Registering an independent school

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According to South Africa’s Constitution, everyone has the right to establish independent educational institutions. However, the registration process can be a long and an arduous one. The process may differ slightly between provinces, but following minimum requirements must be met.

Independent schools are defined as private schools that are registered with the Department of Education for offering basic education programmes in terms of the South African Schools Act (SASA), 1996.

Together with a certain level of autonomy, these schools are required to operate within the confines of the Constitution and other relevant provincial legislation. The Constitution, Section 29(3) states that everyone has a right to establish and maintain at their own expense, independent educational institutions that:

  • Do not discriminate directly or indirectly on the basis of race
  • Are registered with the state
  • Maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions

How is an independent school different from a public school?

These schools have certain features or rights that make them different from public schools; both in the way they are legally sanctioned and the way they operate.

  • They follow their own distinctive missions (including particular ethos, faith or philosophy)
  • They determine their own learner admission policies in line with the law
  • They choose their own curricula and exit examinations that meet the minimum prescribed outcomes of the National Curriculum Statement
  • They determine their own promotion and retention policies except at exit points (Grade 9 and 12) in the schooling system
  • They determine how they are governed, financed and staffed, within the boundaries of the law; and in line with good governance practice

What does registration as an independent school mean?

An independent school may not operate unless it is registered with the education department of the province in which it is situated.

  • The Department of Education has the responsibility to evaluate schools for registration.
  • Registration means the granting of legal authority to offer basic education, thus enabling an independent school to operate within the law.
  • Before a school is registered, it must be assessed whether it has resources, capacity and expertise to offer acceptable standard of education.
  • A registered school must maintain its registration by continuing to comply with the requirements of the Act and the Regulations.
  • Any violation of the Act and Regulations will result in the school being deregistered.

What does a department look for when it considers an application for registration from an independent school?

  • Quality
  • Financial stability
  • Legal operation
  • Health and safety
  • Qualifications

Once registered:

  • An independent school is issued with a letter and or certificate of registration by the Department of Education
  • The certificate/letter must be visibly displayed on the school’s premises
  • The school’s registration number/EMIS number, the phases / grades for which the institution is registered and approved site / physical address appear on the certificate
  • Some schools have been registered for a specific period of time. Such schools are issued provisional registration certificates.

If in doubt about the process and whether all requirements are being adhered to, contact the Provincial Education Department for information.

Source: Eastern Cape Department of Education