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South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act No 84 of 1996)

National Norms and Standards for School Funding (NNSSF)

Part 1

3. Implementation


Developing capacity for intensive data use


Data needs


57) Most PEDs manage budgets of many billions of Rands. Targeting redress, and improving equity in public funding of public schools in an efficient manner, requires the DOE and PEDs to undertake serious budgetary and financial analysis, and to use information intensively.


58) In order to make progress towards equity in school funding, each Provincial Education Department must-
a) use relevant provincial data much more intensively in budgeting and planning decisions;
b) develop the necessary data systems to guide planning and allocations; and be able to demonstrate to the DOE that progress is being made.


59) The SASA provides that all public schools are budget and cost centres (Sections 37, 38 and 42). These norms and standards therefore require the use of certain data that have not previously been necessary in budgeting for public schools.


60) Schools must provide information to Provincial Education Departments (Section 59 of the Act). On their part, departments must ensure that information is received on time from schools, so that the necessary analysis can be undertaken, and resource allocation decisions made on time.


61) PEDs must annually provide public schools with sufficient information including allocation of funding per learner so that schools' governing bodies can develop their budgets as required by section 34 of the Act. The recommended date for the provision of such information to public schools is 30 September each year.


a) PEDs must annually provide independent schools by 30 September of each year with sufficient indicative information, at least the separate provincial average estimate per learner in the primary and secondary phases of ordinary public schools, and an indication of the subsidy category under which the school is grouped in Figure 4 of paragraph 187, to enable them to plan their budgets and fee schedules for the following year. It should be noted that this subsidy amount is merely for planning purposes and might differ from the actual subsidy amount allocated.
b) The subsidies for the year n+1 (where n+1 is the school year being subsidised) for independent schools will be limited to the average enrolment of learners in the first two quarters of year n and will take into account grade progression (i.e. learners who will leave the primary school phase after passing grade 7 or secondary school phase after passing grade 12) and new entrants (i.e. new admissions in the lowest grades of both primary and secondary school phases).
c) All new independent schools that will qualify for subsidy in year n+1 as per par. 176 (i.e. would have been operational for one full year) must provide their certified average number of registered learners for the first two quarters of year n by the end of August of year n for inclusion in the September indicators for the year n+1. (The certification of the average number of registered learners is to be done by the relevant PED.)


63) Initially, the budget information provided to schools by PEDs may be indicative, rather than fully detailed. In time, such information should include the current year's expenditures at each school, and the guideline amount of the total allocation by the Provincial Education Department to the school for the coming school year, including all guideline personnel costs. Such costs should be expressed both in absolute and per learner terms. This is necessary so that schools become accustomed to thinking about their total costs per learner. The aim is to improve each PED'S accounting and information processing systems so that each school's costs for personnel and non-personnel can be identified by item.


64) Comprehensive data on schools have been created through the national School Register of Needs survey, whose databases have been incorporated in provincial data systems, and the new, provincially-based national Education Management Information System (EMIS). The 1996 national Census reports will provide reliable and up-to-date demographic information. Provincial Education Departments may have access to other data sources, and the national Department will augment these wherever possible.


65) The MTEF provides a co-operative mechanism for improving the accuracy of budget-related data, and undertaking relevant analytic studies. The DOE and PEDs are active participants in these processes.


Skill requirements


66) To attempt to accomplish the new tasks without high-level skills is absolutely unrealistic, especially given the size of provincial education budgets. Each Provincial Education Department must, therefore, acquire the services of:
a) At least one, and preferably several, highly-skilled strategic financial analysts who understand the use of data-intensive planning and analysis techniques in public financial management. If not already deeply familiar with education issues and policies, they must be willing to make a careful study and acquire the necessary knowledge.
b) Several high-level accounting experts who understand the national computerised public financial and management information systems. Both accounting expertise and strategic financial management expertise are necessary if PEDs are to apply the norms satisfactorily.
c) Several highly-skilled information systems experts to improve the functioning of the education databases (including the EMIS). This will include the decentralisation or devolution of such functions and the training of regional and district officers.
d) At least one senior statistician or applied numerical analyst.
e) At least one person skilled in educational planning and forecasting techniques.
f) Computer systems and databases.


67) Provinces that have difficulty making the necessary appointments should explore:
a) the use of existing donor-funded arrangements with consulting firms and NGOs;
b) secondments from other public sector organisations (e.g., financial or scientific);
c) secondments from the private sector;
d) consultancies or other contracted services; and
e) the use of DOE personnel with financial and EMIS expertise, to assist with the induction of the new, high-level analysts.


68) Each Provincial Education Department should plan the work of such specialists as follows:
a) Assess the tasks that must be accomplished, taking into account financial regulations, sound financial management procedures, and the National funding norms described in this document.
b) Proceed to appoint, or cause to be seconded, or out-source with own or donor funds, persons with the skills listed above to undertake the tasks identified in step (a).
c) Clarify the relationship of the new specialists to existing work units. Lines of accountability and working relationships must be very clear.
d) Ensure that the new specialists have the necessary operating budget, status, and support personnel, such as data entry personnel, to get the work done.
e) Ensure that they interact with colleagues in similar posts in other provinces and with DOE officials working on these tasks, as a means of assisting with their familiarisation with the policy environment.
f) Ensure that they have a written Scope of Work or task description. Draft lists of technical tasks consistent with the funding norms and other ongoing financial management tasks are available from the DOE.
g) The Scope of Work must include budgeted plans for financial capacity building in provincial, district and other offices of the PED (depending on their actual responsibilities), school management teams and SGBs.


69) A Provincial Education Department that is not technically ready to apply the norms in full, will be expected to present to the DOE a detailed management plan for the acquisition of the necessary capacity to implement. This plan must be consistent with paragraphs 58-60 of this document. The DOE will assist PEDS to develop the capacity they need.


Implementing the norms


70) Certain tasks have priority, and must be undertaken or continued even before the norms and standards come into effect. These are:
a) creating a computerised method of tracking and documenting the targeted allocations and subsidies, according to the norms;
b) creating appropriate accounting and financial mechanisms to allocate and track funds in terms of the norms, and to inform schools of their allocations as required by Section 34 of the Act;
c) helping SGBs, in schools that have not been declared no fee schools in terms of SASA Section 39(7), to understand how to advise parents on whether to set fees, to calculate the level of fees, to determine exemption criteria and procedures, and to handle appeals (SASA, Sections 38-40).


71) Analytical and budgetary preparation for January of year n+l must start not later than the beginning of the school year of year n. Figure 1 outlines key aspects or functions of the norms that pertain to the school and fiscal years, or that are ongoing. The entries are presented in approximate chronological order during the year, except for the "ongoing" column. There is no time-wise correspondence across the three lists. Details and explanations of the activities listed in Figure 1 may be found in Part 2 of this document.



Figure 1. Sequencing the application of the norms during the school and state financial years


School Financial Year

State Financial Year


1) Determination of Rand value of subsidies to independent schools (term by term) for current school year.
1) Availability of guideline, preliminary, and final budgetary information which can be used to determine school-level budgets and inform schools.
1) Ensure that personnel, teams, and systems needed to accomplish the tasks in this table and in these norms are available.
2) Determination of which public schools will be able to receive direct transfer payments for certain items for next school year and of which public schools will be no fee schools.
2) Availability of budgeted funds.
2) Improve databases for targeting of public schools according to poverty and school conditions criteria.
3) Targeting of public schools according to targeting criteria for next school year and development of master targeting list.


3) Improve criteria for determining which public schools receive direct transfer payments for certain items.
4) Provide guideline budget information to public schools on their level of financial support for next year, including personnel, other directly-provided items, and transfer payments.


4) Improve financial and physical planning for new construction requirements, including analysis for targeting priorities.
5) Determination of percentage subsidy levels for independent schools for next school year.


5) Improve accounting, financial, and EMIS tracking methods ensure that individual school costs and personnel allocations can be tracked, cross-indexed and made more accurate.
6) Fee determination and exemptions at public schools for next school year. (The PED is not necessarily directly involved in these processes, but bears a responsibility of supervision and ensuring that governing bodies are well prepared.)


6) Provide financial management training to governing bodies and school leadership.



7) Ensure audited status of public schools.



8) Ensure well-functioning process of appeal from parents over school fee exemptions.