The Department of Basic Education has now gazetted directions outlining the phasing in of grades over the next month.
It has been over a week since the President made a series of announcements regarding schools in his address to the nation, with no legislative backing, which left provincial departments, schools, staff and learners uncertain as to how to proceed.
While the DBE released a new school calendar on Saturday, this was not gazetted and was unfortunately silent on the phasing in of grades this month. This put schools in a difficult position, not knowing whether to follow the new calendar, or the President's speech - neither of which had any legal effect without gazetted directions.
It is also noteworthy that despite the President announcing that the school year will be extended in 2021, this is not the case in the new school calendar. According to the new calendar, schools will close on 15 December.
Another change that must be noted is that Grade 7s will return on 11 August, not the 12th.
Phasing in of grades
The dates for learners returning to class can be found here
Any staff members that have not been required to return with the Grade 12s and 7s must return to school on 17 August 2020.
The NSNP must continue to operate throughout the phasing in of grades, making meals available to learners who have returned to school and those that have not.
Deviation from phasing in of grades
The directions have also provided much-need certainty by confirming that schools may bring back more grades than just Grade 12 starting from this week, provided that they are able to implement the required safety measures.
According to the directions, schools may notify the Head of Department that they will have more grades returning. Schools that have already notified the Head of Department of their intention to deviate from the phasing in of grades prior to 27 July 2020, may continue to do so without submitting a new notification.
Exemption from school attendance
The options for parents to oversee the learning of their children at home due to high-risk comorbidities or concerns over Covid-19 remain available. Any parent who wishes to exercise that option should consult Guideline I(a): Exemption from public school attendance and return the required paperwork to their school. (The Guideline and forms are available here: https://wcedonline.westerncape.gov.za/back-school
There are still some matters to be cleared up, including the new provisions regarding online education. As soon as we have clarity on those matters, we will communicate this to our schools.