Education Innovation #1: LEAP Science and Maths Schools


Programme description

LEAP is a chain of no-fee, independent high schools that provide academic and life skills to the kind of skills they require to become future leaders.

The schools require only a nominal fee from students, and are otherwise funded primarily by private donors. Mathematics, Physical Science

and English are mandatory subjects. School days are also longer than in most public schools.

But LEAP schools also produce better results – an average of 94% Grade 12 pass rate with 72% of graduates pursuing tertiary studies.

There are six LEAP schools around South Africa so far:

  • LEAP 1 serves the community of Langa on the Cape Flats in Cape Town
  • LEAP 2 serves the Cape Town townships of Gugulethu and Crossroads
  • LEAP 3 s historic Alexandra township
  • LEAP 4 serves the growing township of Diepsloot outside Johannesburg
  • LEAP 5 serves the Jane Furse community in Limpopo
  • LEAP 6 serves Ga-Rankuwa community, near Pretoria


A strong focus of the curriculum is on fostering self-confidence, and a cultural and communal identity. These characteristics are sought by engaging students in community work and setting high expectations for their academic performance. Most of the schools also teach some of South Africa’s national languages, including isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi and Sesotho, depending on the prevalence of those languages in the area.

Community partnerships are also a key part s holistic approach. Each of the six schools is partnered with a more privileged school, as well as other township schools in the region, to ensure that schools can share resources, opportunities and best practices.

LEAP schools operate on an extended nine-hour school day, and include Saturday classes and formal holiday programmes. Class sizes are limited to ensure student accountability and relationship-building.

LEAP is also a founding member of the South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC), a group of intervention-based, independent and public schools and organisations committed to providing quality education to socioeconomically vulnerable children and advocating for increased government support.

CEI approaches in action

Primary approach: Delivery (of education through a chain of schools)

Additional approaches: Financing and Student support

Tuition fee: $36 per student per year

Included in tuition fee: Donation from parents to cover community outreach activities

Plans for future growth

  • In the short term, LEAP plans to expand its schools to include Grade 8 classes – a move to improve continuity from primary to high school
  • LEAP also places a high value on partnerships and collaboration, and is working closely with other organisations to develop Maths, Science, Technology and Values (MSTV) centres in Duncan Village, Eastern Cape and in Jane Furse, Limpopo
  • Based on best-practice examples, there is a focus on developing school leadership and teacher capacity. This includes a comprehensive professional development programme, tailored to the priority needs of teaching staff, to be rolled out at all LEAP schools
  • LEAP also aims to effect systemic educational change. How? By working with partners in the SAESC to advocate for government support for “Impact Schools” – a network of high-performing, low- or no-fee schools funded through public-private partnerships (with high investment from government), but independently managed and staffed to achieve results for students.

Some reported LEAP results

Standardised assessment performance:

  • Literacy: 100% Grade 12 pass rate in English (First Additional Language)
  • Mathematics: 89% Grade 12 pass in Maths
  • Other: 86% Grade 12 pass in Science

Graduation or promotion rates: 94.7% Grade 12 pass rate.

And some more:

  • 100% of LEAP students participate in the Life Orientation programme
  • s community support and social development programme
  • 72% of graduates pursue tertiary studies
  • All LEAP students wrote Maths and Science, compared to the 35% who wrote Maths and 26% who wrote Physical Science nationally

 This article is part of a series. Click here for  → Innovation #2 and → Innovation #3 or the introduction to the series

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