REPORT ON HEUWELKRUIN KOLLEGE VISIT 25 OCTOBER, 2010
Heuwelkruin Kollege invited ISASA which was represented by John Lobban and Lyn Nelson
to visit the school to view the school, its administration and academic structures and
comment on the progress made by the school to date.
The Head asked us to particularly comment on school numbers. We believe it was brave to
embark on setting up a whole school (Pre-primary to Matric) within the space of three years
– most new developments take almost twice as long to reach completion. Having stated this,
to have enrolled no less than 224 learners in the space of three years is phenomenal. Very
few schools in our experience have grown as quickly.
The challenge is to fill the classes as quickly as possible to make them financially
sustainable. As is noted in the finances section, the problem here is not so much a slow
filling up of the school (quite the opposite is our observation), but rather the decision to
stretch from pre-primary to Grade 12 in such a short space of time.
Both Mrs Nelson and I were extremely impressed with the structural facilities at the school.
The approach road besides (which one accepts is to a large extent out of the control of
school management), for a school that is just three years old, the progress in developing this
infrastructure is remarkable. The buildings are most appropriate for educational purposes
and help to create an atmosphere of peace and quality learning.
Of particular note was the wonderful facility for the nursery school. The design has been
most successful in creating a climate of security and all children present displayed an
atmosphere of contentment and happiness. This delightful area is well supplied with
educational/play equipment both indoors and outdoors.
We had the opportunity to walk into a few of the classrooms and were again impressed by
the academic atmosphere that has been created by the teachers – almost all available wall
space has been put to very good use, enhancing a culture of teaching and learning.
The only caution we would make here is not to “bite off” too much at once. During our visit,
we heard talk of planned new structures with auditorium, classrooms, a high school building
and sports fields all in the mix. Our recommendation is that, given the immense development
that has taken place in such a short time, some consolidation may be necessary before
embarking on further capital development, which may not be urgent even if important.
Obviously new classrooms would have to be built to accommodate the growing numbers, but
other plans should possibly be shelved for the immediate future, particularly as the current
cash flow issues are dealt with.
ISASA is unfortunately not in a position to provide a full financial assessment. We will make
some comments once the audited reports have been studied by a specialist, but the strong
recommendation is to commission the services of a specialist in Polokwane to perform a full
assessment and provide some guidelines in future financial planning. Clearly, a brief study of
the audited financials and the 2010 trial balance to date indicates that, operationally, the
school is sustainable in spite of numbers not having reached completion yet. (ISASA’s
recommendation is a minimum of 150 learners in each of the primary and secondary phases
to attain sustainability). The financial operations within the school have been carefully
planned to ensure survival until the school numbers reach “safe areas”.
What is of concern is the servicing of the loan. A brief study of the statements indicate that
this is not viable under current conditions – and it would in fact take a large influx of learners
over-night to make up the annual R1.5m required to service the loan. As mentioned above,
the growth in learner numbers has been most impressive and is simply not going to increase
more quickly over the next year or two. Our recommendation, therefore is that the financial
planner commissioned by the school (suggested elsewhere in this report) should be tasked
with guiding the school on re-negotiating the loan repayments over a longer period of time to
make annual repayment targets attainable.
It would indeed be tragic if what is clearly a highly successful educational operation were
compromised because of an inability to repay money owing within the prescribed period.
The model currently being used at Heuwelkruin is a unique one as far as independent
schools are concerned. After some initial confusion, more clarity was attained as further
discussions took place. In an attempt to reconcile the model with current thinking on
independent school governance, it would be fair to say that the “Kollege Raad” serves as the
Board of Governors and the “Dagbestuur” as the Executive of that Board.
The concerns we have with the model are as follows:
1. There seems to be a fairly grey line separating governance from operations. This is
fairly normal in a young school where, by implication in terms of issues like building
the physical infrastructure, Board members do become involved in operational
issues, but there should be real understanding of the need to keep governance and
2. Within the analogy of the “Raad” being the Board and the “Dagbestuur” being the
Executive, it would appear that the “Dagbestuur” exercises too much “power” or
responsibility within the current set up. The executive of any Board is set up to act on
behalf of the Board when the Board is not meeting, but may not take any decisions
without them being formally ratified by the Board at its next meeting.
3. There is an absence of significant independence in the governance structures. While
there is independent representation on the “Raad”, this is not the case in the
“Dagbestuur” which is comprised of two Executive members (the Head and Bursar)
and the rest are all parents – who are not independent members. One of the critical
issues emanating from the King 3 Report is that the majority of the Board should
consist of non-executive members (which is the case at Heuwelkruin) and the
majority of the non-executive members of the Board should be independents (which
is not the case). Having said that, it is true that most of our schools have not reached
this objective of independent members, but it is our judgement, that governance at
Heuwelkruin is significantly lacking in independent input into policy- and decision-
One final note on governance is that there is also a concern that there is insufficient
opportunity for discussion of strategic issues (a fundamental function of the Board). This
has not been listed as a concern because there was insufficient information to make this
statement with any authority, but we note it as an issue for discussion.
ISASA conducts a very popular Governance Workshop and it is our recommendation
that when this is next presented in Polokwane (sometime next year) the school makes
every effort to send as many of its governors as possible to attend that workshop.
A superbly designed and presented academic outline by the Academic HOD, provided a
picture of a school which set out to construct the academic, curriculum, timetabling and
assessment systems from the outset. The checking and testing procedures are
exceptionally sound. The school has been well-served since the opening with well-
qualified, SACE certified teachers who enjoy the stability provided by pension fund and
medical aid schemes.
The Senior Certificate subject choice is currently dedicated to serving the interests of
each child but with only 13 learners in the Grade 12 class in 2010 and in 2011, we
consider it too broad to offer educational viability in the classroom for the learners and
financial viability for the school.
Much has also been done to put a viable, wide ranging extramural sporting and cultural
programme in place. Some innovative ideas have been implemented to accommodate
for the lack of numbers, so typical in a new school.
Both Mrs Nelson and I came away from our visit to the school very impressed with what
has been achieved in such a small period. In Mrs Nelson’s words ”most young schools
grow their systems as the school grows. At Heuwelkruin, the majority of the systems
seem to have been put in place at the beginning.” This has led to a stable learning
environment that is clearly focused on strong academics and we are confident that the
first set of Senior Certificate results will bear testimony to this opinion.
The facilities are out of the top drawer and they have lent to an atmosphere of
peacefulness, but focused on academic success.
Operationally, the school is financially stable, but plans will have to be made to
determine how to repay the initial loan.
The objective of our visit was to perform an informal assessment of the situation at the
school and to make recommendations with regard to improving its performance. We
repeat our injunction that we are not qualified evaluators and therefore cannot give a
formal assessment. The comments expressed here reflect our opinions, based on our
experience with 684 member schools in ISASA. The major recommendations we table
are those linked to governance, financial planning and subject choices in the high school.
John Lobban Lyn Nelson
Director: Membership and Operations Regional Director: North East Region