Leadership for literacy is an education research project led by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Stellenbosch University, the University of Cape Town, JET Education Services, the University of South Africa and the Department of Basic Education in South Africa. The project focuses on the under-explored area of high performing rural and township schools in South Africa. The specific aims of the project were to:
Identify exceptional rural and township primary schools
Gain new insights into school leadership and management (SLM) practices that support high achievement in these schools
Develop a new SLM instrument that captures the behaviour and practices of school teachers and principles in challenging school contexts
Determine the predictive validity of this SLM instrument
Establish early grade reading norms and benchmarks of SA learnings in challenging contexts
Kind of Data
Qualitative and quantitative data
Unit of Analysis
Individuals and institutions
v1: Edited, anonymised data for public distribution
The study used a mixed methods approach to collect data on literacy levels of grade 3 and grade 6 learners. Case studies of 8 of the high achieving schools collected data from principles and teachers on school leadership and management practices in these schools.
The data covers schools in three South African provinces: Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Limpopo
The data is at the level of individual school
The study covered grade 3 and grade 6 learners in the sampled schools, and principals, teachers and schools in the 8 schools selected for the case studies.
Producers and sponsors
Research on Socio-Economic Policy (RESEP)
UK Economic and Social Research Council
A purposeful school sampling approach was used to identify 30 exceptional rural and township primary schools in South Africa. Three provinces (KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo) were chosen to represent different levels of administrative functionality: Gauteng (a highly functional administration), KwaZulu-Natal (medium functionality) and Limpopo (low functionality). System-wide low stakes testing data, the Annual National Assessments were used to identify top performing primary schools in these regions. This information was corroborated against a large dataset of "good" schools compiled by RESEP of from recommendations by stakeholders such as district officials, school principals and administrative clerks, education related NGOs, and unions. 30 schools which performed less well but were located in the same geographic locations as the higher performing pairs were also included in the sample. The schools in the final sample were also selected based on language, namely Sepedi, Xitsonga or Zulu needed to be their language of instruction or the dominant student language in the school.
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Written approval for the study was received fom the Director General of the National Department of Basic Education, and from each of the provincial education departments in the three provinces. This approval granted the project permission to use the Annual National Assessment data and to conduct fieldwork in the schools. Ethics clearance for the research was granted by the Stellenbosch University Research Ethics Committee, which also involved the approval of administered instruments. All interviews and learner testing commenced with obtaining consent from research participants. Additionally, opt-out forms were sent to schools prior to learner testing. If parents returned an opt-out letter via the learner, then learners did not participate in the testing.
Data Collection Notes
A mixed-methods approach was used for data collection, including literacy tests administered to grade 3 and grade 6 learners, and survey questionnaires administered to learners, principals, and teachers at the sampled schools.
Research on Socio-Economic Policy
Survey instruments included literacy test sheets, questionnaires to collect contextual information, and school management and leadership questionnaires.
University of Cape Town
Public use files, available to all
Research on Socio-Economic Policy, Stellenbosch University. Leadership for literacy 2017 [dataset]. Version 1. Stellenbosch: RESEP [producer], 2019. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25828/c5we-fj61