No high school places for thousands of Grade 7s in 2021

Online schooling proposed as a solution for education

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Schools such as Wynberg Girls High have to turn away hundreds of hopeful pupils and parents. Photo: Steve Kretzmann

Thousands of Cape Town parents are battling to get their children into a public high school next year.

Parents had to submit applications for at least three schools by 17 March, but it seems there is no place for at least 2,504 of these high school hopefuls.

Spokesperson for Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, Kerry Mauchline, says there are 59,761 Grade 7 pupils currently finishing their last year of primary school in public schools within the Cape Town metropolitan districts this year, and only 57,257 Grade 8 pupils who will potentially move up to Grade 9 next year.

In the province as a whole there are 93,303 Grade 7s in public schools and 91,284 Grade 8s, leaving a potential provincial shortfall of 2,019 places next year.

Mauchline noted this did not take into account the number of pupils from other provinces who apply to Western Cape public schools.

She said the latest data from the department’s survey, taken on the 10th day of the school year, was that there were 2,454 children in Grade 8 “who have not been registered at school in the Western Cape before”.

Earlier this month thousands of parents in Cape Town received notification from the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) that their child had not been granted a Grade 8 place in any of up to five schools they applied for, as all the schools were “over subscribed”.

One of these parents is Melissa Harris. Harris, who is a primary school teacher living in Sunningdale, said she had applied to four schools, but her son did not get a place at any of them. The reason in all cases was that the school was over subscribed.

She said this was despite her son’s current primary school being in the feeder area for two of the high schools.

“His primary school teachers and coaches are absolutely gobsmacked that he didn’t get in. It’s insane.”

Though she applied to several high schools in her area, Natalie Hiebner, a single mother living in Kenilworth, also did not manage to get a place for her son. His godparents stepped up and paid for him to attend a private school. But the cost is not sustainable and she hopes to find a place for him in a public school in Grade 9.

One principal at a popular Cape Town public high school, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the school had received over 1,000 Grade 8 applications this year. He said it was heartbreaking to turn away so many promising pupils but there was simply not enough space.

Wynberg Boys High School and Wynberg Girls High School have sent notifications to parents whose applications were unsuccessful, asking if they would be interested in their children attending a new online school next year.

The notice says the schools are assessing the demand for an “independent co-educational institution affiliated” to the schools, offering an internationally registered and accredited online curriculum.

The notice invites parents to fill in a survey to gauge interest, and states the closing of schools due to Covid-19 has “necessitated online schooling at an unprecedented scale”.

“Teachers developed new skills and many parents and students have reported this style of teaching and learning to be to their liking.”

Wynberg Boys High principal Jan de Waal said the response had been overwhelmingly positive. But he cautioned that the online school would not be run by Wynberg Boys or Girls High schools, but would be independent, although affiliated.

Mauchline said parents of children who had not received places in school “must remain calm”. “It is important to understand that the process is not complete. Once parents who have received offers of a place have accepted these, the WCED and schools will have a better idea of where there are still spaces available.’

Mauchline said schools could still accept learners who have asked to be placed on waiting lists. Parents could also apply to the School Governing Body for the application to be reconsidered.

Should they still not be placed, the WCED has a duty to find them a school in which they can continue their education.

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TOPICS:  Education

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Dear Editor

I have applied for my son for Grade 9 to all high schools in my area and beyond! Every high school came back with a “no - we are full and have a waiting list of 300-400”! What do the parents who cannot afford private schools do? I am at my wit's end!

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