Five years of consistent achievement

| November 26, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY LEBOGANG MONTJANE

It is with great surprise that I find myself at the end of my fifth year of service to ISASA.

Time has passed with great alacrity and much has been achieved in this period. Since ISASA went to its combined conference with the Southern African Heads of Independent Schools Association (SAHISA) and the Southern African Bursars of Independent Schools Association (SABISA) this year, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on the performance of ISASA in the last five years. To this end, an account of ISASA’s achievements has been chronicled in the 2014/2018 Review, which is available on the ISASA website for downloading. I would like to share with you some of the highlights from this extensive report.

Restructuring of personnel

The strength of any organisation is dependent on the quality of its personnel. This is no different at ISASA; our success is attributable to the committed team that has been built in the last few years. In 2016, ISASA began a restructuring process to service membership optimally. The consolidation of the training, research and communications position has proved very successful because two underutilised roles were amalgamated. Also, central to institutional sustainability, the finance manager has been elevated to the management team, with the appointment of Laura Kelty as director: finance. Thus no strategic discussion occurs without financial health being factored into a decision. Great talent lies within the ISASA management team with systems and processes being improved under the able leadership of Sandy Sagar, the new director: membership and operations. ISASA has never reached the status it now enjoys with its major stakeholder: government. This has been achieved because of the high regard in which ISASA’s director: policy and government relations, Confidence Dikgole, is held by the departments of education.

Growth of member schools

A good measure of whether ISASA is fulfilling its mission of servicing quality independent schools is reflected in subscription levels. In 2014, ISASA had 691 schools educating 167 125 pupils. Today these numbers have increased to 861 schools and 190 560 learners. This growth includes a geographical expansion into Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia. It is gratifying to observe that ISASA continues to become truly Southern African. A strategic thrust of ISASA is that the association should reflect the sector, on condition that membership is composed of schools that comply with ISASA’s principles of quality, values and diversity. To this end, ISASA has created a new membership class, associate membership, for listed school groups. In this category, ISASA now has the AdvTech and Inspired Groups of schools as members. It was important that, considering the trends in independent schooling, ISASA include this type of school formation as it is one of the fastest growing forms of new independent schools.

ISASA’s teacher development programme

An area of increased focus for ISASA as a public-spirited schools’ organisation, has been it embarking on initial teacher development for the benefit of all education. This is best illustrated in the South African Mathematics and Science Programme (SAMSTIP). In partnership with the Department of Basic Education and Investec, ISASA places teacher interns, who are focussing on mathematics and science for the Further Education and Training Phase, in ISASA member schools. After they have completed their studies, these young teachers are then required to teach in public schools. Moving forward, the development of quality teachers with strategic partners will be a way for ISASA schools to share their quality for the greater good of all schooling.

Corporate associates

Previously, in an effort to diversity its revenue streams, and in response to the private sector wanting to promote their goods and services with membership, ISASA created a new bracket of membership, corporate membership. Even though corporate members were not entitled to vote at ISASA meetings, they had the right to attend and speak at them, provided they gave written notice that they intended to be present and at which ISASA meeting they would attend. Besides the anomaly of having a member-based schools’ association permitting corporations to deliberate on matters affecting independent schools and this sector, ISASA had over 100 corporate members – a number which was unmanageable. Since these corporate member rights were contained in the ISASA Memorandum of Incorporation (MoI), a special resolution was passed to define more properly the nature of the relationship between ISASA and corporate members. Following the revision of the MoI, ISASA now has corporate associates who are granted benefits more befitting their character, without them having participation rights to the strategic direction of ISASA. Furthermore, corporate affiliates are now administered from a bespoke data management system and their number has halved, whilst the income from this revenue stream has increased.

An interactive work environment

To facilitate better service to members, ISASA endured an 18- month renovation of its offices. The patience of the whole ISASA staff with regard to the disruptions of dust, noise and moving to temporary work spaces is greatly appreciated. Their reward is now a brighter and more interactive working environment. As a result, a more cohesive team spirit is now evident at ISASA. An important by-product of the new ISASA offices is an additional meeting room and work areas that can be utilised by regional directors and membership. The ISASA offices belong to membership and I encourage all our members to use them should they need an off-site place to interview candidates, hold meetings or work when in Johannesburg.

Sound fiscal management

Through sound fiscal management, ISASA’s finances have never been stronger. Five years ago, ISASA only had two months’ operating cover. Today, the reserves are above the recommended six months. By constraining costs and budgeting on existing membership figures rather than projected membership growth, ISASA has manged to reduce its cost, to members, in real terms, in the last four years by increasing subscriptions at a level below national inflation and well below education inflation. This prudent approach has yielded results such as ISASA being able to spend approximately R3.5 million to complete the aforementioned office renovations. Furthermore, ISASA is in the process of founding a Trust to invest reserves above the six months’ operating cover. The return on investment with the renovation, has seen the ISASA physical plant more than double in market value.

Looking both behind and ahead with gratitude

It is now time to turn to planning the next horizon for ISASA. In the first quarter of next year, ISASA must embark on its next strategic plan. Historically, ISASA has followed three-year planning cycles. Since the combined conferences are now scheduled for every five years, this seems the natural duration for the next strategic plan. However, this is a matter that will have to be determined by council. The successes that I have just chronicled of ISASA’s past half-decade, would not have been possible without the support of its members. It remains the central purpose of ISASA to ensure that the quality education being delivered in our schools continues and is protected. ISASA is immensely grateful to membership for its support and for the work that all our schools do in preparing Africa’s future generations.

Category: Summer 2018

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