Contributor: Andrew Hartnack
Since late 2016, SLF has been part of an exciting and important pilot project, funded by the DG Murray Trust, to examine which kinds of approaches aimed at reducing the drop out of at-risk teenagers from school can be most effective. SLF has a grant from the DGMT to play the role of a knowledge partner to nine organisations working at schools and with teenagers around the country. The work, led by Dr Andrew Hartnack, involves understanding what model of intervention each organisation is developing and what the potential impacts of such models can be over the course of the 18-month pilot and beyond.
Of the nine interventions, six are based around the Western Cape, with one each in East London, Pietermaritzburg, and Tzaneen. Some projects focus on academic support to struggling learners, others focus more on psycho-social support, while a number offer both forms of support. One project focuses specifically on after-school programmes, while another tries to improve the school’s support of struggling learners through the strategic analysis of data on school performance.
In February and March Hartnack visited all the projects to observe their activities and learn about the contexts in which each is operating. He interviewed many school principals and teachers, as well as project staff and young people involved with the interventions. Besides gathering information on each intervention, SLF’s role as a knowledge partner involves helping each organisation to reflect critically on their intervention, and incorporate lessons emerging during the pilot into their practice. Lessons and insights from all nine projects are also passed between the organisations to foster the best possible approach, as well as a ‘community of practice’ as an outcome of the pilot phase of the project.
Hartnack will be visiting all nine projects again in May/June, as well as towards the end of the year to learn much more about their exciting and crucial work.