Part-time teachers with a full-time attitude

| November 17, 2010


One of these is the much analysed and discussed skills shortage. Statistics indicate that a significant number of teaching posts in schools are not filled due to a shortage of qualified teachers, or are filled by under-qualified staff. This article seeks to offer a possible solution to these problems. Its focus is the utilisation of part-time teachers at Waterfall College in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal.

A new location means certain advantages

Waterfall College was established in 2000 and embraces a Christian-based ethos. In the early years, the College experienced several teething problems – most notably financial and staffing constraints. Since registration as a Section 21 company in 2004, the school has made significant strides, thanks to the astute financial leadership of the Board of Governors and the visionary approach of management. In March 2010, the College moved to a beautiful new home in the grounds of iThemba, overlooking the Valley of a Thousand Hills. This newly renovated and much larger campus means that management is well placed to promote certain advantages such as small classes and the fact that the College is the only high school in Hillcrest that writes the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) examinations.

Waterfall College aims to provide excellent, individualised tuition for learners in a happy, stable yet disciplined environment, while simultaneously promoting an ethos of Christianbased values. Particular emphasis is placed on:

  • respect for authority, peers and other cultures
  • a consistent diligent work rate
  • honesty, truth and integrity.

What gives Waterfall the edge?

At Waterfall College, 70 learners are taught by 19 teachers (including the Headmistress). This favourable ratio of 4:1 is possible in large measure due to the part-time status of 15 of the teachers. What does this mean for learners at the College?

Students receive a great deal of individual attention. This in turn has meant that the school has been able to accept learners readily who have struggled in larger schools and, in several instances, have been ‘written off ’ by other institutions. Management is confident that staff are able and most importantly have the time to
devote to assisting children with behavioural and/or learning difficulties. Matric results reflect this confidence: the College has had a 100% pass rate for the last six years.

Waterfall College has developed the reputation amongst local parents for succeeding with their children where other institutions may be seen to have failed. Using part-time teachers means that learners are exposed to a greater variety of teachers than is often the case in other small schools, where teachers often teach across all grades in their respective subjects. We have afforded our learners the opportunity to tap into a rich human capital resource based in the local community. They will meet three Geography teachers, two Mathematics teachers, three Science teachers, three English teachers and four Afrikaans teachers over the course of their five years at the school. This is a significant statistic for a small school.

Part-time teachers provide increased diversity

Not only are learners exposed to variety, they are also exposed to quality. The part-time staff at Waterfall College fall into three categories:

  • retired teachers who are keen to continue contributing to education
  • teachers who do not need to work for financial gain but wish to continue their involvement in education
  • teachers who have moved into other fields, such as research and textbook writing, but who still enjoy the classroom experience.

The common factor in all three categories is a passion for teaching. This has a positive spin-off for learners, who are mentored by staff who choose to work rather than teachers who have to work. Furthermore, all these staff members are highly qualified and have a wealth of experience, a benefit both in the classroom and to management.

Interestingly, the average age of the teaching staff at the College is 52, and their combined teaching experience equates to 431 years! Furthermore, in an age where full-time teachers in smaller schools are often female, having a large part-time component has meant that Waterfall College has some male teachers, quite often retired or now exploring alternative careers but still eager to be involved in education. Of the 19 staff members, four are male. In a co-educational school, this male influence
is necessary and makes a significant contribution in terms of modelling positive role models for male students.

Financial advantages

Apart from the clear advantages for learners, the part-time teacher component also results in financial advantages for the school. Because teachers are paid hourly, the school does not have to bear the cost of these staff members over holidays, examination periods or when learners are involved in extramural activities such as camps and excursions. Management is thus able to offer its clients diversity at a financial cost affordable for a small school.

The management decision to attract part-time teachers has paid off as it has attracted teachers who have brought with them expertise, experience and vitality. As one senior educator commented, “We are part-time teachers with a fulltime attitude.” Job satisfaction is high amongst part-time staff members and rapport between full-time and part-time staff is excellent. The Waterfall College experience is one that certainly offers schools an alternative approach to staffing, and offers a viable model for the utilisation of valuable teaching skills available but untapped in many South African communities.

Gerald Delport is former Head of Hillcrest High School and current part-time senior Geography teacher at Waterfall College. Beverley Surmon is a part-time teacher of senior English at Waterfall College.


Category: Summer 2010

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