Top Schools: The Most Innovative High Schools in South Africa (2017)


Top Schools in South Africa

(The Most Innovative High Schools in the Country)

I’ve wanted a list like this for a few years now. I couldn’t find one, so I compiled my own. This is a list of the most innovative, child-centered, forward-looking high schools in the country. Many of South Africa’s ‘elite’ traditional schools did not make the list. If the foregoing is more your cup of tea, you may prefer this list.


Criteria for being listed as an innovative high school:

Any meaningful combination of…

  • A sincere child-centered approach which puts students needs above the curriculum.
  • Innovative approaches to pedagogy.
  • An emphasis on personalized / individualized learning.
  • The building of independent reasoning and critical thinking skills.
  • The nurturing of creativity (in a meaningful sense), as well as a focus on discovery based learning and problem-solving.
  • A different take on learning spaces.
  • A rethinking of timetables.
  • Questioning and debating the role of standardized testing, assignments and homework.
  • Rethinking the role of parents, teachers and students.
  • The meaningful use of technology.
  • How happy the students are.
  • The emphasis on life-long learning.
  • Structures which allow staff to try new things.
  • Social upliftment and environmental awareness initiatives.
  • A real and clear inclusion of students’ ideas, opinions and concerns.

But of course, a truly innovative school creates its own contextualized mixture of these criteria and more.


(Co-Ed | Private | NSC | Cape Town | Western Cape)


The Secondary Faculty provides a distinctive academic experience for our learners. The academic programme gives each learner a firm grasp of fundamental skills, the ability to think critically, innovatively, and independently, and fosters a love of learning. Educators create learning activities that are motivational, technology-rich, and aligned to the needs of modern learners.

Bridge House

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Franschhoek | Western Cape)


Many things about Bridge House, (like excellent teachers and facilities) can be found in numerous good schools. However, our combination of an amazing setting in the most beautiful Cape valley; the fact that we’re young (20 this year) and engaged in the invigorating challenge of writing our own, extraordinary history; Round Square membership; international exchanges; a strong President’s Award programme; being co-educational from Grade 000 to Grade 12; boarding, and warm relationships, makes us unique. Add our emphasis on future-thinking and relevance (as opposed to adherence to past practices) and you have a distinctive, vibrant school that is proudly different.

Oakhill School

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Knysna | Western Cape)


Oakhill is an exciting, vibrant, energetic space and the status quo is challenged here at every turn. Thinking independently, a love of learning and the joy of life are celebrated…

Elkanah House

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB| Cape Town | Western Cape)


In our school, we aim to challenge the young minds of our pupils so that they have to think for themselves. Once they learn to think for themselves, they start to respect themselves and begin to recognise the part they have to play in their community: be it a class, team or family unit. They then start to see the possibilities that exist around them.

Cedar House

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Cape Town | Western Cape)


A small, co-educational school that is proudly child-centered, proudly independent and proudly progressive… A school that has a track record of being successfully focused on developing that which cannot necessarily be seen…attributes and dispositions to confront the future with confidence.

Summit House High Schools

(Co-Ed | Private | NSC | Cape Town & Hout Bay | Western Cape)

Our motto: “towards tomorrow” describes our mission to prepare our pupils for a world not necessarily like the one today. This is both extrinsic as well as intrinsic i.e. being able to adapt and strive in a modern world that is constantly changing, and also meeting the challenges and preparation required as each pupil progresses to each next step in their schooling life.

Pinelands High School

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Cape Town | Western Cape)


Our aim is to offer a broad educational experience that educates the whole child. Our educational offering includes a wide subject choice in the formal curriculum, as well as sport, music, drama and other extra-mural curricular activities. This means that there is a place for every pupil in our school to make a contribution and to shine. It also makes high school a busy and fun place to be! We believe passionately in the development of the children in our care. Our primary focus is always on the child, and the need to assist the child to grow to his or her own potential. The young men and women who leave us at the end of Grade 12 are, in our opinion, confident young adults who can easily take up a place in South Africa, whether in a tertiary institution or in the world of work.

Camps Bay High School

(Co-Ed | State | NSC | Cape Town | Western Cape)


Camps Bay High is the school that embraces the diversity of South Africa and blazes the trail in academia, service, sport and culture. Enabling our students to take their place in the world!

Redhill High School

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Redhill is home to one of the highest rated independent co-educational high schools in Johannesburg, providing an enlightening and stimulating environment where students are encouraged to discover and develop their talents as they progress from Grade 8 through to their final matric year.

Victoria Park High School

(Co-Ed | State | NSC | Port Elizabeth | Eastern Cape)


* Winner of the best mission statement! *

At Victoria Park, we believe in the power of individuality. We break the mould and question the status quo. We believe that everybody can be somebody. We believe in exploring and amplifying the various talents that make each of our pupils unique. We believe that where you are going is more important than where you have come from. We believe in the pursuit of excellence and the enjoyment of the journey along the way. We believe in giving our pupils every opportunity to find themselves by providing them with a variety of activities and facilities. We believe in fostering a pioneering spirit to tackle life’s challenges head-on. We believe that everything you have is everything you need. We believe in bravery and self-belief. We believe in the power of encouragement, and in building confident and empowered young hearts and minds. We believe in dreaming big and working hard. We believe that talent can get you far but persistence can get you further. A Victoria Park education is an education in life. It is a five-year window of equipping the next generation with the maturity, dedication and open-mindedness required to readily embrace their uniqueness and leave their mark on the world. At Victoria Park, we believe that preparation for life turns opportunities into success.

Westerford High School

(Co-Ed | State | NSC | Cape Town | Western Cape)


Westerford is a co-educational, secular, public high school located in Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa.

Westerford is a pupil-centered school that prides itself on a strong academic curriculum, compulsory sport programme and an enthusiastically embraced cultural life.

Westerford has a gender neutral uniform policy.

Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy

(Girls | Private | International Baccalaureate | Meyerton | Gauteng | Special Admission)


The students who are invited to attend the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls have shown that they have the ability to excel, and to move beyond challenging circumstances. Through exemplary service to their communities, they have demonstrated their potential to effect positive and enduring change. The Academy will nurture this potential, and raise the next generation of transformative South African leaders.

Sacred Heart College

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


The High School is a vibrant and dynamic microcosm of our society. It has a strong tradition of high-quality, value-based education in which learners have an opportunity to embrace the democratic values that underpin our curriculum. Through our innovative and explorative curriculum, our learners have an opportunity to become critical thinkers who go on to make a difference in our young and developing country and in the world.

Lebone II (College of the Royal Bafokeng)

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Phokeng | North-West Province)


This is an extraordinary school; one that provides both teachers and learners the opportunity to realise their enormous potential. We admit children who demonstrate excellence and, through a holistic education that stresses the importance of both the individual and the community, we develop leaders and agents of change.

Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg and Cape Town

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB & Specialised | Johannesburg | Gauteng / Cape Town | Western Cape)


The DSJ strengthens learners in their development towards self-assured and independent individuals. The School encourages young people to think critically and promotes their subject-specific, methodological and social competencies. As an international school, it also fosters intercultural skills amongst its learners.

Crawford College Lonehill / Sandton / Pretoria / La Lucia / North Coast

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Gauteng & KZN)


At CrawfordSchools™ we believe in education without fear, where good citizenship, leadership and sportsmanship are developed by placing emphasis on the needs of every child.

Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard / Bedfordview / Constantia / Durbanville / Helderfontein / Waterfall Estate / Umhlanga / Somerset West / UK / Australia

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Reddam House offers a fresh and contemporary approach to education. The Reddam House model is dynamic, relevant and powerful. We nurture the unique individuality, talent and self-assurance of each student, equipping them to take on the world with skills and self-confidence that will contribute to self-actualization.

Brescia House School

(Girls | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Experts in the educational field have commented that the 21st century learners need to be global citizens; they must be able to use the web 2.0 technology and the social networking opportunities it opens; their physical classroom should move beyond the walls of the traditional classroom and their learning must promote interdisciplinary activities which are project and research based.

African Leadership Academy

(Co-Ed | Private | Cambridge | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


African Leadership Academy seeks to transform Africa by identifying, developing, and connecting the next generation of African leaders.

Leap Schools

(Co-Ed | Private / Sponsored | NSC | Various: Gauteng, Limpopo & Western Cape)


We call our LEAP learning programme unique and self-liberating because we purposefully lead our children on a journey of learning through which they discover the capacity to take charge of their own lives.

Sunward Park High School

(Co-Ed | State | NSC | Boksburg | Gauteng)


Sunward Park has embraced the PSSP programme with enthusiasm and has taken on an ‘entrepreneurial ethos and can-do attitude’ as reflected by its adoption of the Diambars Soccer Academy. The school has embraced ICT as evidenced by the immersion of its learners into the ‘macbook press teams’ and the utilisation of the fixed labs.

Saheti School

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Whilst the High School remains committed to producing top academic results, each individual is encouraged to aspire to excellence in his or her particular field. Independent thought and entrepreneurial spirit are valued and supported. An extensive selection of subjects is offered to meet the academic demands of senior students, while innovative education practice by the motivated teaching staff challenges students’ potential and the development of higher order thinking.

Roedean School

(Girls | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Although we follow the national curriculum, we do add extra value to it, striving to equip our pupils with the special skills that will be required in the 21st Century. With the present explosion in knowledge, pupils must be equipped to access, analyse and evaluate information; they require excellent cognitive and social skills. There is extensive use, throughout the curriculum, of Information Technology, and a special Cognitive Education Programme, which began in earnest in 2011, focuses on developing critical and creative thinking skills, and encourages self-directed learning.

St Cyprian’s School

(Girls | Private | IEB | Cape Town | Western Cape)


St Cyprian’s School has been at the forefront of promoting a 21st Century approach to teaching and learning for a number of years. This is the result of the identification and intentional development of a 21st Century skill set to underpin and expand the delivery of a core curriculum.

Hout Bay International School

(Co-Ed | Private | International Baccalaureate | Cape Town | Western Cape)

Our School is as diverse as the location in which it finds itself, our commitment to highlighting social injustice, the celebration of differences and the fostering of international mindedness goes beyond the classroom. Students are encouraged to ‘think outside the box’, ‘have a voice’ and engage on pertinent topics daily.

St Alban’s

(Boys | Private | IEB | Pretoria | Gauteng)


St Alban’s College is a learning community of boys, staff and parents. We are forward looking, committed to quality and service, and we pursue innovative strategies and encourage personal responsibility in the interest of all-round development of the boy as he journeys towards manhood.

Mountain Cambridge School

(Co-Ed | Private | Cambridge | Hartebeespoort | North-West Province)


Our students will state proudly that they went after their dreams, sought out and nourished robust, life-giving relationships and fulfilled their purpose in their own unique way.

Silvermine Academy

(Co-Ed | Private | IEB | Cape Town | Western Cape)

Once a student feels safe and worthy, the learning must be meaningful and relevant. Gone are the days of teach, test and hope for the best. The 21st century requires critical thinking, problem-solving, staying cool under pressure, collaborating with others, and facilitating change.

Southern African Virtual School

(Co-Ed | Private | American College Prep Diploma | On-line)

We are an online school offering education via the internet. We do not have “brick and mortar” school buildings but have the ‘cloud’ as our base. Our motto “Eruditio pro Vita” meaning Learning for Life encapsulates our philosophy of providing our students with a 21st century online educational experience that produces academically advanced and well-rounded graduates.

Ponelopele Secondary School

(Co-Ed | State | NSC | Tembisa | Gauteng)

Oracle South Africa in conjunction with the Gauteng Education Department announces the establishment of the Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Midrand. Equipped with the latest in e-schools technology and enjoying the active involvement of Oracle staff members in its running, the Ponelopele school is designed to uplift and provide a sustainable education institute to the local community.

Ridgeway College

(Co-Ed | Private | Cambridge and IEB | Louis Trichardt | Limpopo)


We believe that the constantly changing nature of today’s world makes adaptability as important as tradition and we actively seek to find and develop new ways of teaching and learning, new ways of experiencing and knowing and coping with and contributing to the world we live in.

Pioneer Academies

(Co-Ed | Private | NSC | Johannesburg and Midrand | Gauteng)


At Pioneer Academies we develop each child’s unique talents and capabilities through holistic education in partnership with parents. Pioneer students are engaged and active in their own learning and that of their peers. They are future-equipped, having developed strong problem-solving, collaborative leadership, and character capabilities at Pioneer.

Cedarwood School

(Co-Ed | Private | NSC | Johannesburg | Gauteng | Special Needs)


Cedarwood School is equipped to provide a supportive, non-competitive environment where pupils can regain lost confidence and work to the best of their abilities and potential.

Classes are small, allowing the necessary time for individual attention and monitoring by the educators so that children advance steadily, build self-esteem and start to believe in themselves and their abilities. A full range of therapists ensures that all areas of development are supported and barriers of learning removed.

The International School of South Africa

(Co-Ed | Private | Cambridge| Mafikeng| North-West Province)

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The Senior School offers an international curriculum, taught by professional South African and international staff, leading to examinations set by the world-renowned examining authority, the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in the United Kingdom. Great emphasis is placed on the acquisition of skills, the application of knowledge and the development of a broad range of subjects.

Herschel Girls’ School

(Girls | Private | NSC | Cape Town | Western Cape)


Our students are not sheltered from real life but are daily challenged to expand their intellectual, spiritual, social and emotional boundaries and skills in a safe and nurturing all-girls environment that encourages them to be themselves, be curious and be risk-takers. The school’s character and learning environment are built by its people and there is a close-knit atmosphere with on-going interaction between the girls, staff, parents, our local community and the alumni. We work tirelessly to create a learning environment in which every girl and staff member have the opportunity to thrive and in which they is encouraged to cultivate a passion for life and stay true to our credo of  “learning to make a difference“.

Radford House

(Co-ed | Private | NSC | Johannesburg | Gauteng | Special Needs)

Our dream was to build a school which brought the fun back into the learning process. To nurture the brightest of minds in an environment where there are fewer limits imposed on the children, and where knowledge and thought are embraced as a wonderful opportunity, rather than a chore imposed by parents or legislation. We employ a system where the primary goal of every lesson is the internalisation of a thinking skill, rather than a mere absorption of fact. Each pupil must be seen and treated as an individual – with unique needs, capacities and interests, and this feat can only truly be accomplished by fostering a close working relationship with the parents and other caregivers.

Eunice High School

(Girls | State | NSC | Bloemfontein | Free State)


Eunice’s High School’s long standing tradition of excellence is the result of our unique staff, learners and parents collectively supporting, upholding and contributing to the myriad of activities and opportunities offered at our multi-faceted school.

“Happiness is not pleasure – it is victory” – Zig Ziglar. We are committed to the realisation of every learner’s potential – be it in the classroom, on the sports fields or on the stage – as it ensures that Eunice, true to her name, is the place of “happy victory” for her proud learners.

Kingsmead College

(Girls | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Kingsmead is a truly happy school, through the involvement of leadership, staff, parents and students. Kingsmead is founded on consideration and care for others, a self-controlled and ordered life and a sincere and continual search for truth.

At Kingsmead we strive to enable our girls to live lives of happiness, responsibility and purpose with courage and service. Kingsmead offers a well-balanced, individual experience aimed at recognising and enhancing the potential of each girl in a nurturing and inspiring environment.

Jeppe Boys’ High School

(Boys | State | NSC | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Although it has an illustrious history, Jeppe has never been an elitist school. It has always enjoyed representation from a diverse cross-section of the community. It has continued to turn ordinary boys into outstanding young men who have gone on to make a major contribution to the development of the city and the country whether it be through education, law, medicine, commerce and industry, politics, the arts or sport. Boys at Jeppe get a real education for the real world.

Union High School

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Graff-Reinet | Eastern Cape)

Union offers blue skies and big horizons. As an English medium, co-ed public school, Union provides a truly unique schooling journey surrounded by lifelong friends and mentors. Small classes ensure full participation and personal attention to nurture young minds; providing an environment in which children can focus and flourish. A child can expect success here, experiencing the best of country living coupled with modern day schooling.

Claremont High School


(Co-ed | State | NSC | Claremont | Western Cape)

Claremont High School is a new and innovative Western Cape Educational Department (WCED) school which strives to create an enabling and challenging environment focused on producing outstanding academic performance among pupils from backgrounds which do not typically allow access to the best quality education.

The primary outcome of this exciting institution is an educational experience that gives young people the best chance through education to become engaging and responsible South African citizens.

Mandela School of Science and Technology

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Mvezo | Eastern Cape)



Courage: Students act bravely and ethically for the greater good of society. The courage to stand for what is right.
Curiosity: Students must have inquiring minds. To be open to knowledge and new ideas from the world around them, in order to change it for the better. They must demonstrate a positive attitude towards learning, respect their teachers and have discipline at school.
Compassion: Students must show compassion towards all people from different cultural and social backgrounds. They must have respect for humanity and the environment.
Service: Students must have a passion to serve the community and develop a lifelong commitment to make the world around them a better place.

Hoërskool DF Malan

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Bellville | Western Cape)

Alles wat ons doen, word getoets aan ons visie van ‘n hoërskool vir jong volwassenes. As personeel probeer ons aan ons studente vlerke gee waarmee hulle kan vlieg, maar ook standvastigheid om vasgeanker te bly aan die waardes en beginsels wat universeel van die goeie en regte is.

Merrifield College


(Co-ed | Private | IEB | Buffalo City | Eastern Cape)

Situated in a beautiful, secure outdoor setting, the wooden cabin-type classrooms and the natural environment create a wholesome backdrop for the vibrancy and enthusiasm so characteristic of the atmosphere of the school.

The school’s motto “Astra Petentes”, which means “Reach for the Stars”, is aimed at guiding our pupils to realise their full potential in all aspects of their lives. With limited class numbers, Merrifield offers excellent academic tuition, and places equal emphasis on academic, sporting, cultural, social and spiritual development.

Merrifield prides itself in offering a caring, nurturing and supportive school environment where the individual attributes of every child are recognised and celebrated.

Beaulieu College

(Co-ed | Private | IEB | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Our purpose is to help your child explore and fulfill his or her talents in a caring, innovative and stimulating school environment. We believe strongly in developing the whole child within a holistic education, incorporating both academic and extra-mural activities.

Randfontein High School

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Dainfern College

(Co-ed | Private | IEB| Johannesburg | Gauteng)


Our learner-centred approach focuses on pupils’ individual needs and abilities while celebrating their diversity.

Jan Kriel School

(Co-ed | State | NSC | Kuilsriver | Western Cape | Special Needs )

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Class groups are significantly smaller than in mainstream education.

Teaching techniques are adapted to meet the special educational needs of learners.

We strive to promote the scholastic progress of learners, restore their confidence and self-esteem and equip them with the necessary skills for re-integration into mainstream if at all possible.

Somerset College

(Co-ed | Private | IEB/ Cambridge | Somerset West| Western Cape )


Somerset College is set between craggy mountains and ever-changing vines in the magnificent Helderberg basin. Our purpose at Somerset College is to build futures and to develop young men and women of deep character. Our intention is that those who are educated here will flourish and graduate inspired to be dignified, compassionate, creative and aspirational people prepared to face the world courageously, mindful of their responsibility to others and to themselves.

Newton House School

(Co-ed | Private | NSC | Johannesburg| Gauteng )

What makes Newton House College unique is that the school not only provides student-focused lessons – an academic support programme is also available for students who may be struggling in certain learning areas and for students who need to be extended to perform at their maximum potential. Each student at Newton House College is profiled according to his/her specific learning abilities and strengths. Teachers are trained to view each student holistically, this includes an in-depth understanding of both cognitive ability as well as social/emotional development. Teachers regularly communicate with parents and collaboration is key to supporting the success of each child at the school.


Keep innovating!



  1. Woodridge College, just outside Port Elizabeth (, is a private coeducational outdoor school where the focus is on innovative learning experiences that allow children to develop into confident, responsible, well-developed adults. [Message exceeds maximum character allowance]


  2. Very interesting…great variety of schools. We have our children at Mondeor Eco in Somerset West. We choose the school for its ability to see each child as an individual and it’s relaxed and unpretentious feel…which our children fit right into. They have developed a unique setup where they have a academic programme and a school of skills on the property. They are a developing school and any new programmes come straight from the children’s needs. Love their community approach… they have taken on a Sister school Nzamo primary.


  3. What about Bloemhof High School for girls in Stellenbosch? With 50% (OK, 49.6% to be exact) of the girls passing Matric with an A aggregate in 2016, they must be very “innovative” to accomplish that…


    • I don’t think it’s just based on academics. Jeppe girls in Johannesburg have had a 100% Matric pass rate in excess of 20 years and they didn’t make the list, with good reason as they don’t fit within the parameters of the writer’s study.


  4. Agreed. Hilton College? Michael House? Westville Boys? You would think Spud’s school would have made the list.


  5. Abbots College is also incredible on innovation. Their slogan “changing school changed my life” is so true. But I suppose the fact that they only cater for grades 10 to 12 disqualify them.


  6. Hi Sean, great article. You may also want to visit the Pioneer school in Worcester and see the wonderful work they are doing in the Kaleidoscope training venue.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey there. Great work. Can you please send me your contact details. I would like to get in touch to discuss a venture we are currently working on with regards to schools. Could be mutually beneficial. Thanks


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