, the government announced that Grades 7 and 12 should only return a week later – some three hours after their first day back had begun. Motshekga states that the address will take place ‘at some point this weekend’.

Public to learn more about the decision-making process

We understand the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) presented five reports to the department, which were highly influential in shaping the changes. Research on co-morbidities, home-learning and Annual Teaching Plans (ATPs) form part of the discussion, and we’re expecting to learn more from these studies when they go public.

‘Normality’ in schools by August

It’s a bold claim to make, but the Education Department are adamant that they will achieve some form of ‘normality’ by August. With South Africa’s coronavirus cases spiralling at the moment, there’s no doubt that Motshekga and her colleagues will struggle with such a quick turn around. But the ministry remains ambitious:

“The other grades will be phased in throughout the month of July, in a differentiated approach. We have a goal of phasing in the remaining grades over the next few weeks, to allow our schools to reach normality by August 2020.”

Education Department statement

Local authorities could take their own paths

A statement issued by Western Cape Education Minister Debbie Schafer in response to the amended school plans suggests that the province will follow its own path. The politician has highlighted that some schools can ask permission to bring in other grades from the Head of Department:

“According to Section 7 of the directions gazetted by the minister on 23 June, schools that are ready to do so may bring in grades other than those specified if they wish, and must notify the Head of Department. At all times, the required safety protocols must continue to be followed, regardless of the grades present.”

Debbie Schafer

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