The University of Cape Town’s Schools Development Unit was established in 2000 with the goal of improving teaching and learning in the South African school system. As a unit in the University of Cape Town’s School of Education it draws on academic teaching and research expertise to help tackle the systemic and structural challenges that blight our education landscape, and manifest in poor or inadequate teaching and learning.

Through teacher development, schools-based interventions, professional consulting services and dynamic materials, the SDU works to close the achievement gap between well-resourced and disadvantaged schools.

While based in the Cape Town Metropole, we work across all eight education districts in the Western Cape as well as in the Northern Cape. Our reach extends to work across all grades and phases of formal schooling and a range of interventions which vary from working in individual schools to spanning the entire Western Cape.

Our teacher professional development modus operandi features a combination of university-qualifications and approved courses, and over 50 South African Council of Educators (SACE) endorsed short courses. These are applied in tandem with school-based support, to help teachers apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. Our school-based work supports teachers, both individually and collectively.

By working at an individual, collective and province-wide level, we focus on the promotion of quality teaching and learning across all grades and phases of formal schooling, from Grade R to Grade 12 – a critical area for South Africa’s long-term wellbeing and economic development.

What we do

The SDU develops quality education and learning in mathematics, the sciences, language and literacy, and life orientation—though school-based work, materials development, and teacher education—within the framework of the national curriculum.

By integrating current theory with the dynamic context of the classroom, the SDU not only works to improve teaching practice, but also engages with NGOs, partner organisations, and government departments. In keeping with UCT’s reputation for academic excellence, the SDU’s work is driven by research, which contributes to national and provincial education policy and curriculum development.

Early Childhood Development

Teaching and learning in early childhood are critical foundational aspects of lifelong learning. UNICEF defines early childhood from 0-9 years. In South Africa ECD typically refers to birth to 4 years and often neglects the 5-6-year-old Grade R focus. At SDU we work with early school years teachers and NGO partners who offer programmes in the Foundation Phase: Grade R – 3 (5 - 9 years). Our approach to teaching and learning in these grades is fun, engaged and creative, with a strong focus on concept and skills development across all domains of early childhood.

We view early childhood education as a fundamental building block in childhood development. South Africa’s landscape of poverty, unemployment and inequality exerts tremendous negative effects on early childhood education. At SDU much of our ECD work focuses on under-resourced schools in order to redress the effects of poverty on early childhood education and tackle the stubborn trend of educational underachievement. We seek to provide quality early childhood education programmes to teachers in primary schools, pre-schools and in community Educare sites.

Our work focuses developing concepts that underpin the curriculum and content of the Foundation Phase subjects, Languages, Like Skills and Mathematics.

We offer UCT qualifications and approved short courses, site-based support and classroom mentoring, and provide appropriate resources to improve teaching and learning. We strive to create play and enquiry-based environments that inspire and motive teachers and learners to engage in shared processes of acquiring knowledge and experiences.


Mathematics will remain a critical academic discipline for school learners where it introduces children to making sense of the world around us. Mathematics provides a way to foreground concepts, think in abstraction and develop reasoning strategies. With the increasing demands of the digital age and data-driven lives and careers, mathematics skills will become even more critical to keep up with life in the 21st century.
Our work in mathematics spans Grade 4 to 12. We work collaboratively with teachers, schools, education department officials, mathematics education academics and mathematicians, as well as education publishers and the private sector to improve teaching and learning in various school contexts as well as understanding of fundamental and foundational ideas and concepts in Mathematics, relevant to the school context


Science subjects are exciting fields of enquiry especially to children and young adults. Science in the school curriculum allows learners to explore varied phenomena about our world and beyond. At SDU the science team provides quality professional learning opportunities to Grade 1 to Grade 12 teachers in South Africa.

We offer workshops, university accredited short courses, school-based support and formal qualifications such as the GET ACE’s and ACT’s and produce quality teaching and learning materials, including online resources.

We foster collaboration with the Western Cape Education Department and other institutions or organisations with an interest in science education.

School Organisation & Development

School leadership and management is important to effective teaching and learning delivery. A well-run school focused on the learner at the heart of all teaching and learning remains beyond reach for many schools. At SDU we work to engage, facilitate and equip school teachers, leaders, heads of departments, principals and school managers to organise, manage and lead their places of learning to deliver the highest quality education possible to the learner.

Professional Development

As part of the university’s School of Education, over the years the SDU has been responsible for convening a number of Continuing Professional Teacher Development (CPTD) qualifications. The university has now chosen to register a number of Advanced Certificate in Teaching (ACT) courses, in line with the new national policy on teacher education qualifications, including Advanced Certificates in Teaching (FP, IP andFET) that are NQF Level 6 qualifications structured specifically to improve in-service teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogy, with a more explicit focus on classroom teaching. In addition we offer the Advanced Diploma: School Leadership & Management will be offered.

Short Courses

The SDU’s short courses programme continues to provide teachers with an opportunity to improve their content and pedagogical knowledge via certified non-credit-bearing short courses. Between 6 and 36 hours in duration, these courses are mostly delivered to groups of educators upon request.

Professional and consultation services

SDU offers expert educational services that come with significant and varied expertise across teaching, learning and school management disciplines. As part of our broader efforts to tackle school development for improving teaching and learning quality in the South African classroom, we offer a variety of services to aid the teacher, HOD, school managers, parent and governing bodies and similar stakeholders in the school community ecosystem.

Our people

SDU is staffed passionate educators working to improve education with expertise covering all phases from Foundation to FET. Our dedicated education specialists’ vast collective experience covers a wealth of environments and contexts. We have 22 full time staff organised into ECD/Foundation Phase, Sciences, Mathematics and School Organisation & Development streams. Our capacity to deliver excellent interventions in schools and professional development is well regarded and has an excellent track record.

Contact Person

Cally Kuhne
+27 21 650 3368

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