Book Review – Human Resource Management in Public Schools

A Practical Guide

by Jaco Deacon (310 pages)
Juta & Co (Pty) Ltd www.jutalaw.co.za

Human Resource Management in Public Schools“Who, with a natural instinct to discern, What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn.”– William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

The importance of education in South Africa cannot be overstated. There are about 24,000 public schools employing some 400,000 educators in the country, teaching millions of learners. Education consumes a major portion of the national budget. In addition, there are about 2,000 independent schools, employing some 35,000 educators.

The management of schools is an enormous and complex task. Central to that task is human resource management because schools are so reliant on the various employee categories at each school.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the most important laws and regulations affecting human resource management at public schools, and sets out their practical implications.

Written in a clear, non-legalistic style, every aspect of the appointment of a school principal, educational and other staff is set out. Conditions of appointment, remuneration, discipline in the workplace, performance evaluation, and dispute resolution procedures are all explained. Summaries, examples, useful schedules, pithy quotations and practical advice abound in each chapter. Footnotes provide additional authority and the Code of Professional Ethics of the South African Council for Educators (SACE) is annexed. A number of landmark judgments of our courts dealing with appointments are analysed.

The important 2007 international McKinsey report on global education systems is given rightful emphasis. The applicable legislative framework referred to includes the South African Schools Act of 1996, the Employment of Educators Act of 1998, the Public Service Act of 1994, the Labour Relations Act of 1995, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997. The 2016 King IV Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa is also explored as it relates to the appointment process.

In the foreword, the Chief Executive Officer of SACE, Ms Ella Mokgalane, sets the context:

“The success and destiny of an education institution largely rest in the hands of its workforce. To establish a successful and competetive working environment, therefore, organisations need to invest in the human capital through continuing professional development to keep abreast with developments and improve knowledge, skills and attitudes. This is even more urgent against the backdrop of the more complex, dynamic, uncertain and intractable environment in which our educational institutions are currently operating, which requires knowledgeable, adaptive, collaborative and inquisitive staff and leaders. It is for this reason that the content of this book is so relevant in contributing to the empowerment of the workforce in our provincial education departments, districts and schools. It not only equips readers with the necessary knowledge of human resource in public schools, but also provide the practical guidelines to implement that knowledge in the workplace.””

This book is primarily intended as a hands-on guide for school governing body members, principals and personnel officers at schools, as well as education officials, legal practitioners, accountants and auditors who are called upon to advise schools. Independent schools and other training institutions will also find it a valuable and insighful resource, as will judicial officers, mediators and arbitrators who have to deal with dispute resolution issues.

An unusual and inspiring inclusion in this book is “Wise words”, a collection of observations by a group of 17 school leaders (principals and governing body members) on the governance and management of staff at public schools. Their experience and advice adds flesh and flavour to the text and conveys to the reader a real sense of the working atmosphere of the staffroom, assembly hall, classroom, principal’s office, and the many activities making up the school environment.

The author Dr. Jaco Deacon is Deputy Chief Executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools and trustee of the South African Educational Development Trust. He hold the degrees of LLB, LLM and LLD and is an admitted attorney. He also serves on the South African Council of Educators and its Ethics Committee. He is the editor of the Juta Education Law and Policy Handbook and the Case Law Handbook on Education and Financial Management in Public Schools. He is also the author of School Governance: Common Issues and How to deal with them and the compiler of the Pockets Statutes on Schools: Law and Governance. A regular speaker at national and international events, he has published various research papers in accredited journals. He is the current President of the South African Education Law Association, member of the Board of the Interuniversity Centre for Education Law and Education Policy and member of the Advisory Board of the World Education Congress. He is also chairperson of a school governing body.

The author throughout demonstrates a clear and unashamed devotion to his subject. With his academic, professional and practical experience he has produced an exceptional blend of enthusiasm and erudition, highly accessible to a broad range of readers.

The reach and impact of this significant handbook has been further enhanced by its publication by Juta in Afrikaans as Menslike Hulpbronbestuur in Openbare Skole – n praktiese handleiding. The editing and translation is the work of Hendrien Swanepoel.

Review by Louis Rood BA LLB (UCT), Consultant at Fairbridges Wertheim Becker Attorneys.

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