How to

start a private school

in south africa

Some guidelines for establishing and registering an independent school

Background information

What is an independent school?

There are two categories of schools in South Africa: public and independent. Public schools are state controlled and independent schools are privately governed. Independent schools were previously known as private schools.

Who can start an independent school?

The South African Constitution guarantees everyone the right to establish and maintain, at their own expense, independent educational institutions. This does not preclude state subsidies to independent schools.

Are there conditions for starting a school?

Yes. Independent schools must be registered with their provincial education department, may not discriminate on the basis of race and must maintain standards not inferior to comparable public schools.

Are independent schools only for the rich?

No. Since 1994 there has been a dramatic growth in the number of low- and mid-fee independent schools. Independent schools can now be found serving almost every South African community at every fee level.

Think Big!

Starting a new school is both a daunting and rewarding project. It requires equal parts persistence, business acumen and patience. And some money.

Begin with the end in mind. You are not building a school to meet present needs only. You are ideally building a school that will last over 100 years. Consider the larger picture. What do you envisage the school looking like when it is completely developed?

questions to consider

  1. What phases do you intend to cater for?
  2. How big do you want the school to grow, and how fast?
  3. What will the maximum class size be for each phase?
  4. What will the pupil : teacher ratio ideally be?
  1. What community will the school serve?
  2. Will the target market deliver enough students?
  3. Can your target market afford the fees you envisage?
  4. What other schools will you be competing with for students?
  5. What Unique Selling Point will the school have?
  6. How will you market the new school? Who will do this?
  1. What will the medium of instruction be?
  2. What sort of curriculum is planned?
  3. What staffing will you require to deliver this curriculum?
  4. What facilities will you need for this curriculum?
  1. What sort of organisation are you proposing to set up?
  2. Will it be for-profit or non-profit?
  3. What governance structure are you intending to have?
  4. How democratic will the Board be? What will be the role of parents?
  1. How do you propose to remunerate your teachers?
  2. What conditions of service will you offer – pension, medical aid, housing?
  3. What sort of Head will you be looking for to start up your school?
  1. What provision have you made for start-up costs?
  2. How will you benchmark your fee structure?
  3. How will your fees be payable? Annually, termly, monthly?
  4. What policy will you have on bursaries/scholarships?
  5. What policy do you have regarding debtors?
  1. Are you required to register with the Department of Basic Education?
  2. Are you required to register with the Department of Social Development?
  3. When do you need to be accredited by Umalusi?
  4. Will all your teachers be registered with the South African Council for Educators?

Registration of a new school can be time-consuming

Preparation is Essential

Applications for registration need to be submitted by the end of March in the year prior to opening a new school

example requirements for school registration

  • Letter to motivate for registration of the school
  • The vision and mission of the school
  • A school Constitution
  • Zoning for educational purposes
  • Deed of transfer or rental agreement
  • Tax certificate (registration with SARS)
  • Health and Safety certificate
  • Fire regulation certificate
  • A school Business PLan
  • Teaching phases and grade offered
  • Details of the curriculum offered
  • Admission and language policies
  • School calendar and timetables
  • Tuition fee structure
  • Staff and enrolment contracts
The current regulatory framework is not enabling, imposes high compliance costs, and demands more of independent schools than public ones. It also shows that the burden of compliance for all independent schools is significant, but that small independent schools in particular experience higher relative costs of compliance.
The Real Cost of Compliance
Centre for Development and Enterprise, 2016

Why Us?

Our senior consultant works part-time as a Regional Director for the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA). Prior to this he was employed in independent education for 42 years of which 29 were as a Head of school. We have developed an extensive knowledge of the provincial registration process and assisted more than 20 schools to register in the last five years.

contact us for more information

South Africa

Theo Buccoli
084 652 1623

Close Menu