The aim of this research project is to investigate the roles and responsibilities of foundation phase heads of departments (HoDs) in the Mpumalanga Province in South Africa. A quantitative research approach was used to assess the perceptions of the foundation phase HoDs. Questionnaires were distributed to 274 foundation phase HoDs in Mpumalanga and SPSS 20 was used to analyse the data. The findings show that HoDs perceive that they are overworked, whereas in reality, the amount of time they spend in school is not as expected in the Personnel Administrative Measures (PAM) document. It emerged that most educators leave school earlier than normal and thus experience a lack of time for supervision and administration, which then becomes a stress factor in the completion of their roles and responsibilities. Twenty two percent of the respondents indicated that they are not familiar with the HoD duties as outlined in the PAM document. Furthermore, the study uncovered issues such as lack of support and training for HoDs, the role of parents as motivators in terms of learner achievement, and the importance of evaluating and developing teachers to provide quality education in the 21st century. This research project utilises instructional leadership as a conceptual framework and maps out the roles and responsibilities of the HoD as outlined in the PAM document. Due to the low Annual National Assessment (ANA) results in literacy and numeracy, the research focuses on the challenges that HoDs in the foundation phase face regarding fulfilling their roles and responsibilities towards ensuring a quality education. On Tuesday 28 June 2011, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, revealed the results of the February 2011 ANA. In excess of 6.5 million learners from Grades 2 to 7 and a sample of G10s wrote tests in literacy/language and numeracy/mathematics. According to the statistics released by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the average mark for literacy for G3 learners was a mere 35%. Grade 3 learners scored an average of 28% in numeracy. Amongst the Grade 3 learners, the Western Cape performed the best in both literacy and numeracy with 43% for literacy and 36% for numeracy. In Mpumalanga, Grade 3 learners scored 27% in literacy and only managed to score 19% for numeracy (DBE Report 40). If learners can’t read, write, spell and calculate at Grade 3 level, surely there is something wrong. Where are the foundation phase managers and how do they spend their time? Internationally, teachers responsible for supervising Grade R-3 are called middle managers. In South Africa, middle managers are called heads of departments (HoDs). The duties and roles of middle managers (or HoDs) in the foundation phase might be the cause of poor performance of learners in numeracy and literacy, due to insufficient support being provided to educators and learners. The role of HoDs in schools is not widely understood (Turner, 1996; Blandford, 1997; McLendon&Crowther, 1998). As a consequence, the literature relating to their role and functions is sparse. What is apparent, however, is the dual role that HoDs play, namely an administrative role within the school, as well as a teaching responsibility. A great deal of the work in managing the teaching-learning process operates at the middle management level in schools. However, management development often occurs at the senior management level, and HoDs remain the forgotten tier in schools. HoDs co-ordinate all educational activities between the top management of the school and the educators. Gold (1998:1) describes the role of HoDs as the most exciting and probably the most influential position in a well-organised school. Given the dual roles of HoDs, it is evident that they are exposed to a dilemma in executing duties carrying competing demands namely managing a department and being a class teacher at the same time (Blandford, 1997:13). This dual role becomes a particular challenge in the foundation phase, depending on the type of school, e.g. private school, former model C school, township or rural schools (which normally fall under Quintile 1-3), and lastly farm schools. It is challenging, especially in township and farm schools, to manage teaching, supervise educators, ensure learners cooperate positively in a class, and to be responsible for all the classes in a phase, including the own HOD’s class. Educators are experiencing overcrowding in their classrooms and schools are under staffed. A thorough study needed to be conducted to ensure that HoDs in the foundation phase are operating as effectively as those in the intermediate, senior and FET phases. It is critical to formulate strategies to ensure that learners progress positively in the foundation phase, especially in terms of their literacy and numeracy. HoDs must be able to perform their roles and responsibilities to ensure that learners can read and write at Grade 3 level. The PAM document clearly spells out the roles and responsibilities of the HoD; however when an HoD has 90% of their time allocated for teaching, one wonders if it is fair to expect them to carry out their administrative role in the remaining 10% of their time.